Who is Susan Dunklee?
Leading Team USA’s biathlon women, Susan Dunklee makes her second appearance at an Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, having experienced her most successful World Cup season ever – which included her winning the first World Championship medal by a U.S. Biathlon woman.
The daughter of two-time Olympic cross-country skier, Stan Dunklee, Susan was on skis when she was about two years old. But it wasn’t until she was 22 that she shot her first biathlon rifle. After 17 years of cross-country ski racing which spanned from lollipop races in her childhood through her four years at Dartmouth College – where she also competed in the snowless cross-country running program – Dunklee entered the biathlon development program in Lake Placid, NY in 2008.
For two years, Dunklee lived at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, while also racing in International Biathlon Union Cup races – a proving ground circuit for athletes before they move up to the bigs of the World Cup.
After spending time in the insular world of hyper-focused athletic training, Dunklee realized she was depressed. Heeding her father’s words to make sure she always remembered to have fun whenever training or competing, Dunklee made a change, and moved back to Vermont’s Northern Kingdom – about 30 miles from her hometown – and found a place to call home both athletically and communally with Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s Green Racing Project Elite Team.
Dunklee’s performance during the 2016-17 season aided in the most successful year ever for U.S. biathletes. At the 2017 World Championships in Hochfilzen, three days after her teammate Lowell Bailey won the first ever gold medal at Worlds for the U.S., Dunklee made history herself when she won silver to become the first U.S. woman to win a World Championship medal for the U.S.
Dunklee along with Bailey would team up in a non-Olympic event – the single mixed relay – to win a World Cup silver medal. Earlier in the season, Dunklee won bronze in the sprint.
Dunklee finishing 10th overall at the end of the 2016-17 season, her best season on record.
Susan Dunklee turned heads when she tied the best finish by a U.S. woman in her World Championship debut in 2012 when she finished fifth in the women’s 15km individual event.
When first arriving on the World Cup, Dunklee found herself spending significantly more time on the shooting range than her fellow competitors. Tired of losing time on the range to women she could ski just as fast as on course, Dunklee made it her mission to fire off her five rounds as fast as possible while not giving up on accuracy. She succeeded, and at the end of the 2016-17 season, her range times were some of the fastest on tour.
In her silver medal-winning World Championship mass start race, Dunklee couldn’t contain her elation after knocking down all five of her targets in the final shooting bout – leaving the range first with a huge smile on her face. Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier would finish ahead of Dunklee for gold in the end, but only by 4.6 seconds.
In her first Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Dunklee finished 12th in the mass start – making history as the top finishing U.S. Biathlon woman ever at the Olympics. The fact Dunklee had qualified for the event in the first place – which only races the 30 best mass start athletes, based on World Cup rankings – was also a feat achieved by no other U.S. woman at an Olympics.
As part of the Green Racing Project in Craftsbury, Dunklee moved into a renovated farmhouse with other athletes back in 2010.
In 2016, she made another commitment in Craftsbury, when she bought her first house, complete with over a dozen blueberry bushes in the backyard. Though her time in the house may be limited as she traverses Europe during the World Cup season, knowing there is a home waiting for her gives her a sense of belonging to her community even when she’s a world away.
When she is home, expect to find Dunklee helping with the many varied projects around the Craftsbury Outdoor Center where she recently started tending to two honeybee colonies.