NORTH ELBA – The men’s biathlon at Mt. Van Hoevenberg on Wednesday featured good representation from the northeast including a Stowe, VT native who currently skis for the UVM Catamounts as well as a skier who grew up right in Lake Placid.
A light snow fell throughout the early afternoon and the mid-30 degree temperature made it look like a softer track for the 37 skiers who completed the four-lap, 10-kilometer event, but according to the Lake Placid native Van ledger, the conditions weren’t too bad.
“It’s strange because you’d think the conditions [are] getting rough, but compared to everything else in the east it’s really good right now,” said Ledger. “There was a little bit of slush on top but underneath it’s still nice and hard.”
Among the six American competitors, Catamount Bjorn Westervelt is no stranger to both Lake Placid and Mt. Van Hoevenberg and maintained a lead throughout the staggered start race. He crossed the finish line in first place.
But by the time all the skiers were finished, he was just overtaken by eight seconds by Kazakhstan’s Bekentay Turlubekov. Westervelt still hung on to claim the silver medal.
“It’s amazing,” said the UVM junior. “It’s really cool to be out there on such a hard course but still have a very strong performance especially on a home venue, it’s really special”
It was a good day for the skiers from Kazakhstan, following a correction to the finish times, the country boasted the first and third place finishers as well as claimed the fourth and fifth place positions.
Ledger, a student at Montana State University, was ecstatic once he found out FISU would be holding this years’ winter games in his hometown.
“When I heard about it I definitely did the math in my head to make sure I’d be in college,” he said. “I was psyched. This isn’t something that the U.S. always sends athletes to. But having it here in the U.S. we place a little more importance on it. It’s cool cause it’s just this big international event on home soil.”
Westervelt partially attributes his success during these games and today’s podium finish to the work he has done with the Catamounts.
“I train with the UVM team all the time so it’s a great group of guys and really pushed my skiing up the next level to what it is now,” said Westervelt.
The thought of the support that he may receive when he returns to his home state has Westervelt at a loss for words. “It’s a very special feeling, it’s very special, it’s cool,” he said.
Representing the United States in a legendary location has Westervelt excited for his future. “It really has that Olympic atmosphere,” he said of Lake Placid. “One day I hope to be at that Olympic level myself.”
The United States is up to eight medals for the FISU World Games to tie the country for fourth overall. Japan has begun to run away with the competition. The country has racked up 31 as of Wednesday night.