By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — A year ago Sean Doherty made U.S. sports history. Sunday afternoon the talented 18-year-old from Center Conway made his first U.S. Olympic team in biathlon, a sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. He is the youngest biathlete ever named to U.S. Olympic team.
Doherty, the son of Mary and Dan Doherty, of Center Conway, is a 2013 graduate of Kennett High School.
U.S. Biathlon’s International Competition Committee (ICC) announced the following roster of athletes for nomination to the 2014 United States Olympic Team on Sunday: Lowell Bailey, Lake Placid, N.Y. (2006, 2010 Olympian); Lanny Barnes, Durango, Colo. (2006, 2010 Olympian); Tim Burke, Paul Smiths, N.Y. (2006, 2010 Olympian); Annelies Cook, Saranac Lake, N.Y.; Russell Currier, Stockholm, Maine; Susan Dunklee, Barton, Vt.; Sean Doherty, Center Conway; Hannah Dreissigacker, Morrisville, Vt.; Leif Nordgren, Marine, Minn.; and Sara Studebaker, Boise, Idaho (2010 Olympian).
According to a release from U.S. Biathlon, up to two male and two female biathletes – Bailey, Burke and Dunklee – were eligible to earn early nominations to the Olympic Team during the 2012-13 season by gaining two top-15 finishes in World Cup or World Championship competition, or by having a top-30 overall World Cup ranking. Cook and Nordgren were nominated following the December World Cups. The remaining selections for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team were announced Sunday following the IBU Cup races in Riduan, Italy. All nominations are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee.
"I want to congratulate the athletes on being nominated to the Olympic Team. Everyone of them has shown a dedication to excellence and a love of the sport that has led them to this outstanding accomplishment," said Bill Burke, chairman of the U.S. Biathlon Board of Directors. "I can't wait to cheer them on in person at the Olympics and to celebrate their achievements with their families"
"I am very pleased with the progress the athletes on the team have made. It's the result of their focused training with some of the world's best coaches and high performance staff," said U.S. Biathlon president and CEO Max Cobb. "There is one more World Cup before the Olympic Games and we are looking forward to seeing the team in action there. Our top ranked athletes, Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey, have both had podium-level performances and the Olympic rookies have had very compelling performances that indicate personal-bests lay ahead for them this season."
Doherty last January won a silver medal in the 12.5K sprint at the IBU 2013 Youth/Junior World Championships in Obertilliach, Austria, it marked the first time in U.S. biathlon history any athlete (Youth/Senior) has won three individual medals in World Championship competition. Doherty was the most decorated athlete, male or female, at those championships.
Doherty won a silver medal in the 7.5-kilometer sprint opener at those championships on Jan. 22. Two days later, Doherty came from behind to win the 2013 IBU Youth (U19) Pursuit World Championship.
"It feels great to be world champion. It's amazing and has been a goal of mine," said Doherty at the time. "During the race I felt really good and very in control. I recognized I had a good lead going, which was good since I wasn't feeling superb skiing. I was glad to be in charge of the race from there. I made sure I didn't get ahead of myself and stayed focused on one thing at a time. I was a little bit nervous to start second today, but I had a really good plan and stuck with that and it worked out great. I was glad that I was able to keep a calm head throughout all the shooting."
Doherty capped his accomplishments with a second silver medal in the team relay the following day. Doherty is catching the attention of the best biathletes in the world and in Sochi next month he'll compete against them.