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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 25, 2010

Racers Myer and Roosa are biathlon bosom buddies

By Forest Byrd

LAKE PLACID — Their hearts pounding, their muscles wound tight, the Grand Masters of biathlon shoot for the glory of the sport more than the gold medal each won at this year’s Empire State Games.

They share not only a passion for the sport, but a high regard for one another.

“We’re like biathlon bosom buddies,” said Russ Myer.

The long course and the 50-meter range are nothing new for biathlon veterans Myer of Albany and Darwin Roosa of Altamont, each of whom have been competing in the games for over 20 years. For them, the biathlon is much more than a simple competition. Their success lies in their friendship and in the support they give to one another and they receive from their families.

Married for 30 years with two teenage children, Myer says of his wife, Becky, “Without her, I wouldn’t be here. Our whole family supports each other in our activities.” At one point Mrs. Myer wanted to be a runner and now she’s really into yoga.

“I want to be there for whatever she does and she’s there for me,” said Mr. Myer. “That’s been the rule since the beginning.”

When Myer joined a biathlon club in 1985, Roosa had already been part of the group since 1982. Roosa’s passion and commitment to the sport inspired Myer and, through biathlon, they became close friends.

They speak very little about winning even though both traded gold and silver medals in the sprint and relay competitions this year. Their times were only a couple of minutes apart.

“I am happy chasing him or being chased by him,” says Myers of Roosa.

Each athlete focuses more on the fundamentals — accuracy and good posture as well as controlling heart rate and breathing — then one winning.

The announcer for the 6K race explains over the loudspeaker from the tower overlooking the course about the racers 2k lap. “Coming down the hill the skier is extremely winded and their heart is pounding fast. The key to a steady shot at the target requires that the athlete calms both their hearts and their breath.”

Considering the short distance between the hill and the shooting podium, there is not a lot time to adjust. “You start to throttle back,” says Roosa. “When you do it a lot, your body adapts and the heart rate automatically slows. It really requires a strong mental focus to just say, relax, relax.”

That adjustment has been a lifelong goal since Roosa started training for biathlon and that is where the passion lies for both Myer and Roosa. Every time they compete, the challenge is the same. “Ther is always something to improve,” Roosa said.

This year, Roosa zeroed Myer’s rifle. This process involves a second-party scoping where the bullet goes before the competition begins.

“You adjust for the anticipation of wind in the actual race,” sais Roosa. “The wind can be blowing one way when you zero and can completely change during the race.”

Making these kind of adjustments to the sight is extremely important and, even though they are competing, Roosa’s zeroing of Myer’s rifle helped Myer win the gold.

With a shooting accuracy average of 84.3 percent, Myer is one of the top shooters in New York State and this year he cleared all the targets even in the gusty wind. Though he doesn’t hunt, he practices all year round. Roosa also cleared the majority of his targets but, even with the penalty of the missed ones, he still pulled in a silver medal in the relay.

Both Myer and Roosa participate all year in related activities that include a summer biathlon that replaces skiing with running in Saratoga. Both athletes are heavily involved in their sport. Myer has acted as the community chairman of biathlon as well as the President of New York State Ski Racing Association. Coming up in the fall, Roosa will be the next president of the NYSSRA Nordic. Myer conducts summer safety clinics that certify new officials and also helps new volunteers learn biathlon.

Both Myer and Roosa consider biathlon a serious hobby and do it in their spare time in between busy schedules. Myer teaches at a community college; Roosa from a career in conservation with the state, still works in the field. “Do what you like doing,” Roosa said. “Because there’s a challenge.”

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