Military Olympians: Soldier Shoots for Olympic First
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service
SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah, Feb. 11, 2010 Army Sgt. Jeremy Teela of the Utah National Guard has returned to the site of the best performance of his three-time Olympic career with sights set on becoming the first U.S. biathlete to win an Olympic medal.
Utah Army National Guard Sgt. Jeremy Teela, a biathlete with the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, has sights set on becoming the first U.S. biathlete to win an Olympic medal when he competes at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Teela, a soldier in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, finished third in the men’s 20-kilometer individual race at last season’s World Cup stop in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. The XXI Olympic Winter Games are scheduled for Feb. 12-28, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The biathlon -- a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting – will be held in Whistler.
Teela said he remembers the March 11, 2009 race as if it were yesterday. “That was my day,” he said. “I made as close to a perfect race as I could.
“I got down the course and was maybe a half-kilometer out, and Coach was there saying, ‘You’re in second place.’ And I was like, ‘No stuff, second place, huh?’ I always thought if somebody told me I was podium bound, I would have this extra kick in me – but I had nothing. I was fighting… just going as hard as I could.”
With his third-place finish, Teela became the first American biathlete to win a World Cup medal since Josh Thompson in 1992.
“I was coming in second but there was this one German kid who also was having a great race,” Teela said. “I don’t know if I could have done anything to counter his kick, but all in all, third place, I was psyched. He did get me, but that was the best performance of my career.”
U.S. biathlon coach Per Nilsson was impressed with Teela’s poise under pressure.
“I am really amazed how ‘cool’ he was on the shooting range,” Nilsson said. “There were two shots that were pretty close to a miss, but nevertheless, he stayed focused and just put his race together.”
Teela, 33, who trains in Heber City, Utah, and claims Anchorage as home, expects unprecedented success this year at Whistler. His 14th-place individual finish at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Soldier Hollow remains the second-best U.S. finish at the Olympics.
“I think a podium is within reach,” Teela said. “I showed it last year at Vancouver, but you really have to have the mindset. Your mind has to be in the right spot. I think a podium is in the cards for the team. We have four guys that are strong. And even the relay, I think we have a great shot at podium in that competition as well.”
He will be competing at the Vancouver Games with Tim Burke, who medaled twice on the 2009-2010 World Cup circuit since Teela’s third-place finish at Whistler. Burke, 27, of Paul Smiths, N.Y., headlines this U.S. Olympic biathlon squad, joined by Teela, four-time Olympian Jay Hakkinen, 32, of Kasilof, Alaska, Lowell Bailey, 28, of Lake Placid, N.Y., and first-timer Wynn Roberts, 21, of Battle Creek, Minn.
“You try to be the best that day,” Teela said. “You don’t have to be the best in the world. All you have to do is be the best at the Olympics on that day.
“I’ve got two jackets. I want the hardware.”
Teela says he’s honored to represent soldiers and their families worldwide.
“It’s an amazing opportunity given to you to be able to race and compete at the Olympics and to represent the United States, but it’s also special for me to race and compete for the Army,” he said. “It’s hard to explain – just to show up and have so many people rooting for you.
“You show up and you race alone, but there’s been a lot of people along the road that’s helped you get to where you are. I’ve got a big, strong team behind me that says U.S. Army on it.”
(Tim Hipps works for Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command public affairs.)