Heartbeat: US Biathlon Podcast

Paul Schommer wasted no time in November, qualifying for an Olympic spot for Beijing at the opening races of the BMW IBU World Cup Biathlon. The Wisconsin native had a promising career as a wrestler in high school, before discovering cross country skiing. While at St. Scholastica College, he found biathlon. Schommer is also known as the visionary behind Biathlon Uncharted, his. YouTube channel where he tells the inside story of biathlon and life with the U.S. Biathlon Team.

What is Heartbeat: US Biathlon Podcast?

Heartbeat takes you inside the world of the unique Olympic sport of biathlon - a sport that combines the heart-pumping aerobics of cross country skiing combined with the precision element of marksmanship. The US Biathlon podcast brings you close to the athletes to dissect one of the most popularity of Olympic Winter Games sports.

S2 Ep5 - Paul Schommer
Tom Kelly: [00:00:15] And a big welcome to Paul Schommer from the U.S. Biathlon Team, and I think we can actually say Olympian Paul Schommer because he is on his way to Beijing. And Paul, thanks so much for joining us on Heartbeat today.

Paul Schommer: [00:00:29] Yeah, thanks for having me. It's good to be here.

Tom Kelly: [00:00:32] And where are you based right now? We're over the holidays right now just after Christmas, and you guys have been training over in Europe. Where's your training base?

Paul Schommer: [00:00:43] Yeah, right now we're in Ramsau, Austria, this is where we've been over the Christmas break. It's kind of become our home base here in Europe because our coach Vegard Bitnes, he currently lives in Ramsau, as well, and it's a great, great town for training and has great ski trails, biathlon range and and everything else we need. So it's been kind of nice to make this our home here in Europe.

Tom Kelly: [00:01:06] Yeah, it's a beautiful place, nice mountain valley and you're up on the plateau there. How has the snow been this holiday over in that part of Austria?

Paul Schommer: [00:01:17] It's been pretty good. They got a lot of snow early on this year. They got almost about a meter, probably three weeks ago when we first got here is really nice temps really wintry. It was really great. But the last couple of days it's been starting to warm up a little bit. There's still enough coverage on the trails, thankfully for training, but it looks like the next coming days. There's some, some iffy precipitation that might be on the horizon. So hopefully everything can stay. Stay in good conditions for us in the next next week or so, but we will be heading out on the third to head up to Oberhof. So at that point, I'm sure we'll be encountering some rain when we get up to half.

Tom Kelly: [00:02:03] So Paul, you had about a two or three week break over the holidays from the World Cup competitions, and I know it's typical for teams to make that decision to try to stay put. But how is it to have to stay in Europe during that time period, be away from family, friends back home? I know it's an important year with the Olympics, but what's the psyche you know between races when you're just chilling out at a training base like you are in Ramsau?

Paul Schommer: [00:02:32] I think it varies for like person to person this year before coming over to Europe. I had talked to my wife and kind of made a plan that if I made the Olympic team, I would head home for Christmas and if I did not, I would stay here because there would be trials right after the Christmas break. But as the racing kind of started, I had made the decision just after some like thought and prayer that maybe I should just stay in Europe no matter what happens with team meetings and prepare for the races after the new year. Just with the thought that the most important races of the season are coming after the new year. So maybe it is best to stay, stay, stay put here in Europe and so had made that decision. And I think at first it was definitely a little bit of a bummer and I would definitely have liked to be at home. But my training session situation back home in the United States right now is less than ideal. Just being from the Midwest and currently living in Fargo, North Dakota. And so it's definitely a little tougher. But when I look at the bigger picture of how my recovery is a lot, lot better when I'm not traveling across the Atlantic Ocean and then also being in a place like Ramsau, where I have everything I need to train properly.

