Nevland is one of those unique athletes whose destiny was set early in life. Both parents are avid skiers with his mother a biathlete and his father in cross-country. “I was out skiing with my family from the time I was little; skiing my whole life. When I was about ten, I was out with my uncle and cousin and tried biathlon for the first time and have been doing it ever since…When I was little, I was always excited for the weekends when we could go to the cabin, go skiing and watch the World Cup on TV… My first race was when I was eleven, we shot at the big standing targets and I hit eight of ten; pretty good!”
After years of just rollerskiing at home in Sandnes, he headed to snowier climes, “Where I live in southern Norway there is no snow, so when I was 19 I moved to Lillehammer to train with the National team.” That training atmosphere keyed his three Gold medal haul at Lenzerheide. “I went there with no expectations; it was a big surprise to win three Golds.” After that success, he missed the 2020 IBU YJWCH in Obertilliach, because “I maybe overtrained that year and did not go.” Maybe I was hungrier this year and did more correct training. I learned a lot last year when I did not go to Obertilliach. Hopefully, I am a better athlete now!”
Coming to Soldier Hollow this spring, “I was excited to be back in IBU races…I knew a month before we travelled that I would skip the individual and start the sprint. I was really focused…and just wanted to have fun…I was watching during my warm-up and saw that two of my teammates shot zero, so I knew I had to shoot zero to get a medal. I think when I have that pressure, I am more focused; I like big challenges like that. In the pursuit, I was really nervous. It was a new experience to start first. When I missed two shots on the first prone, I felt like I could just lower my shoulders and have fun out on the tracks,” sealing the sprint/pursuit double. Despite his success, “I am more confident on the tracks. I have struggled a lot with shooting, but working with my coach, I slowed down my shooting to make sure I hit the targets. It is worth it to take an extra five seconds than have one or two misses.” Alluding to the Martin Fourcade strategy of shoot slower and ski fast on the tracks, “He was the best at that. That is something I need to train at to be as good as him.”
“After Soldier Hollow, I got Covid and that ended my season, so I had a long time off. During my holidays (after recovering) I like to train and do some ski trips up in the mountains, go to the cabin and be social with friends, try to be a little bit more normal. It has been special the last two years with the Covid situation. This spring it was nice to meet up with friends again. My holiday was almost two months long so it is nice to be back training again.”
Cycling is his favorite when it comes to training. “We have a big group of athletes in Lillehammer and take long trips. It is really fun.” However, when it comes to training camps, His focus will be on the range. “I will do some faster shooting, find what I am comfortable with and challenge myself to be faster…My main goal is to do some IBU Cups. It is tough in Norway, so it is really important to have a good first weekend at Sjusjoen national opening. I have one more year for Junior World Championships so that is a goal, but I would love to have a full season at the IBU Cup.” Beyond sports, “I do not do so much: some studying and see some friends. It takes a lot of time to train twice a day and do some studying.” On a perfect day off from training, Nevland would “take a trip up in the mountains, enjoy a nice day with some sun, make some good food and just chill.”
Champions like Nevland gravitate to champions. “When I was young, my role model was Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. I watched every race and tried to be like him. The way he was fully into the sport and the way he trained to be so good. That was a big inspiration to me. He is a big idol!”
Nevland described himself as a “hard worker and a positive smiling guy;” add that to his confidence and focus and the result will simply be more medals and success, much like his idol.
Photos: IBU/ Bjorn Reichert, Evgeny Tumashov, Martin Nevland