There’s something about… biathlon!

Those of you who know me, probably know how much of a pacifist I am. I don’t like weapons, I don’t play violent video games; I value piece, communication, and diplomacy before all else. And thus it may be quite the surprise that I have (re)discovered biathlon, and boy am I a fan.

Biathlon from Wannapik Studio

For those who don’t know what this sport is, it’s cross country skiing and rifle-shooting at targets 50m away in both prone and standing positions. Basically, you ski a few kilometers, then shoot some targets, and depending on the discipline, missed targets mean penalty laps or added time, then continue on skiing. The winner is the one with the best time crossing the finish line, but this often means needing to shoot well, or in the rarer of cases shooting with one or two penalties, and skiing faster than anyone else on the track.

I remember seeing biathlon on TV as a kid. Memories of Olympic glory for a Norwegian named Ole Einar Bjørndalen dominating at a later part in his career filled my thoughts when I saw my first biathlon race during the covid-19 pandemic. I was at home on a Saturday, and it was a pursuit race, and I was instantly hooked.

It was strange to see races that were with empty stadiums, but luckily the commentating was always good. What was even more interesting was the fact that all of the races are streamed for free via the IBU website. I was floored, and so happy to be able to catch up on years and years of races!

I was first an observer and latched onto a few personalities that appealed to me. For example, the powerful style of Benjamin (Benny) Weger was one that caught my eye first. It wasn’t just the world class beard, but rather the feeling that he was an underdog. It came to a huge surprise that he retired that year after winning one of his last races, so he went out in a good way! Plus he has the most adorable voice in interviews!

But there was a moment of familiarity among all of this. Norway has been dominating for some years both in the men and women events, but I recognised someone. It was none other than my all-time favourite, and I can even remember him racing and winning back almost 10 years before, Tarjei Bø who is the older brother of the otherwise dominating Johannes Tinges Bø. Tarjei’s longevity at a high level impressed me, and his adorable humour and constant smiles was both endearing and impressive. I consumed everything Tarjei, all his interviews, all of his post-match reports, all of his social media. I just couldn’t get enough of Tarjei, so now in the 2024 season where I see him succeeding again, it brings me great pride and joy to see it coming his way! There is something about Tarjei…

And with two biathletes inside my loving heart, there is always room for a third. Enter another Norwegian, Sturla Holm Lægreid who has burst onto the scene and has not only performed wll, but consistantly is humble and competitive at the same time. Playing second fiddle to Johannes Tinges can’t be easy, but he does it in style and is great on social media. He’s always been on my IBU.org “Follow” list, and a moment came yesterday that simply made me scream out with joy, and thus compose this post.

He won the World Championships Spring Gold Medal, beating out everyone else and sneaking inside the time of the arguably best biathlete on the tour: Johannes Tinges Bø. I had thought that due to the competitive nature of the Norwegian team, Lægreid might be dropped at some point, as even one of the other top ranking Norwegians got dropped from the team; but the look of triumph and conquering on one of the biggest stages in the year, warmed my heart and the thousands of fans worldwide. A tear ran down my face, and I was so proud. The triumph, the relief, the satisfaction of victory; nothing can compare!

And so paying an ode to my favourite biathletes comes to the end, but a question remains as to why I like this sport so much? I think it’s the fact that it combines two very technical disciplines and requires immense skill and dedication. It’s frankly hot as. I have a huge respect for these athletes, and I will continue to be a fan for years to come.

Who knows, maybe this will motivate me to get out onto my skis more often, or get some lessons to improve my technique. Or perhaps even an even wilder thought: learning how to shoot an air-rifle and then throwing it on my back to continue skiing. I guess this is a less likely of a prospect, but who knows.

In the meantime, I need to find a coach for next year that will help me with my skiing technique… 🤔

The Twelve Days of Christmas 2022 – Day 12

We have arrived at the end of our musical journey, and there is no better choice with which to grace our ears: the incomparable Céline Dion.

In many parts of the world, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December. Traditionally, this includes dinner and company, but what song could describe this day properly? Well the originally titled Cantique de Noël or better known O Holy Night is a strong candidate, and this is therefore my choice.

Written in 1847 by Adolphe Adam, it has been around for a long time. What makes me think so fondly of this is is my time with a certain community band where we would perform concerts at retirement homes. One of the perennial pieces we played was an arrangement of this piece of music that was originally first broadcasted on the radio in 1906 for the first time by a Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden. A historic moment in innovation, but also of the widespread connectedness of music.

May your Christmas be safe, secure, filled with loved ones and good times. I hope you have enjoyed my journey through the 12 Days of Christmas, and perhaps some day we will come forward with a more modern version, or another theme, but until then; best wishes!

The Twelve Days of Christmas 2022 – Day 11

As we approach the end of the journey towards Christmas, it’s important to pay homage to the eleven pipers piping, I mean some more classic favourites that transcend time and place. Back in the 1800 century, there was this classic English carol that emerged based on verses from the Bible.

When we think of the time of the birth of Jesus, we are reminded that the angels announced the arrival of the babe, and thus Hark! The Harald Angels Sing. This interjection is rather rare in modern days. Hark! Hark! Hark! I say. We should use it more, don’t you think?

Having said that, there is something about the melody of this piece of music that always drawn me in, and when we add the majestic harmonies of a few beautiful singers, we are left with an anthem of welcome. Only one day until the star shines to announce the arrival of Christmas.

The Twelve Days of Christmas 2022 – Day 10

Truth be told, 1992 was a good year. I remember it well, and one of things that comes from this year is a Christmas classic, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. A Charles Dickens adaptation, we follow the journey of Ebenezer Scrooge through a musical Disney adventure.

The Muppets are a central part of my life. They were my friends when I was alone as a child, they were a respite from the seriousness of life, but most importantly they are just amazing.

I love them so much that I watch the classic series every year on New Years Eve! I have rearranged and retexted the introductory song to fit as my own introduction for the “Ask Osky” segment of an online radio show (Holla Holla 2011-13!!). I just can’t get enough of the Muppets.

Did I forget to mention that my mobile phone background and lock screen images are the muppets? So you can imagine that me picking this movie (and song) is unsurprising, but honestly this is a great movie for all ages. I show it to my students every year, and they think its hillarious and wholesome.

Long live the Muppets, and enjoy this song for a feel good moment or two. Then go watch the movie!

The Twelve Days of Christmas 2022 – Day 9

Originally a poem from the 19th Century, “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” was originally “A Christmas Carol” which quite fenskly sounds much more low-key boring. Adapted to music by the likes of Britten or Darke, this version is that of the famous composer Gustav Holst.

Though he’s known as a composer of The Planted Suite, he did have significant other compositions which are lesser known. Though since my musical knowledge of the 20th century is a bit limited, being on the 17th-19th century and I’m much more familiar. It’s more in my wheel-house, so-to-speak.

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice (YaY!) which marks the turning of the tides of darkness, but in relation to this song it made me wonder… Its not really Mid-Winter around the Christmas season, but rather the beginning; at least here in Sweden.

Christmas has a lot of relevance with snow and cold, so imagining it in the southern hemisphere always blows my mind. Imagining Christmas in a warm climate or without frosty windows, it just doesn’t feel right. I always migrate to colder climate, so here’s hoping global warming won’t continue to plauge me.

And lastly, the word bleak is just so extra. Let’s turn back the clock to 2004-2006 where the interjection “Bleak” or “That’s bleak” really was mainstream. Inspired by, and altered slightly, the words of the famous Regina George, “Let’s make bleak happen, it’s going to happen!” Gretchen Weiners would be so proud!!

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