Paul Schommer: [00:03:51] It just kind of makes it a lot easier. And it's also great because we have like the entire men's team here, all six of us training together and we celebrated Christmas together. And I think that that was really, really fun and kind of special to have everybody just bring something that they maybe had back home and just kind of tradition or whatever. And to kind of blend all these different celebrations in one with the teammates that are here. It was pretty. It was pretty special. And so maybe it's not something I'd want to do every single year, but to be able to do it for one year was pretty great. And so I think all in all, it's been a really good, good break. And it's really, I think, possible because of the other people that are here. It would be really tough if I was definitely on my own and stuff. So thankfully I have teammates that I get along with and can also hang out with as well.

Tom Kelly: [00:04:43] We're recording this podcast interview on Heartbeat between Christmas and New Year. Looking back to Christmas a few days ago, how did you celebrate it with your family back home? Were you able to get online and to see your family and your friends back home to kind of kindle that Christmas spirit virtually?

Paul Schommer: [00:05:04] Yeah, thankfully, we're in a place right now or the apartment we're staying in. Ramsau has good enough internet to have decent video chat, which is not always the case in Central Europe. So thankfully that we have that opportunity to be able to talk with family, open up some presents and just kind of share that as well. So I was able to do that with my family and then also my wife's side of the family as well. So yeah, and it was kind of tough because I was sitting here cooking for what was our team Christmas here. And so it was kind of like all these things going at once. But yeah, it was. It was nice to be able to see everybody's face.

Tom Kelly: [00:05:46] So let's talk about the Olympic team. Before we talk about Beijing, let's go back to 2018 and you had a big goal in front of you in 2018 to try to make that Olympic team. You came up a little bit short at that point. What kind of motivation was that for you, Paul, to really keep pushing forward and to get into the process to make the team for 2022 in Beijing?

Paul Schommer: [00:06:10] Yeah, it's kind of crazy to think back four years. I was a relatively new biathlete at that time, and so. I definitely had hopes of making that team, unfortunately wasn't in the cards at that point, and ever since then, I think there's definitely been some pretty tough seasons, including a knee surgery and a tonsillectomy. And once one season and then with COVID last year, it was a really difficult training year for me being on my own. So to be able to come in this year and do it. Is. I want to say a huge sigh of relief, because I still believe that the most important races are ahead of us and I want to go to Beijing and compete at my highest level, hopefully. But it definitely was a great feeling to be able to clinch that spot, especially when I look back at all the times when I contemplated maybe kind of hanging it up and having some of those struggles and kind of wondering how I was going to make ends meet as someone who who is kind of tried to do it on my own at times financially and and stuff like that, just because of some different unique situations that I'm in. But to be able to then. Just see it all come together was definitely special, and I think more than that, it's a result of like having a lot of people around me and a lot of support through my sponsors, through my family, through my friends and everything. So, yeah, it's it's definitely been a long road. And looking back four years ago, I think I was OK with it. But looking into the future, I don't know if I will be competing in biathlon for another four years. And so I kind of knew that this was like my last shot to go experience the Olympics as an athlete. And so to be able to do that, I think, is going to be pretty special.

Tom Kelly: [00:08:12] Let's go back to that race in Östersund in November. First races of the season, you and your teammate, Jake Brown, are both natives of the Midwest. You're from Wisconsin, Paul, and Jake from Minnesota. You guys went out that day and you made a real statement. You both got qualifying results for the Olympics. Take us back to that race in Östersund and what was going through your mind that day and how did the race play out for you?

Paul Schommer: [00:08:37] I mean, it's the first race in the season, so you just want to go out and do what you can. I think one thing that our coach Vegard has always told us is like, don't try to do anything special because I think when you try to do something better, you try to perfect it. You actually mess up. And I think that's something that's also really powerful that Vegard has really shown us is that he believes in our ability because he sees it day to day. And so that day it was like, OK, just go out and do what you've been doing this summer. I've had a great summer of training. I had a lot of really great training camps with my teammates, with my coach and to be able to. To have that confidence in the training was like really huge for me, something that I don't think I've had in the past. And so I knew I was ready and prepared and I just had to go out and do what I was capable of. And I think that's what was really cool about that performance is I didn't feel like I raced outside of my ability that day. I just went out and did what I was capable of, and it showed that I think our team is at a new level and that we are capable of better results than we've had in the past, even with the the entire competition field being at a really high level. That's something that we've seen this year just in time back and ski speed and everything else ... of just the men's field as a whole. And so I think it was a great way to start the season. But as I said, it was our first race of the season. So hopefully it's just a glimpse of what maybe is yet to come. And so things, it's a long season and things can change quickly. So I think it was a great way to start, but I hope we can just keep building on it.

