Dunklee back in Finland, ready for World Cup return

The Cup season opens at the same site it came to a dramatic, early end back in March.
Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 11:30 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The 2020-21 World Cup biathlon season gets underway this weekend in Finland, and for Barton’s Susan Dunklee, that means that life has literally come full circle.

Coming off a silver medal winning performance at the 2020 World Championships, Dunklee and the rest of the U-S biathlon team were in Finland on March 12th preparing for the next-to-last World Cup events of the season set for that coming weekend.

Then Dunklee and her teammates were awoken by coaches in the middle of the night and told to quickly pack. Within hours, they were on a flight and on a mad dash to get back to the U-S before travel restrictions imposed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic left them stranded in Europe.

Dunklee made it home to Vermont, and just a few weeks ago, returned to Finland to being training camp for this World Cup opener. WCAX Sports Director Mike McCune spoke with Dunklee Wednesday from Finland and she said that when she arrived on site things seemed very similar.

“You know, it’s really strange, I think I’m in the exact same hotel room I was in on March 12 when we got evacuated from Finland.”, says Dunklee. “So it’s kind of like picking up exactly where I left off. I’m in Kontiolahti, Finland, we have a World Cup starting on Saturday and this pandemic is still going full bore. But now we’re a little bit smarter about how we adapt to things. So we’re trying to have some World Cup races and it’ll be a grand adventure one way or the other.”

Dunklee says the early end of last season and the delayed start of this World Cup season meant she was able to spend the entire summer and most of the fall at home.

She took advantage of that time, training at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and says she feels great heading into the new season.

In biathlon, Dunklee says, the challenge is in being able to focus on what you can control. A gust of wind at the right or wrong time on the shooting range could be the difference in a top finish, and you have to be able to handle those challenges. She says this season, dealing with pandemic health protocols while traveling to multiple countries and still trying to compete at a top level, will be that ‘times 1000’.

But Dunklee, who contemplated her future in the sport while she was home this year, feels she’s found the right mindset to thrive in this challenging environment.

“Back in the Spring when I was deciding whether to keep going or not this year, I thought, if I keep going, I have to reframe this.”, says Dunklee. “My job is to inspire people and just really embrace making the most of whatever I’ve got on a given day, and whatever situation is handed to me and not worry so much about the results.”

“Obviously, I’m training hard and I would love to have some podiums or stellar results. But at the end of the day, I feel like what matters most is being able to develop and really inspire people with this ability to be able to adapt and deal with things and stay positive. Because those are the skills that really matter in life in the end.”

Dunklee and the rest of the U-S team will remain in Finland for a second round of Cup races next weekend before then traveling to Austria for back-to-back Cup events in mid-December.

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