When was the last time an American won an Olympic medal in the biathlon, the European-dominated sport that combines cross-country skiing and shooting? Try never. Burke, however, is giving Americans a rare reason to care about this obscure event. In December he became the first American to ever take a lead in the biathlon World Cup standings. The United States Olympic Committee has made a concerted effort to be more competitive in the sport, increasing its financing to the biathlon governing body from $250,000 in 2005 to $1 million this year.
The hardest part of the biathlon is slowing down the adrenaline rush of skiing once you hit the shooting range. "When you're out on the ski course, you're fighting for every second," says Burke, 28. "And when you're coming to the shooting range, you need to turn that down, relax, take control of your breathing. If you don't have that focus, you'd be surprised how many thoughts you can have." One thing on Burke's mind: making biathlon history.
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