Sara Studebaker-Hall breaks stereotypes in the world of biathlon as a former athlete, referee, and technical committee member, advocating for improved representation of women and lesser-known nations. Her inspiring journey shows how she stays true to her love of the sport while fighting for more equitable representation for women and nations that are often left out of the spotlight.
Sara Studebaker-Hall is a former biathlete from the USA who competed professionally between 2007 and 2014, including two Olympics and three World Championships. After retiring from competition, Sara pursued a career as an International Referee (IR) in biathlon and worked towards her official certification. She has since been appointed as a Technical Delegate (TD) for the sport and was elected to the Technical Committee (TC) in September 2022.
Sara’s motivation to become an IR and later a TC member came from her desire to stay involved in biathlon.
Staying in the biathlon family after competing is incredibly rewarding
She was inspired by the work of US Referees during her time as an athlete and sought to make an impact in the sport through a different role. She hoped to bring a unique perspective to the sport as a member of a less popular biathlon nation and help to ensure that all stakeholders, including athletes, coaches, officials, and fans, could benefit from the continued evolution of the sport.
As an IR during a competition, Sara’s main task is to support the Organizing Committee (OC). She ensures that the venue is set up according to IBU specifications, is safe and fair for the athletes, and looks great for TV. She works closely with the OC, TD, and Race Director to ensure consistency from venue to venue and to highlight the good work of the OC. Daily meetings are held to ensure everyone is aware of their role, but a successful day is one where everything runs smoothly and the athletes are able to compete safely and fairly.
For Sara, the job of an IR and TC member is important because it is all about the athletes. Without the work of the OC and Referees, competitions would not happen at the level athletes expect. The role is vital in ensuring that each event is consistent and run well for the athletes. Being part of the biathlon family, whether as an athlete, coach, official, or volunteer, is a rewarding experience that allows individuals to give back to the sport and inspire the next generation of athletes.
Sara also encourages more women to become International Referees. Acknowledging the need for increased representation, Sara emphasizes that having more women in officiating roles will not only recognize their importance but also inspire the next generation of female athletes to pursue opportunities within the biathlon community.
I think when athletes and fans see women in officiating roles they see that women are really an important part of the biathlon family, and that helps all of us
Sara is currently pregnant and looking forward to the arrival of her second child. Although she is pregnant, Sara's work as an international referee has not suffered. She is expecting her baby in early summer and hopes to be back refereeing next winter. Sara's pregnancy and motherhood have not significantly affected her role as an IR and TC member. She believes that the IBU should support mothers in various positions within the biathlon community to prevent the loss of talented individuals.
Sara Studebaker-Hall’s career in biathlon has allowed her to break boundaries and contribute to the sport in new ways. She is an inspiration to all athletes who may be considering alternative roles within the biathlon family. Her work as an International Referee and Technical Delegate will continue to help the sport evolve and ensure that it remains safe and fair for all athletes.
During Sara´s Instagram takeover at the IBU Cup in Canmore 2023, she explained how to become an IBU referee: