“I am more lucky than unlucky…I was happy that I was alive and I could stand on my own two feet. I always to try to look at things in a positive way. Even if your car has a broken wheel, you still have three left, so why would you complain about one broken one?” That pretty much sums up the 21-year-old’s outlook on life and biathlon.
Coming from a sports-loving family, he and his older brother, “did everything: athletics, ski jumping and when he started to go to biathlon training, I was nine and wanted to follow him. Now I love biathlon. It is the best sport in the world!” Still Invenius has a soft spot for another sport, and a star with a sunny outlook like himself. “I am a big football fan. My favorite player is Chelsea’s N’ Golo Kanté; he is always happy and humble.”
One of Invenius’ earliest biathlon memories is his first victory, in Kontiolahti where he now trains after recently moving to Joensuu. “I was sick that day. I was the smallest kid in the mass start. I shot the best in the field. In the last loop, I was one minute back and caught the leader at the finish line. It is in my mind all the time. I was doing biathlon and cross-country those days but then fell in love with biathlon.”
Fast forward to last winter’s IBU Junior Open European Championships at Pokljuka. Invenius won Sprint Silver behind Czech Republic’s ace Jonas Marecek, following that up with Pursuit Silver. “I never worked so hard in the summertime and knew definitely something was coming. Winning two medals was a big boost to my confidence, but those were Silver medals, not Gold. Still, I am pretty sure those will come.”
That confidence carried on to the IBU YJWCH at Soldier Hollow where he won another Sprint Silver medal, shooting clean just eight seconds behind Norway’s Martin Nevland. “That is for sure my best race ever. It was a great feeling. That was the moment that I got the feeling in my head that I could be on Norway’s relay team now! Of course, I want to beat Nevland next time; we are good friends with the Norwegians. I do not see any rivalries. I wish everyone to have the best races possible and keep happy faces up!”
Invenius’ successful season sent him into Finland’s A team for the coming season, where he has high hopes. “Our new national team coach gave some tips that I have never heard before. I think this is going to be a great run with him…It is a chance for me to push my limits. My main goal is to be on the podium with a Finnish relay team. I want to see that one day.”
Besides the medal and promotion to the A team, Invenius earned his first-ever BMW IBU World Cup starts in Oslo (55th sprint, 48th pursuit). “It was great. I felt like a little boy in a candy shop, seeing all of my idols…It was good that I had a couple of trainings before the first race, then I just enjoyed the atmosphere, crowd and everything. I learned a lot there: to stay humble because I really have not accomplished anything and continue to work hard. Those guys have so much more speed and shooting consistency, so I just have to continue to push the limits.”
Pushing his limits means the young Finn has to step up, especially on the shooting range; the Soldier Hollow sprint remains his only perfect day in 5+ years of international competition. “It is easier to develop in skiing than shooting. I really like the physical training. It is good that we now have (Coach) Erik (Bartlett Kulstad) to help me with shooting. I am lacking in both areas now but just have to put my head down and go forward, actually head up. I really do not want another accident!”
Although he got up close and personal with many of his biathlon idols in Oslo, Invenius admitted, “Martin Fourcade is my favorite, with his attitude and will to go forward, pushing hard year after year, trying to get better all the time. One of the best things about him was that he wanted the French team to achieve big goals. I like the team player attitude, push each other forward and giving some advice to the younger ones, inspire people.”
Outside of sport, Invenius idolizes Freddie Mercury because “he was his own personality, not caring about other people’s opinions. That is one of the reasons I keep my hair long and I can say it’s pretty unique!"
Invenius’ life is not all biathlon. “I play a little guitar and collect stuff like Pokémon cards and things associated with that, kind of nerdy stuff.” Yet given the choice on a day off from training, “I would go out, enjoy the sun, listen to some good music and hang out with my girlfriend. I love spending time with her… Sometimes I feel there is no time for an athlete to clear your head and just chill out for a day. That would be a dream.”
The key to Otto Invenius’ success in biathlon is most likely his personality, describing himself as “positive and limitless,” he added, “I do not like to worry about things so much. My favorite song is “Let It Be” by the Beatles. I listen to it when times get rough or I feel a little bit sad. I am a pretty happy guy.”
Photos: IBU/ Bjorn Reichert, Otto Invenius