Tom Kelly: [00:10:20] One of the things you just said is really important, I think, in sport, and it's something I've heard from other biathlete by athletes, and that is that you didn't think that day that you accomplish something that was outside of the realm of possibility from your training. Is there a feeling on your men's team right now that that you guys are really well prepared and that you're able to go out there and have those kind of days to ski really well, to shoot really well and put in a good performance?

Paul Schommer: [00:10:52] The World Cup is just at such a high level right now, and it's sometimes hard to really have that confidence or like, I can ski with the best of them because there are some guys where, I mean, when they're skiing fast, they're just they're flying. And with as much as we race, there's times where you'll show up and you feel good. And then there's other days where you're like, I'm kind of torched from this last week of racing where I had four races in one week. So I think it's maybe not the confidence. And I think one thing this year that I've seen is that I'm maybe not as strong as I think I am. Sometimes I have weaknesses and like every shot counts and to not get ahead of myself, I think that's something that's really important to not ever think like, Oh, I have a second to give up or I have a shot that I can give away. It's like you've got to fight for every single second and every single shot. And so I think we have the desire for sure to to ski and shoot with the best of them. And I think that's really the most important thing. I think everyone possesses that ability on the World Cup, maybe. But sometimes it's the desire that really is the the big, the big difference maker.

Tom Kelly: [00:12:07] Yeah, I think desire is a really important element. And, you know, I'll go back to your quest in twenty eighteen. Did you really had that desire from 2018 up to now to get on that team and to show what you could do in biathlon? You had that desire, right?

Paul Schommer: [00:12:25] Yeah. I mean, if you don't have it in some ways, you're not going to make it in biathlon. You've got to definitely be committed. You got to really dedicate your life to the sport if you want to, if you want to have any sort of success. But I mean, there's definitely times where doubt creeps in and you kind of wonder, like, do I have what it takes? Do I want to do this? Is it worth it? And I think it's those questions that you kind of have to wrestle with and you've got to accept the challenge and kind of embrace the suck and and just go for it.

Tom Kelly: [00:12:59] I love that. Embrace the suck and go for it. Let's go back and look at your career. And I love talking to my athletes because there are these two completely separate, diametrically opposing components with the skiing and with the marksmanship. How did your career come together as a young athlete, I imagine you first got into cross-country and the marksmanship aspect came sometime later. But track us through your beginnings in in nordic sport.

Paul Schommer: [00:13:28] Yeah. So for anybody else, anybody that is listening that is not familiar with like where I'm from and stuff, I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, which anybody who is from the Midwest or from Appleton knows that that's really not a place where a lot of Nordic skiers come from. There's no skiing culture. My parents had like they knew what the Birkie was and had skied the Korte a little bit with some friends way back before they had a family more as just like a bet sort of thing. But I actually grew up wrestling and playing soccer. Wrestling was kind of like my main sport, and so a lot of the winters as a kid, I'd spent just in a gym at tournaments on the weekends and really thought as a kid that that was going to be my sport. And that's where my. My heart was when it came to competing, but I had some stuff happen when I was a freshman in high school and just never really went back to wrestling. And at that point there was a cross country ski club that was started at my high school with the vice principal who was a triathlete and also a ski skier. And he thought like, Oh, it'd be great to be able to get kids into skiing and then also train with them. And my brother, who was on the cross-country running team at the time, was one of the people that helped start this club. And so as a younger brother, I was kind of like, got involved a little bit. And then after I was done wrestling, then I started skiing a little bit more.

