Vermont National Guard biathletes fighting to represent Team USA in Beijing

China 2022

COLCHESTER, Vt. (WAVY) – Members of the Vermont National Guard are on the Journey to Beijing, hoping to represent their country on the Olympic stage.

It’s not uncommon for service members to represent Team USA in the Olympics. In Tokyo, 19 military members fought to be on the podium. It will be a similar story in Beijing.

Three Olympic hopefuls are members of the Vermont National Guard and compete in biathlon. They are currently in Europe, competing in World Cup events, fighting for their spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

Shooting and skiing may not be two sports you’d typically think to combine. For biathletes, that’s the thrill of it.

“They’re very opposite things,” said two-time Olympian Sean Doherty. “Skiing is very aerobically demanding, you know, fast-paced.  Shooting is typically slow-paced, very methodical, controlled, all about precision and stuff like that. So they don’t really go together very well but, for whatever reason, when you put them together in competition, its really exciting.”

Doherty is hoping to qualify for his third Olympics, but his first with the Vermont National Guard.

“This would be my first Olympics as a member of the Army and that would be really cool and I’d be proud to represent that as well,” Doherty said. “It’s a cool opportunity to be able to take advantage of the ability to do biathlon, but also move forward with other things.”

Teammate Deedra Irwin is also part of the Guard.

“The National Guard was a no-brainer for me,” she said. “I I found an amazing recruiter and the team there was very accepting and it was a blessing to be able to make a career out of biathlon through the Army.”

Irwin is hoping to qualify for her first Olympics, a journey that’s a balancing act.

“When we’re home, during the summer, we try to do as many classes and make as many drills as we can,” Irwin said. “Like I said, advance our career as a soldier as well as tackle this dream we have as an Olympic biathlete.”

It’s a dream that her teammate, Leif Nordgren, is also focused on. 

“Making two Olympic teams already is super special and kind of a lifelong dream come true,” Nordgren said. “Having been to two Olympics and not really putting together a good performance is kind of the worst thing.  So if I do make my third games here, it will be very special obviously, yes, but I also want to have the best result that I can.”

He’s been with the Vermont National Guard for three years and plans on going to flight school next summer.

The athletes know these Olympics will look different because of the pandemic.

“We weren’t able to come together as like a national team for training camps and things like that,” Nordgren said.

Irwin said, “It looks like its going to be an interesting year. But I think in general, most of the athletes have kind of come to terms with the fact that it’s just going to kind of be different. It’s not going to be normal, nothing in the past like year and a half two years has been normal.”

“We’re not going to be going to lots of bars and restaurants and other experiences, which is fine, I mean we have a lot of competitions and we don’t have much room for being a tourist there,” Doherty added.

However, they are prepared and finding silver linings where they can.

“At least there will be fans in attendance and I think that will be good regardless,” Nordgren said.

“We’re athletes, we’re always up for a challenge,” Irwin added.

The final biathlon team should be named in early to mid-January.

The Beijing Olympic Games will be held February 4 to 20, 2022.

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