(April 15, 2015) -- "Amazing" was the word Andy Soule (San Antonio, Texas) chose, while teammate Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kan.) used the more understated "transitional" to describe this past winter season that saw both Paralympians reach numerous podiums at international competitions.
Soule enjoyed the best season of his career as he captured the most world championship medals of any U.S. skier with five, including a silver medal in the 15k biathlon race. He also won the overall IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup cross-country title, but surprisingly, his highlight moment from the past winter was the long distance race he won at the World Cup in Asahikawa, Japan, where Cnossen placed third. "It really was just a perfect day of ski racing," said Soule.
Cnossen's top moment was the 12.5k pursuit race at the World Cup Final in Surnadal, Norway, where he finished second.
"Apart from this being my best result in biathlon this season, we have not seen the pursuit format in a couple years on the Paralympic circuit and I realized how much I enjoy the pursuit as the race unfolded," Cnossen confessed. "All of our other biathlon events are in an individual-start format, so the pursuit is a great way to race head-to-head and really feel inside the race."
Cnossen also won gold medals in the middle distance cross-country race at both the World Cup Final and the World Cup event in Asahikawa, but he admits he has plenty of room for improvement in the biathlon events.
"In the past, I could not back up good shooting with fast skiing, so I went aggressively fast on the snow which in turn caused some bad shooting," said Cnossen. "This was not a great formula for success. My skiing has improved this year due to a more relaxed double-pole technique that allows for glide. Although I still have a lot of progress to make, knowing one can ski as fast as the competition must take a lot of pressure off in the range, which can, of itself, lead to better shooting. Continuing to make improvements in fitness and ski speed can result in less effort for a given speed, which can mean entering the range more composed. We are still trying to figure out the optimal off-season approach to cross-country sit skiing, but it will likely involve more trips to snowy places in the southern hemisphere and ski tunnels in Europe."
Soule sees room for improvement on the range.
"My greatest weakness right now is in my range times," he said. "I will be trying a number of new things as far as range approach and procedure in order to work on this."
Both athletes anticipate an even brighter future ahead in their biathlon events.
"My goals in biathlon are to improve my shooting accuracy and range times over the next couple of years," said Soule. "If I accomplish that and keep improving on the skiing performances I have had over the past year, I have the potential to really challenge the best athletes in the world."
"My goal for next year is to shoot clean in a four-stage race, as I have never done this," added Cnossen. "Using this goal as the starting point, I can work backward and determine what I need to do to accomplish it -- focus on the basics of marksmanship early in the season, spend more time training in adverse conditions (winds), and keep the relaxed-but-focused attitude in the range during races and have confidence in the training."
U.S. Biathlon congratulates Andy and Dan on their outstanding season and wish them continued success in the coming years.