Paul Schommer: [00:15:01] And so on the weekends I started going with, like the old guys from the Fox Valley to where there was snow because there wasn't always snow back home. And if there was snow, there wasn't really good trails. And so I just started skiing more and more and more. And it really became a sport that, like the first sport that I felt like I was doing for myself that I truly loved, and it was just totally different than anything else I'd ever tried as well. And thankfully, it kind of played to some of my talents as an athlete as well. And so by the time I was a senior in high school, I was like trying to race at a high level skiing. I had some people who helped point me in the right direction with the junior nationals and trying to qualify for the Midwest team and stuff, and thankfully did that as a senior in high school. And then at the time, I thought my only opportunity to ski at the NCAA level was at UW GB, but I really didn't want to go to UW GB. The team culture at the time really didn't mesh with me and it was way too close to home and I just. Didn't want to. We'll have that be my only option, and so I ended up talking to the coach at St. Scholastica up in Duluth, Minnesota, and he seemed like a good coach. I heard a lot of great things about him and the team culture seemed to be a lot better fit for me.

Paul Schommer: [00:16:20] And so I ended up going to St. Scholastica and it just was the best decision of my life. I always say that deciding to go to Scholastica, just like was the best decision I've ever made and also just like one that totally changed my life because once I went to to Duluth, my my eyes just like or I should say, I was exposed to this different lifestyle that I had never seen before from somebody living in Appleton like people would go up mountain biking after work. There was trails everywhere, their ski trails everywhere. People were into the outdoors and it was just it was really, really cool. It was really, really cool for me. And so it was there that my coach had someone who is also an athlete himself who kind of noticed some of my talents and started to try to. Talk about biathlon in my ear, and eventually I went up to Grand Rapids and Mount Itasca and tried biathlon, just tried the shooting aspect with a biathlete who was living there at the time named Mark Johnson. And I was like, Yeah, this is pretty cool. And then I think it was about a year later that I went to a talent ID camp with U.S. biathlon and they kind of started inviting me back to some camps. And by the time I was graduating college in 2015, I decided that I was going to. I was just going to kind of go for it and pursue biathlon full time and see, see what happens.

Tom Kelly: [00:17:48] Yeah. Chad had really used that platform at St. Scholastica to recruit athletes. We had Kelsey Dickinson on the heartbeat a short time ago, and another St. Scholastica athlete actually did the two of you cross over there, timewise.

Paul Schommer: [00:18:04] Yeah, yeah. We were there for like two or three years. I know Kelsey had started biathlon before she was. Yeah, she came to Alaska and ended up taking a year off when she had qualified for some teams with U.S. biathlon. And so I think it was two years total that we competed together at St. Scholastica. But she was also here in Ramsau over Christmas and stuff. And so we still still see each other quite quite often as well.

Tom Kelly: [00:18:31] Yeah. What were your feelings when you went up to Mt. Itasca and you started to learn the marksmanship aspect of biathlon? What were the first thoughts going through your mind and what made that exciting or exhilarating for you?

Paul Schommer: [00:18:46] I mean, at the time, I didn't know how biathlon worked really at all. I knew that there were skiing and I knew they were shooting and they kind of went together. At that point, it was really like, Hey, if there's an opportunity, I'll take it. I didn't. Really know where it could lead. I definitely was like just taking an opportunity that presented itself, I think that was really the only thing that was in my mind at that time. I don't know if there was like true dreams or aspirations yet at that moment.

Tom Kelly: [00:19:23] Now, let's look at where you are now with the U.S. Biathlon Team, what's ahead of you in the next six weeks? You're heading into the Olympics in Beijing, and let's first look at the World Cup calendar ahead of you. You're off to Oberhof next. What are some of the key stops on the tour as you make your way up to the Olympics in Beijing?

