Still, the U.S. team at Sarajevo should do better than it has in recent years. On good days, Nielsen and Lyle Nelson, 34, of Squaw Valley, Calif., are among the best biathletes that America has ever produced. Peter Hoag, 29, from Minneapolis, and Martin Hagen, 29. of Jackson Hole, Wyo., are veterans hoping to make the Olympic team for a third time. And prospects for the future look promising. Alkire says that her junior-team members are "thinking like biathletes."
What the biathlon team needs now is a different level of financing. The team gets only $62,000 annually from the USOC, plus another $30,000 or so from fund-raising events such as firearms raffles. The money is spread so thin that Alkire must stay in touch with her athletes by mail during the summer because funds are not available for phone calls. One thing would improve the situation dramatically. "If we could medal, it would help so much," says Alkire. "Cross-country skiing was simply a different sport here after Bill Koch medaled." As the now prosperous U.S. ski team has discovered, gold begets gold and silver, silver.
Unfortunately, it would take something of a miracle for the biathlon team to win medals in Sarajevo. In other words, don't hold your breath, Marie.