Q&A with Tim Burke
Back from a bout with mono last winter, look for a reinvigorated Tim Burke in 2018
What is your earliest memory of biathlon?
Growing up near the Olympic Village of Lake Placid I was exposed to many of the Olympic sports. I always loved to ski and what is better for a 12-year-old boy than being able to ski and shoot? I was hooked from the first time I tried it.
What is your first memory of watching the Olympics?
I remember watching the cross-country relay race at the1994 Lillihammer Olympics. I actually had a VHS tape of this race and I think I watched it so many times that it wore out. Of course I imagined myself being in that position.
Do you remember a “breakthrough” moment in your biathlon career when you realized you could make it to the Olympic Games?
I was very confident in my athletic ability from a young age. I always believed that I could make it as long as I was willing to put in the work.
How do you go about achieving your daily goals?
By setting them. If you don't have daily goals, it's almost impossible to stay on track over a long training year.
Who in your family has had the biggest influence on your life and athletic career?
My parents were very influential in my athletic career. We lived in the woods of Northern New York! My parents had to drive me 45 minutes one way to practice everyday. I never would have been able to get started in biathlon without a huge commitment from them.
Within the biathlon world, who has had the biggest impact on you?
Most definitely [U.S. Biathlon head coach] Per Nilsson. He showed me what is possible through years of hard work.
Did anyone ever try to dissuade you from pursuing your goals in biathlon?
Many times. I always use these negative comments as motivation for my tough workouts.
What obstacles have you had to overcome in your life?
Believing that an American could be successful in a European dominated sport.
Have you ever had to overcome serious injury in your career?
Many times. The most recent was surgery for compartment syndrome in 2012. My shin muscles required surgery from overuse in training. To come back from this, I needed to put in a lot of extra work to regain my balance.
How much time do you spend training each day?
My typical training day involves two physical workout a day plus shooting training. I might run 15 miles in the morning, bike 60 miles in the afternoon and then head to the range for an hour of shooting training.
What’s your favorite workout?
I really enjoy hill climbs. One workout that we do in Lake Placid is roller skiing up the Whiteface Toll Rd. This road is 8 miles long and averages 8% grade. The steep climb takes over an hour and it allows you to keep your heart rate near the limit for this entire time.
Do you have any must-haves that you always keep with you when you’re training?
A towel, I am a serious sweater.
What do you like to do outside of biathlon?
I am big into road cycling, kayaking, running and fly fishing.
What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
We need to eat a lot! I often burn 4,000 calories just in my training sessions. To keep up with this we need to consume many calories, especially carbs. No low carb diets here!
If you are to indulge, what’s your favorite food, snack and dessert?
Are there any misconceptions about biathlon you would like to clear up?
That biathlon is a small sport. Biathlon is the biggest, most televised winter sport in Europe. We typically compete against 30 other nations with over 100 starters in every race. Biathlon TV viewership in Europe is comparable to NBA viewership in the U.S.
What’s the coolest, weirdest or most intense thing about biathlon people don’t normally see?
The hardest part is definitely that our two sports are so drastically different and we have to do them both well. It's not easy to shoot five small targets, in under 25 seconds, with a 180 bpm heart rate and 30,000 fans cheering.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
Not being able to show all of the work that I have put in.
How do you unwind after a competition?
I like to go for a jog by myself and clear my mind.
What is your favorite perk of being an Olympic athlete?
Getting to do what I love everyday for a job.
What Olympic athlete has been your greatest source of inspiration?
All of the Paralympic skiers. It is amazing what they do. Also, Ole Einar Bjorndalen [of Norway] because he continues to be among the best in the world at the age of 43.
Have you become close friends with any of your fellow biathlon competitors?
I became close friends with my wife, [Andrea Henkel], who is from Germany! :)
Do you have any hidden talents?
I cut my own hair, but not really sure if this is a talent.
What’s your favorite social media platform?
Twitter. [Follow Tim on Twitter @tb_burke]
Do you speak any languages other than English?
I speak a little German. Still learning from my wife!
Something people would be surprised to learn about being an Olympic biathlete?
People are always surprised to hear that we don't really have much of an off season. Besides a few weeks in April when we don't have scheduled training, we train pretty much all year.