What’s Next for Newly Retired Biathletes?

Spring holidays always follow the end of biathlon season as do athlete retirements. This year saw a big line-up of stars and journeymen hanging up their rifles and skis. Most of them have a plan for the next chapters in their lives. Others are still searching for what is over the next hill.

With that in mind, new retirement club members Anais Chevalier-Bouchet, Vanessa Hinz, Mari Eder, Serafin Wiestner, Nastassia Kinnunen and Erlend Bjoentegaard each answered a few questions about how their lives have changed and most importantly, after biathlon, what is next?

First month in retirement

Most obviously, no one is bored a month into retirement; all are enjoying new-found freedom. 2022 Olympic Women’s Relay Bronze medalist Hinz admitted, “It is exciting to have so much time, and to be able to go on holidays also in May (for the first time).” Likewise, Wiestner sees opportunities previously never possible. “The feeling actually is really relaxing and stress-free. It‘s nice to spend time at home with family and friends and make plans for the summer and the whole year.”

After a successful season that included two podiums in Nove Mesto, Chevalier-Bouchet is, “feeling good, slowly recovering after this hard winter and enjoying spring skiing and mountaineering…like every year.” At the same time, she is, “planning some holidays for June and July and… that is unusual!”

2023 IBU OECH Sprint Gold medalist Bjoentegaard has not slowed down calling the past months, “Busy, I went straight back to school!”

Stepping Back

Mari Eder was forced to take a step back and refocus in recent weeks before embarking on her “belated honeymoon” with husband Benjamin. “Unfortunately, some heart issues appeared at the end of the season, so hardest part about this last month was that I haven’t been able to move and do sport. Normally I enjoy also time without training but had to change… I started working on renovating our new-shop-to-be and realised I missed any kind of physical action, so I started to be a whole new person, creating new thoughts and ideas. (Missing spring races) and slowly fading from training, has been like a hard but very efficient way to take a new direction in new life!”

The new-found freedom and slower pace opened the door for Eder’s trip, describing it with a big smile, “We headed to a holiday to Mexico, or honeymoon as we call it! We were married 5 years ago and never had time. Luckily, we still like each other; so now we are enjoying some weeks in sun!”

Missing Biathlon?

Despite being busy, almost everyone admitted they will miss something about their biathlon life. Eder, who competed in both biathlon and cross-country, “will miss most this inspiration to have such clear goals. The pure motivation what comes from your goals and dreams; a feeling so powerful that your life revolves around reaching them.” Hinz will miss what happens from November to March, “The fans, the biathlon family and the tension before the first start.” Bjoentegaard will miss “Eating as much as I want without getting fat.” Teams become family when you spend 200+ days a year together so Wiestner “will miss the fun and the joking we had together in our group.”

The exception, with a qualifier, came from Chevalier-Bouchet who has a three-year-old daughter. “Honestly a lot of things won’t miss me! I was tired of travelling so much, leaving home so many days for training camp or competitions. I am sure I won’t be in a hotel for a long time, it became boring! Maybe the adrenaline of competition will miss me, but for now, I am so much at peace with my decision that it does not cross my mind.”

What’s Next Plans

As for the what’s next, most have a plan in place. Wiestner will continues as a border guard with Swiss Customs and in his spare time plans to, “travel around with my girlfriend and do some renovations on our house.” The 32-year-old Bjoentegaard is working on his bachelor’s degree in economics. Both Eder and Kinnunen are getting directly involved in everyday economics with retail ventures. Kinnunen is helping her husband open a store in an old schoolhouse they restored. Eder and her husband “ started a sports shop last year, “the plan was and is that I work there when it opens in October in our hometown Thalgau. I will also work with my old sponsor, apparel company Noname, in Austria.”

“Work in Progress

Hinz and Chevalier-Bouchet are still sorting through their futures after eleven- and fifteen-year biathlon careers, respectively. Hinz calls her plans, “a work in progress and to get to know myself who I'm without biathlon.” Her French counterpart wants time to decompress after a long career, admitting, “My plan is to rest and take one year off. I want time to think about my future project that is not completely defined now. I really need to recover after these long years of work.”

In six months…

Hinz will “hopefully be lying on the beach, enjoying my cocktail!”

Kinnunen said, “it's hard to say…we're spontaneous people and maybe we will end up in Africa or maybe Lapland!”

Wiestner will, “enjoy some great live music festivals, be relaxing, and drinking some beers without worrying about training, and do sport, but not rollerskiing! not rollerskiing) when I want and be looking forward to the next biathlon season as a spectator.”

Chevalier-Bouchet realizes that “it will be October and won’t be doing hard training!”

Bjoentegaard will be, “living in Bergen. There are about five days of snow in Bergen during the winter... God, help me!”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Harald Deubert, Igor Stančík

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