Paul Schommer: [00:19:47] Yeah, I think. One thing to mention when it comes to establishing a training plan for biathlon or skiing or really any sport is that I mean, there's science to back up some training methodology, but it's not an exact science. There's no guarantees. And so. Working right now with our coach, we're trying to create a program that we believe will set us up as best we can as best we can get for the games. But right now we're in more of a training block in Ramsau and then we'll go racing Oberhof. And then we're actually going to be skipping the route, holding World Cup to go training Martell Italy, which is at altitude because the Beijing venue is also at altitude. So it's going to be really important to be acclimated for when we hit the ground in Beijing. We're ready to prepare for the races and then we will be racing in until it's Italy, right before we fly out to Beijing because we'll be leaving little less than a week after that last race in anthills. And because of COVID and all the other things surrounding that and traveling to China, we're going to have to have a couple of days where we're going to be having to like, go get testing at the Chinese Embassy and and as well as a few other things that just come along with big championships races like like the Olympics. And so I think it's going to be balancing the training but not overdoing it because a lot of those other things that come along with traveling and the getting all the clothing and press stuff with the with the Olympics is you've got to kind of manage all that so that you're not wearing your your body down, but that you're still prepared to to race.

Tom Kelly: [00:21:42] Paul, not a lot is known about the venues there because of the pandemic across all sports teams and athletes have generally not been able to get on the venue. I know that you've had some intel, you've had some people who have been over there. But what are you hearing about the biathlon venue in Beijing?

Paul Schommer: [00:22:02] I think the number one thing people are talking about is just like, it's cold. Apparently, it's like pretty high up, pretty close to like the Mongolian border, I think. I think it's Zhangjiakou or something is the the name of where the city that is next to the to the biathlon venue. I think it's yeah, I'm probably butchering you, but it's like Zhangjiakou.

Tom Kelly: [00:22:27] We'll all get used to it as we get there.

Paul Schommer: [00:22:29] And yeah. And so we've heard it's high. It's dry. There can be wind. And I think it's going to be a good venue for opportunity. I think that's something that I kind of like to not have, like, super simple. Like conditions and range and stuff, and I mean, it's with the championships, it just adds another element of stress and anxiety, sometimes to the competitions. And so hopefully it's a good opportunity, but also kind of great to be able to go to a place that you know, nobody else has been to before. And it's kind of like an equal playing field then. So yeah, I'm excited to go, go check it out and see what it's like. But I'm kind of thinking from pictures that we have seen. It looks pretty similar to Soldier Hollow in some ways where it's kind of like that high, dry, arid sort of climate. And yeah, so we'll see. We'll see what happens.

Tom Kelly: [00:23:30] Let's change course here a little bit. And one of the things that I've admired about you is your passion for telling a story and you do it so well in your videos. But tell us a little bit about biathlon uncharted and how you got into this area and and and a little bit about your video production that you do.

Paul Schommer: [00:23:52] Yeah, I think it all started with my good good friend and teammate from college, Chris Parr. He really got into video editing and video making when he was in high school, did it all through college and now is like a professional video editor and producer. And he had always been like, dude, like if you had a video series, that's something that I would watch. And so I think he kind of tried to like, get me to start making videos so that he could watch them. But it also was just a way for me to pass time and year up and just a new skill to learn last season. So I bought a camera and just started making some random videos trying to learn how to video edit in the name biathlon chart that just came from when my, my teammates, Jake and Luke Brown, were hanging out with me in Hayward, Wisconsin, for like a training camp last year. And I had my other college friend there, Matt Lee. And we were just like trying to think of a name like, what's something that we could kind of do? At first, I think it was like it was going to do vagabond by athlete, but we're like a vagabond, just kind of like this roaming around. They don't have such direction, so we're like, maybe something better. My friend Matt was just like, What about Uncharted? And we're just like, sure, sounds good and just kind of like, went with that. And so it's just been kind of, I think, a fun way to like, share some videos and this year have been super busy and haven't been able to do as much video, video editing and production and stuff. But yeah, I'm hoping that in the next two months here, I can start to get some good footage and eventually put up some videos of both the races here in Europe and then also in Beijing.

Tom Kelly: [00:25:41] Well, I think you sell yourself short, Paul, because you have a great selection up there. You've got I think I'm looking at four different videos. So you posted since the Maloja uniforming back in November. I loved your lodging tour of Obertilliach and Munich. Tell us about that one.

