Road to Minsk and beyond
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My name is Robert Sircus. I am eighteen years old. I started biathlon as a hobby in 2006 at the Cairngorm Biathlon and Nordic Ski Club (CBNSC) when I was ten. Since then I have grown hooked on the sport. This year I am training to perform well at the 2015 IBU Junior Biathlon World Championships which I hope to use as a springboard to the biathlon world cup, world championships and Olympic Games.
I train at Glenmore Lodge in the Scottish Highlands under the guidance of six-time Winter Olympic athlete Michael Dixon MBE, BEM. In 2012, I was selected along with just three other civilian athletes to join the British National Development Squad. From here, I progressed and was selected in 2013 as the youngest and only civilian member of the British Biathlon Union’s eight-man 2022 Olympic Development Squad. Every other member of this squad is a member of the armed forces (through which they started their biathlon careers) and as such they are all paid their army wages. I on the other hand am not paid to compete – a fact that is unlikely to change in the near future – and so I rely on funding from sports charities and my parents to allow me to continue to develop in biathlon. In May 2013 financial and staffing issues resulting from cutbacks in military funding forced the British Biathlon Union to request that I continue training for the time-being on an independent basis, though still remaining a member of the 2022 Squad.
In July 2013 I received an invitation to train at Sirdal Videregående Skole, a sports school specialising in the development of talented young Norwegian biathletes at the village of Tonstad, Norway. I have now spent the past year training every day alongside some of the world’s best youth and junior biathletes and receiving coaching from a team of expert coaches led by Roger Grubben – current head coach of the Norwegian Senior Men’s team. Just one month after moving to Norway, I competed in the Norwegian Summer Biathlon Championships, the first British Junior ever to do so. At these championships, I finished in 7th place in the U-19 sprint with one of the fastest course times. The following day I had another good race to finish 11th.
Throughout the winter I have been competing on snow in the Statkraft Junior Cup, the Norway Cup Series for biathletes aged under-19 against all of the other Norwegian biathletes of my age and in other regional events. My growing experience of training and competition on snow along with my determination to succeed has seen my results improving faster than any other athlete of my age on the Norway Cup. This is most noticeable with my ski speed, which was relatively poor at the start of season. I am now able to ski and compete successfully with some of the best in Norway and I am still improving. Results have progressed from a position in the Low 30’s and 30% behind the average times of the leading three Podium biathletes to finishes inside the top 20 and as low as 9% behind the three leading times. At the South Norwegian Biathlon Championships I took 3rd place, just 7% behind the winner and at the recent Norwegian Senior Championships I managed to finish within 17% of the world-number three, Johannes Thingnes Bø.
This year I got my second chance to represent Great Britain. The first time was at last year’s European Youth Olympic Winter Festival (EYOWF) in Romania. At the EYOWF, I was overwhelmed by my first taste of international competition and, as a result, performed below par. This time I was competing at the Youth World Championships (YWCH) in the USA and, thanks to my significantly greater experience, I was not overwhelmed. My ski speed was vastly improved from the previous year. However, a high-speed fall on the first lap of my first race proved very costly. The impact damaged my rifle sights and broke a ski pole requiring both to be replaced during the race. Not having access to a spare set of sights, I was forced to use the damaged ones for the remainder of the championships. Despite this, I still worked my hardest in every race and showed that I am more than capable of competing at the top level in biathlon.
Beyond biathlon, I have several other interests. I play bagpipes (formerly with the local schools’ pipe band) and was at one point even invited to join the Highland Youth Pipe Band. I am also a keen cross-country runner and alpine skier.
This year, I am starting a chemistry degree at the University of Edinburgh where I have been accepted as part of the University Individual Performance Sports Program – a small group of elite athletes who are given access to coaching and other facilities such as psychologists and nutritionists. I aim to combine my studies with sport, and over the coming years I hope to attend the Junior World Championships in Minsk as well as the Open European Championships and the IBU Cup. I will continue to train with my UK Coach Mike Dixon at Glenmore Lodge and with CBNSC. I also plan to continue my development in Norway through training with the elite group of the Sirdal Biathlon Ski Team and competition at major National and regional events including the DNB Cup for men aged under 22, an integral part of the Norway Cup.
My long-term goal is to qualify for the 2022 Olympics as well as competing at preceding World Championships and other international competitions. If I am to achieve this then the next few years are vital to my development. I have come away from my competitions this year with greater determination to succeed than ever before – a determination that only gets stronger every day. The most important thing that might hold me back is now finances so any assistance you might be willing to provide would be greatly appreciated.
Multiple British Championship Winner in both Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing at U19 and U21 Level
I won my first British Cross-country skiing title in 2011 in the U19 class despite being just 15 years old. Since then I have won a multitude of British titles in both sports,.
South of Norway Championships Bronze Medallist
This year I competed in many races in Norway, the home of biathlon. The highlight of these was a podium finish in the U19 class at the South of Norway Championships - an achievement considered impossible for a British biathlete just a few years ago.
Badenoch and Strathspey Junior Sports Personality of the Year Nominee
In 2012 I was nominated for the Badenoch and Strathspey Junior Sports Personality of the Year Award in the region which has produced more British Olympians than anywhere else.