There may have been rain instead of snow falling, but foul weather didn’t wash out a chance for Juneau Nordic Ski teams to learn from an Olympic-caliber athlete.
Maddie Phaneuf, a Team USA biathlon member and 2018 Olympian, was in town late last week to coach up young skiers. Biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship.
“It’s nice to get a new perspective,” said Kyle Dusenberry, a junior and a team captain for the high school team. “We don’t really get people from the outside that have the experience like that.”
Mo Michels, head coach for the team, said outside perspectives from people who have competed at the highest levels of ski racing are something coaches try to import.
“I think one of the coolest opportunities afforded our athletes over the last few years is bringing in a guest coach,” Michels said. “You can’t substitute the interest and excitement of a pro.”
Dusenberry said that while Juneau doesn’t necessarily offer many biathlon opportunities, it’s a sport that interests him. Plus there are biathlon skills that transfer well to Nordic skiing.
Phaneuf said she finds coaching work rewarding and a way to contribute to a sports community she cares about.
Her pitch for why people in the area should consider getting involved in skiing was simple.
“If you live in Alaska, you should be skiing because you have plenty of mountains and snow,” Phaneuf said.
She said the ski racing community is generally accepting.
“No one is going to turn you down,” she said.
Additionally, Phaneuf said people should be ready to tune in to the upcoming Olympic Winter Games slated to start next month in Beijing. She said that she believes these could be the games that bring the U.S. a biathlon medal.
“This year might be the year,” Phaneuf said. “You don’t want to miss history.”
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.