Paul Schommer: [00:25:59] Yeah, I just this year we've been staying at some more Airbnbs. And so I've been trying to get a video of like most places where we're staying, just to give a different look at some of the different lodging setups that we have. Because with Airbnb, we've had some, some cooler, bigger houses and that kind of show, I guess a little bit different aspects of the different places we go. So like up in Sweden, we had like a big house on the lake in Östersund and then in France, we had like a big, beautiful ski chalet in the mountains and stuff. So. So yeah, just trying to trying to get caught up and just, I guess, show different sides of the athlete lifestyle that people don't normally see.

Tom Kelly: [00:26:47] Well, I think what's good about it is the average fan probably doesn't think about the fact that you're on the road. I mean, you'll be on the road without going home for, what, three three months, four months this winter?

Paul Schommer: [00:27:01] Yeah, it really depends. I mean, from the beginning of November to the end of March, potentially, so it really varies. But yeah, I mean, it can be three, four or five months at a time. Just living in different apartments or hotels and stuff like that. So I need to try and get some videos in the middle of the week before we all pack up, because sometimes that's where you see the interesting things of like just ski clothes everywhere and all the random stuff that people are always traveling with. Because also, as athletes, I mean, we're there to compete. And so we have different things where people need to have like an area to stretch or an area to get a massage or an area to dry fire and do some shooting drills or the exercise bike and stuff like that. So it's not like your typical vacation setup. It's a it's kind of like a work environment that just travels around with the races.

Tom Kelly: [00:28:01] Yeah, it's got to be functional. Well, it is great for us as fans to back home to see this and get an understanding of the athlete lifestyle. I want to talk about your work with GoPros. Athletes have fun with GoPros and learn different places to mount them to get the most interesting points of view. Tell us about what you've learned with GoPro devices, different places that you've mounted them to get really interesting and unique angles.

Paul Schommer: [00:28:31] Yeah, the GoPro has been a great camera for what I need to do with it. I'm not like an expert when it comes to like videography and stuff, and you need something that's like simple, durable and can travel easily. So GoPro has been great for that. Has great audio, great quality. It's kind of awesome, what you get in just like a small little package, but yeah, I found it like super easy to mount on like anything really like on my rifle, on my bike, on my helmet, just the chest mount for when we're like skiing around doing track talks, stuff like that. And the one thing is just like, it's good for like point of view stuff, but like if you're trying to see something far away, it's maybe not as great. So but the other thing that's really nice is like the fisheye you can get, like a big perspective of things from or like a point of view shot is a lot better sometimes with the fisheye, because you can see the entire field of view. So I think that's something that's been kind of cool with it, and it also takes some great photos at times. So but I think it's the easiest, it's just so nice to be able to carry something small and simple.

Tom Kelly: [00:29:44] My favorite angle in biathlon has been putting a GoPro on a little mini tripod, sending it down in a shooting position for prone, and it's getting that wide angle close up of the athlete. Their focus, the rifle, the barrel looking down the range. That's for me as a non skiing athlete. That's my favorite use of GoPro.

Paul Schommer: [00:30:09] Yeah, yeah, no, I think I think just like the the range can be so captivating, sometimes just seeing athletes get into shooting position and the concentration, and just like even sometimes you can see the emotion even like right before shooting or right after. Yeah, it can be. It can be a pretty cool shot.

Tom Kelly: [00:30:28] Changing course a little bit again as we head towards the finale of this podcast with our little on target section. But I know that your faith and Christianity has been very important to you. How is that really help you as a person and of course, as an athlete as well?

