Passler is a name many who are familiar with biathlon remember. Johann was an Olympic medallist and World Champion in the 80s and 90s and now Rebecca, his niece, is keeping up the family tradition. Last winter, at her first year as a Junior, she collected three medals at the IBU Junior World Championships in Obertilliach, keeping up the form to collect an IBU Cup sprint podium just weeks afterwards. These results convinced her coaches to give her a chance and during the summer she joined the Italian A team. Training next to the likes of Dorothea Wierer and Lisa Vittozzi was a great source of motivation for Passler, who is now getting ready for winter to start.
BiathlonWorld: First thing, first. How are you? How has the first summer in the A team been?
Rebecca Passler: I am feeling well and very happy about the training months. It was a great chance I was given: I knew all the other guys before, but the vibe in the team is awesome, which is a great help. We are working hard on a few details I must improve.
BW: How was it training next to Dorothea Wierer and Lisa Vittozzi, two athletes you know belong to the world’s best? Is there anything specific you are looking up from them?
RP: I must admit that training with them is fantastic, because they often share useful tips with me. There is a lot I still have to learn, but I think that it is a privilege to be training next to some of the best biathletes in the world. So, I observe very carefully how they do, how they train and their routines, so I can take what I need and soak all these inputs step by step.
BW: Last winter was quite a surprising year, maybe even for yourself: it was your first season out of the youth category, but you immediately got podiums at the Junior World Championships and in IBU Cup. Can you tell how did you experience the season?
RP: I must say that at the start of the season I did not even know whether we would be allowed to compete internationally, so for a whole month I had only been racing in Italy. When I was selected to compete in the IBU Cup, my goal was just to gain experience from the event and my teammates. I was obviously very curious to see where my level was, especially because there were quite a few athletes who usually compete on the World Cup tour there. With a level much higher than the one I had experienced in the youth competitions before, my first podium with Daniele Cappellari in the single mixed relay was a great surprise.
But my best memory is definitely connected to Obertilliach: I will never forget these Junior World Championships, because after the first medal I was much more relaxed, and the relay medal was just an unbelievable moment. It is fantastic to be able to carry your team to the finish, finalize all the work that each of us had put and celebrate the result at the finish with your teammates and staff.
BW: How would you describe yourself as a biathlete? Is there any champion you take as an inspiration?
RP: I am very calm, I usually do not overthink while competing. I try to focus just on myself and what I have to do, maybe that is why I often shoot very fast. But it is something that was always with me, you could say my trademark.
But if I have to name two athletes I have been a massive fan of, they were Martin Fourcade and Kaisa Makarainen.
BW: Biathlon seems to be growing in popularity among Italian youngsters and your generation is producing a number of results. Does this atmosphere help growing and pushing each of you to improve?
RP: It is obviously something I look at with pride: Dorothea (Wierer), Lukas (Hofer), Dominik (Windisch) and Lisa (Vittozzi) have done so much to make biathlon more and more known in Italy thanks to their results. It is definitely a great source of inspiration and motivation for me and the whole team, because you see that it is possible for us Italians to be up there with the world’s best.
BW: Speaking of motivation. For you, but also Hannah Auchentaller and Linda Zingerle, there must be an extra pinch of motivation looking at the future, with the 2026 Olympics that will take place on your doorsteps in Antholz. Is it something you think of?
RP: Having an edition of the Olympics in your hometown is not something everyone can ever experience and for us all it is a dream and a goal. Our friends, family and fans are all here and it will most definitely be a lifetime experience to race during the Olympics in Antholz, but there is still a long road between now and then, so we have to focus on each and every step on this journey.
BW: As for the way into biathlon, how did you start? Did having an uncle that was among the most famous biathletes in the country play a role in your choice?
RP: I tried biathlon for the first time when I was 8. I wanted to because my older sister, Greta, and my friends were all doing it and I immediately liked it because of the group we had and the fact that it helped me switch off my head after school.
Obviously, my uncle was one of the reasons why I wanted to try the sport, but I also think that if you come from Antholz, it would just be odd if you do not try the sport at least once in your life!
Once I started, I never thought about quitting though and here I am today!
BW: Last question, who is Rebecca Passler outside of the track and range?
RP: I think I am your regular 20-year-old: I like seeing my friends, going on holiday and working with makeup. I am a beautician and I love making nails and give massages.
Photos: Reichert, Deubert, Stancik/IBU and Rebecca Passler