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Q&A with Susan Dunklee

US biathlete Susan Dunklee poses with her rifle and skis in studio
NBCUniversal

Q&A with Susan Dunklee

On of U.S. Biathlon's best, Susan Dunklee keeps fun at the forefront whenever she competes. A lesson she learned from her Olympian father.
Where did you grow up?
Barton, Vermont.
 
What is your earliest memory of biathlon?
I've been skiing since I could walk in the backyard with my parents. I started shooting at age 22. I love being outside and feeling fast and strong. I like challenge.
 
What is your first memory of watching the Olympics? 
Watching the Lillehammer games on TV.
 
Do you remember a “breakthrough” moment in your biathlon career when you realized you could make it to the Olympic Games?
I was about 5 when I first decided I wanted to win a ski race. I was inspired by an article in a Highlights magazine. It made me believe that with enough determination I could accomplish anything.
 
Who in your family has had the biggest influence on your life and athletic career?
My parents met while cross-country ski racing at University of VT. Dad was a cross-country ski Olympian in '76 and '80. We skied a lot as a family when I was growing up. Dad has always reminded me to keep racing fun.



Team USA biathlete Susan Dunklee as a kid competing in a local cross-country ski race

Credit: Susan Dunklee

They held me back just a little when I was a junior so I wouldn't burn myself out. They've been behind me 100% in the senior rank. Dad insists I keep it fun. When I was debating switching to biathlon from cross-country skiing, he told me, if you don't try it you will always wonder "what if?"

 
How much time do you spend training each day?
3-5 hours, depending on the day.
 
What’s the most out of the ordinary workout you do to train for biathlon?
I do a lot of race visualization as part of my shooting training.
 
Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist?  
Yes, USOC sports psychologist Sean McCann. His advice has been invaluable. He has taught me to anticipate potential challenges and pressures ahead of time so I feel ready for them. He also reminds me that my job is simply to perform well (not achieve a particular result) and to stay focused on the process.
 
How much sleep do you need to feel your best?
9 hours at night. 20 minute nap early afternoon.
 
 
What’s the most grueling workout you’ve ever done?
Double poling (arms only) on roller skis up Whiteface Mountain [1980 Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games venue], 3 times.
 
What are some of your favorite workout songs?
I love reggae music. My favorite current song is a reggae cover of “Hello” by Adele, “Keep It Warm” by John Craigie, “What Is Love” by Haddaway, “Is This Love” by Bob Marley and “Just A Boy” by Angus and Julia Stone.
 
What is your favorite perk of being an Olympic athlete?
Free entry in the Birkie ski marathon for life!
 
Are there any misconceptions about biathlon you would like to clear up?
We don't shoot between heartbeats. We shoot between breathes.
 
 
What’s the coolest, weirdest or most intense thing about biathlon that people typically miss?
Switching between frantic “go! go! go!” mode in a race to zen-like control and calm on the shooting range.
 
What is your biggest fear when competing?
Failing and missing targets. My best races happen when I can conquer this fear and keep the focus on succeeding rather than not failing.
 
Do you have any specific pre-race rituals?
Morning jog. Dryfire (shooting drills that don't use bullets).
 
Who is your most interesting teammate and why?
Clare Egan. She is obsessed with pigs.
 
 
Who is your Olympic role model?
The Paralympic biathlon athletes.
 
If you are to indulge, what’s your favorite food, snack or dessert?
Pizza, dried mango, dark chocolate
 
Do you have any nicknames?
"Mad women with a gun." An airport check-in agent once called the police on me after not letting me on a flight because I was trying to check my competition rifle and it wasn't logged in their system. I was a little angry. The police came and told me they were investigating a report of a "mad women with a gun."
 
Do you have a job in addition to training for the Olympics?
I work part time at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center which includes some coaching, environmental stewardship and sustainability projects, and some gardening work. I like having something other than training to think about.
 
 
Do you follow any professional sports teams?
I am hooked on fantasy football and fantasy basketball. I like finding upcoming rookie talents for my fantasy teams. I love cheering on underdogs!

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