Paul Schommer: [00:30:47] Yeah. Um, I think in a lot of ways it's one way that's helped keep me grounded through a lot of different things, especially in like a high performance athletic arena. There's a lot of people who can try to gain their identity through that, through their performances or what they're working towards. But I think for me, like in my just my Christian faith and life and all of that, it's been really cool to have that like that anchor through it all. And to be able to go into races knowing that like, Hey, like this is something that I want to have. Like, I want to do well, but it's not going to be the thing that defines who I am or like my purpose, but also just meeting different people from all over the world and seeing God work in different ways. I think it has really helped me grow a lot. I think like especially here in Europe and I mean, I think I can't ignore, like when I first started biathlon and it was like I was. People would always ask, like, Oh, how do you support yourself? And I'm like, It's kind of like living on a prayer and like, maybe people got it and maybe people didn't. But it was like, I really had to kind of trust God to provide in those times. And it was really cool to see how he did in different ways and use different people and kind of have to like grow and trust and in that growing trust that those things were going to be provided for. So yeah, I think there's been a lot of struggle and suffering or pain along the way, but it's been cool to see how God uses those different things in different ways. So yeah.

Tom Kelly: [00:32:32] Cool. Well, Paul, you have a great track on things as an athlete and as a person, and it's been great to talk to you here on Heartbeat and we're going to close it out with a section that we call On Target a series of some short little fun questions to learn a little bit more about you.

Tom Kelly: [00:32:50] And one question I love asking athletes You guys have the opportunity to travel around the world and go to some really fascinating places. Do you have one particular favorite biathlon venue that you've been to over the years?

Paul Schommer: [00:33:07] Um. I mean, I think like for biathlon venues, I still think one of the coolest venues I've ever been to is Holmenkollen in Oslo. I just think it's like that quintessential Nordic venue, and I graduated high school in 2010 ten. And so I kind of grew up in the the era of Petter Northug because as the king and I mean, they have the ski jump there and seeing the videos of like him coming in to the finish with that ski jump in the background and then like, you're there one day and you just see that and you're like, Whoa, this is where like Nordic skiing lifts. And so I think that's been one of my favorite venues to go to.

Tom Kelly: [00:33:48] I love that. Holmenkollen is truly a spectacular temple of the sport. Really, just speaking of Petter Northug. Did you have any sport heroes when you were growing up in Appleton?

Paul Schommer: [00:34:01] Yeah, I would say, like one of the sports heroes I had was Dan Gabel, who was a wrestler from Iowa, and he just kind of had this, like he was known for his work ethic, but also just his winning ways. He lost one match as an NCAA wrestler, his last college match, and then went on to win multiple Olympic medals and was just kind of kind of a I don't know how to say it. He just. Was one of those defining characters in the sport of wrestling, and yeah, so I kind of kind of saw him as like one guy that was pretty, pretty impressive as an athlete.

Tom Kelly: [00:34:47] How about a favorite sports team? And this should be a no brainer. Your favorite sports team?

Paul Schommer: [00:34:55] Oh man, I, as a Wisconsin, I think everyone's like, Oh, it's got to be the Packers. And like for the longest time, it's funny because like I grew up in in Appleton, but I was not like a huge football fan, which anybody who's from Appleton. I went to Kimberley High School, which is like this crazy football high school. But I mean, I guess it would be the Packers. But when I look at like other other sports, I mean, right now I feel like I'm a Red Bull F1 fan. They just kind of come off the right

Paul Schommer: [00:35:30] I mean, the the um with the World Championship and yeah, I've been a big fan of F1, but I'm also a really big motocross fan. I really like the sport of motocross and watching that. And so I don't know if those kind of sports teams, but I don't know if I have one team where I'm like, That's that's my team. So but I would say, like, yeah, the Packers and then Red Bull F1 team right now and then motocross, I don't know who would be my favorite team. I have a few favorite riders, though I'd say.

Tom Kelly: [00:36:03] Yeah. Well, I just figured right down the road from the Packers, you got to be a Packer fan. If you're from Wisconsin, you're a packer at heart. The Packers have the Vikings coming up in. Actually, we're recording this between Christmas and New Year's. So New Year's weekend, the Packers playing the Vikings on NBC's Sunday Night Football. Your teammate, Jake Brown from Minnesota, is a Vikings fan or the two of you going to have a little bet on that game?

