LES TUFFES, France -- When Lexie Madigan first arrived in Switzerland for the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, her accomplishments in biathlon were so impressive that she was named flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony. But if you had asked her during sixth grade what sport she wanted to compete in, biathlon would not have been at the top of her list.
“My parents swam in college and my sister was a swimmer – so I obviously grew up swimming all the time.”
Swimming is a popular sport in America, with Olympic athletes becoming household names. Biathlon, on the other hand, is historically a Scandinavian sport and continues to have strong roots across Europe. Until Lowell Bailey took the crown in 2017, no American had ever won the world championship title.
So how did Madigan end up representing Team USA as a biathlete, of all sports?
“I was watching the Sochi Olympics and was immediately intrigued by this sport – it looked really cool.” she recalls.
Immediately, Madigan thought ‘I want to do that’ and was eager to try her hand at the sport. There was just one problem: she was born in Sacramento, California, and, with its rare snowfall, the city was not really a hub for the sport. Of course, when there’s a will, there’s a way.
“My super supportive parents found a clinic for me to go try it out and ever since then, I’ve been doing biathlon and I absolutely love it.”
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She now lives in Truckee, California, where the snow and practice facilities are more available to her. But she still credits her background as a swimmer in helping her in her new sport.
“The swimming background helps me, 100 percent. I get injured a lot, and swimming is a really good way to recover and heal, since it’s low impact.”
Kaisa Bosek, from Alexandria, Minnesota, did not grow up competing in biathlon either. She started as a forward on her soccer team, before switching sports and finding quick success. “I started biathlon only about four years ago. We did a little novice class – me and my dad – and I really enjoyed it, so I kept going. I ended up quitting soccer to have more time for biathlon.”
She, too, credits her first sport with helping her succeed in biathlon. “In soccer, when you go up to take a penalty kick, everyone’s watching you and you have to make sure you hit the net. That’s kind of like biathlon. Sometimes you’re on the shooting range and it’s just you, and you can hear people cheering. It’s in that moment that you have to be able to focus and hit your target.”
While their sport journeys may not have been straightforward, Madigan and Bosek clearly found a path that worked – it led them to the Winter Youth Olympic Games, donning the red, white and blue.