American biathlon fan John Reale prepares for the World Cup

His first live biathlon experience was the World Championships 2019. In December he returns to Östersund for more biathlon and this time he bring his daughter Aevia along with him to share the experience.

How come you decided to come back to the World Cup?
– I felt pretty certain that I was going to be coming back to Östersund before I had ever left in March. While I considered the idea of maybe getting tickets for the Antholz World Championships, I knew that the pleasant, relaxing atmosphere of Östersund was more of my speed. Also, by going to Östersund’s 2019/2020 World Cup premier, it would be a shorter trip which allowed me to take one of my children along with me.

How was your biathlon experience compared to other sport events you been to?
– Attending a biathlon race is very different from watching the sporting event I usually attend. I like to see the New York Mets play baseball, and I also root for the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL hockey. Two teams playing against each other for about three hours is entirely unlike seeing representatives of twenty or more nations competing in a single race for just one hour. And unlike baseball or hockey where your team either wins or loses, in biathlon it’s still a good result to perform above expectations and increase your ranking. I also enjoy showing support for multiple teams and athletes and cheering for each of their individual success.

Last time you came alone, but this time you’re bringing one of your kids. Tell us more, did you have to work hard on convincing her to tag along? 
– My 15-year-old daughter Aevia is coming with me this time! While any of my children (I have five from age 11 to 18) are familiar enough now with biathlon to enjoy watching the races, the trip fit best with my daughter’s schedule, as she is a competitive ice dancer, and it is no longer competition season. Still, she can’t be away from her coaches and practice for too long, which is why we won’t be arriving until the races that start on December 4th. And I didn’t need to convince her, she was very excited to take her first trip to Europe! I know she will tease me about how excited I will be to see Hanna race again, though.

During the World Championships you came early to the arena and stayed all day. Do you have any tips of what to pack for a full day at the arena?
– Oooh, what things to pack? I am pretty used to standing in a queue hours in advance of concerts to get good viewing position, so I don’t need much, apart from downloading some good music or podcasts to listen to to pass the time. But as I learned from my last visit, there were two items that helped a lot: the single-use hand warming heat packs made the extended time out in the cold much more bearable, and traction chains for my boots were essential for walking around in the slippery snow.

We often talk about “The Biathlon Family” how was your experience meeting other supporters during the WCH?
– I am a quiet and shy person by nature, so I wasn’t expecting to meet many people, and yet I had many wonderful conversations with both local people and fans from far and wide! I found that people had questions about the popularity of biathlon in the USA, and how I came to be a fan. I in turn learned many things about fans‘ favorite places to see World Cup events and other sports and activities they enjoy — I am very eager to see a game of bandy someday!

In all, it was so nice to be so warmly received by everyone, and I certainly hope I represented my home country with pride and dignity. Oh and I MUST stress one thing in particular, which is how fortunate I feel that basically everyone was so helpful at dealing with my pitifully monolingual language skills. I have no idea how so many of you are able to communicate so effectively in English, but I am incredibly grateful that you can. I do not deserve to be the beneficiary of your hard work, so all I can do is repeat my very humble gratitude for your willingness to speak English to me. Thank you again!

I am not an athlete myself by any stretch of the imagination, but I strongly believe in the power of sport to bring out the best in both athletes and fans alike. Sport allows us to enjoy the thrill of competition and to root our side to victory, while still also reminding us that we are all there for the same reason, and that sportsmanship and fair play are even more important than any individual victory. Being able to experience that solidarity in person with fans from two or three dozen different nations is not something I will ever forget. The “biathlon family” is an apt way to describe it.

Read the previous interview with John Reale here.