Paul Schommer: [00:36:28] Oh man, I don't know if we've ever bet, but we definitely take some jabs at each other. I think Jake is a is a huge sports fan, so he's definitely more of a of a Vikings fan than I am a Packer fan. But the Packers are the better team, so I kind of use that to my advantage right now. That's true. That's true. So, yeah, I mean, granted, the Vikings did beat the Packers and in their one match this year, but we'll see what happens again in this next week, hopefully. Hopefully, the Packers can kind of bounce back from from that last last match they had against the Vikings

Tom Kelly: [00:37:03] Big revenge match. And just for folks who don't know. I also am from Wisconsin, so we have that in common. I want to go back to your Formula One comment, though I think a lot of fans have really picked up on Formula One being on the road a lot. Did you get a chance to watch Drive to survive on Netflix?

Paul Schommer: [00:37:22] I haven't. I mean, I've seen Drive to Survive, but mostly like this season, I've just been watching the races and it's been a little tough because I know in like Hochfilzen in for the the finale in Abu Dhabi, our race ended right when the F1 race started. So I had to kind of like shut myself out from all social media and text messaging groups that I was in until I watched the race. And it was definitely worth it because man, that was an emotional roller coaster of a race, that's for sure.

Tom Kelly: [00:37:55] It sure. It sure was. How about a favorite activity outside of biathlon and cross-country skiing? Something fun you like to do?

Paul Schommer: [00:38:08] I wish I could mountain bike more. So I feel like mountain biking is definitely something that I really love to do, and I also really enjoy paddling a lot when I have the opportunity. After my first knee surgery, I started paddling this boat called the surf ski, which is really fun in like downwind surfing conditions. So if I can hit like a really good downwind with some people, that is something I really enjoy. But outside of working out, I really enjoy being home and just having the opportunity to kind of like work on things around the house. I know some people are kind of like, Oh, really? And it's like when you're on the road for, I mean, for me, it's more like nine 10 months of the year total that I'm really traveling. When you have the opportunity to be home, it's like man. Cutting the grass is kind of nice or like working on my car. They're just doing yard work. It's kind of like, this is something that I really enjoy because a lot of times I'm just sitting in a hotel room preparing for the next race.

Tom Kelly: [00:39:07] Yeah, no, I hear you. I think there's a lot to that. Let's go back to Biathlon Uncharted. Do you have a favorite video edit that you've done over the years that you really like that we can go and check out on your YouTube channel? Um.

Paul Schommer: [00:39:22] Yeah, I think that the Nove Mesto highlights was a fun one with Jake. We just like we're in Östersund last race of the year. Susan and Sean had just gotten a podium in the single mixed relay at the Nova World Cup. And we just like, did one take just kind of came together. And I think just like within our team, it was just super, super funny and people got a lot of laughs out of it. And we even got some, uh, some comments from the Norwegian team saying like, Oh man, you guys got to do some more like voiceovers for biathlon races and stuff. And so maybe we'll have to do something like that more in the future. Jake and I, or Zeke and Brew as we were called in the video. But yeah, that one was a pretty fun, pretty fun video.

Tom Kelly: [00:40:16] And then lastly, biathlon has been an important part of your life now for a number of years. You're heading to the Olympics in Beijing in just a short amount of time. What is biathlon mean to you? In just one word, a single word? What does biathlon mean to you, Paul? So it's a tough one, isn't it?

Paul Schommer: [00:40:42] I mean, in one word. The first word that just comes to my head is frustrating. Biathlon can be incredibly frustrating. But on the opposite side of that, it can be. Really, really meaningful to but I'll just say I find it frustrating.

Tom Kelly: [00:41:08] One word. Well, but you took the right approach on it. Yeah, it is really frustrating. There's so many different elements, but it's meaningful when you have that success. Paul Schommer, thank you for taking the time from your training base in Ramsau to chat with us here on Heartbeat. We wish you all the best. Leading up to Beijing, you are an exciting athlete for us to follow and we wish you all the best.

Paul Schommer: [00:41:32] Thanks, Tom, and also thanks to everyone for. For tuning in and listening.