Ukaleq Astri Slettemark, Greenland's most talented young athlete
“My biggest goal is becoming one of the best. I do not know if this will happen in five, ten or fifteen years. I will try to do better in every competition and take one step after the other.”
This is how Greenland's young hopeful, 18-year-old Ukaleq Astri Slettemark describes her goals for the coming years. At least since the last IBU Youth/Junior World Championships in Osrblie, Slovakia her name is well-known: In the Youth Women‘s 10 km individual she won the first-ever medal for Greenland at the IBU World Championships at any level.
It may sound unusual at first, but if you take a look at her family, it all makes sense because Ukaleq was born into a family of biathlon enthusiasts. Her parents were former biathletes and so are she and her brother. Furthermore, Ukaleq Astri and Sondre Slettemark formed their nation's first relay in the biathlon history. They finished 16th at the first IBU Junior Cup stage of the winter in Pokljuka, Slovenia.
It is apparent that biathlon resembles a family business; her mother coaches her during the competitions in the IBU Junior Cup. Her mother is responsible for her zeroing and is something like her personal mentor. “It is an advantage to have my mother by my side because we are so close. I can trust her and she can trust me and we are very straightforward to each other, so I am never afraid of telling her anything.” Sometimes you get on each other's nerves of course, but that is quite normal,” she adds with a smile.
Ukaleq has been attending a sports school in Norway for several years now, where she also has her athletics and shooting coach. Certainly, also an important factor in order to be a full-time biathlete.
The road to success is often not an easy one
When Ukaleq talks about her win at the IBU Youth/ Junior World Championships her eyes light up. “It was so amazing, just overwhelming. I couldn't believe it that this really happened.” Having four clean shooting stages and the fourth best ski time, she could not be caught up at the finish. With this historical win in the 10 km individual she also put Greenland on the biathlon map. Even though one might think that Individuals are her favourite discipline, she has to admit that she loves pursuit the most “because anything can change in a blink of an eye.”
Ukaleq has a very special method of motivating herself again after setbacks: “I can’t be really mad for more than half an hour. I always evaluate my performance after a race and try to find some things that went well. I try to zero my mind and take three good things and only one bad thing from each competition.” If that does not work, sometimes even one' s own role models offer a good orientation. Hers are Norwegian Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the “King of Biathlon”, as well as Dorothea Wierer and Lisa Vittozzi of Italy. The fact that she also thinks about biathlon almost every minute is something she already has in common with her great role models.
The special role of the IBU Junior Cup
Without the IBU Junior Cup Ukaleq would probably not be a biathlete today, because in Greenland “there is no shooting range.” Only for one competition a temporary shooting range was set up some time ago. Ukaleq took part in the competition and discovered her passion for biathlon. Now the IBU Junior Cup offers her the unique opportunity to compete regularly in races and to do biathlon professionally. Her best result this season in the IBU Junior Cup was a sixth place in Pokljuka. In Martell she finished in 13th place. As long as there is still room for improvement one can be curious where she will be heading this season. Who knows, maybe her star will shine more brightly than before at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships 2020 in Lenzerheide.