With spring slowly fading into warmer days, biathletes are gradually returning to training blocks and suddenly their calendars mark a countdown to the start of the new season in November. However, this familiar procedure feels like a faraway time for those who decided to call it a career at the finals of Oslo-Holmenkollen. We caught up with a few of them to explore the fascinating journey into a new chapter in life, starting with Canada’s Scott Gow and the UK’s Amanda Lightfoot. Both of them closed their careers after achieving their best results in the BMW IBU World Cup during the season just ended, yet they had no doubts or second thoughts when the moment to hang up the rifle came.
BiathlonWorld: How did you come to the decision to stop being an athlete?
Scott Gow: I knew I was likely going to stop racing two seasons ago. In my mind it was very unlikely I would compete another 4 years after Beijing to go to Italy, so, the end of an Olympic year was a really good time to make a change. I also felt like I had been able to accomplish a lot over my career, so it made the decision to stop a little bit easier.
Amanda Lightfoot: This was a difficult decision, but the right time for me to make a change. I no longer wanted to push my body to the extremes and spend long hours in training. I guess you can say I lost my motivation a little to continue.
BW: How scary is it to leave the safety zone of biathlon? SG: It's different for sure! I'm going to university in the Fall so I felt better and more secure once I had that all organized. It kind of gave me a purpose for the year. It felt weird having to find a "normal" job, but I was lucky to get the opportunity to work with Biathlon Canada this summer.
AL: I don't feel it’s scary... it only opens up the next doors. It's true the phrase: ‘close the door and another one will open’. I am thankful I have the support of the British Army in that respect.
BW: Did you know already what you wanted to do after biathlon? How did you decide it? SG: I've always planned to go to university and finish my degree. I'd really like to go into medicine, and if that doesn't work out, I'll go into physiotherapy or something else kinesiology related. This has been my plan for years so it's an easy plan to follow.
AL: I always knew I would go to complete my army career after my sporting career. Not only complete it but gain promotion and give back to the Army all my knowledge and skills I gained from being an athlete to the next generations of Army athletes and also the young soldiers starting their military careers... to show them the possibilities. Making history is a dream of many (Lightfoot became the first British woman to score a World Cup top 20 this winter in Antholz ndr.). I am overjoyed to have done that and to have been able to set the bar high for the generations to come. I hope they will come to me to sift out all my knowledge and tips to reach the pinnacle. I'm looking forward to the bar getting even higher and seeing the next future star of British Biathletes
BW: What's the most pleasing thing about not having to worry about next season?
SG: The best part of being retired is there's no more stress. I don't stress over racing, missing training or getting sick! There's a lot of great aspects of biathlon, but there are a lot of pressures to stay on the training plan, sacrifice time with friends and family and, of course, the need to perform.
AL: The most pleasing thing is not having to be so strict on myself so much anymore. If I want to train then I do and if I want to miss a day or if I get sick .. it’s NOT the end of the world.
BW: And the hardest?
SG: The easiest part of retirement is also the hardest for me. While there can be a lot of stress, there are always races during the winter which make all of the sacrifices worth it. You cannot beat the feeling of accomplishment after a hard year of training. I will also miss training with my teammates. There're so many great memories which are made on the road during training, and I won't be part of that anymore.
AL: Telling my head it's ok to run just 30 minutes and not two hours… Another hard thing will be realising that I'm not getting back on that start line when I watch next year, but once I see the athletes and realise the pain they are in like I once was, that will wear off quickly and I'll grab some popcorn and cheers on all my close friends in the sport.
BW: What does the future hold for you now?
SG: My future is working and enjoying the Canmore mountains for one last summer. Then I will move to Calgary and will live there for the next several years while I finish school. After that my future is unknown!
AL: The future for me right now is the British Army. I love my Corp and all the opportunities the army offers, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life with my Italian husband.
BW: Will we see you around biathlon soon?
SG: I will always be around. I will try to volunteer where I can with local teams and you will see me at the IBU Cup next March for sure!!!
AL: I hope so, but definitely not as an athlete! I love the management side of things in biathlon and I'm very good at it... so maybe I'll take on a job role like that in the future with the IBU or another team.
Photos: Deubert, Manzoni / IBU; Marcel Laponder