Meet Chief of Competition, Ulrika Öberg
She has been a part of the biathlon movement since -93, and has gone from being on the starting line herself to being in charge of having the competition area ready when the race starts. She knows the rulebook by heart and together with over 250 volunteers at her service, it is chief of competition Ulrika Öberg that will make sure that there’s world class competitions at Swedens National Biathlon arena every year.
What does your role as Chief of competition in the World Cup and the WC-organization mean?
My main task is to see to that the white areas (snow covered areas) are ready for the competitions and that it complies with the requirements set out in the rulebook. To my help, I have eight working groups with a total of 250 volunteers, where largest group of around 100 volunteers is working with the shooting range. My responsibility is that all of them know their duties in both the preparation work, the construction and the implementation of the competitions.
How do the tasks differ between the different groups?
It differs a lot. The group responsible for the competition office has a lot of planning and administrative work that will begin during the summer with, for example, invitations and information that goes out to all nations. The track group on the other hand can’t, for example, do much practical work before the snow is in place. Now, thanks to the Östersund municipality, we are lucky to say that it will be snow on the stadium on November 6th and then it will continue to snow on our competition tracks until November 10th so we can plan the activities based on that. At the shooting range, an enormous effort is made to get the surface in a completely flat surface using, for example, excavator, water-pass and asphalt rakes.
There’s just two months left until the world championship premiere, what does your days look like before and how will a typical day of the World Cup look like?
Right now, there is a lot of administration. The volunteers are beginning to wake up and feel that the World Cup is approaching. Education is being planned, information meetings are being performed, and orders for both the material and technical needs are implemented. The goal is that everything should be so well planned that when the World Cup begins there will be no surprises. The only thing we can’t be sure of is the weather, why we continuously must follow the forecasts and make a current plan based on them. However, if we are prepared with equipment and personnel, we will be equipped for surprises. During the implementation of the World Cup, we have daily reconciliation meetings with the International Federation where we focus on the details based on the sporting parts and each specific training and competition day. Our groups daily build up the competition arena according to the conditions that each day requires.
You have been an active biathlete on the elite level, how is it to take part in the competitions from an organizers’ point of view?
Now it has been a lot of years since I was active, but one thing that is equal to then is the lovely feeling of nervousness and the adrenaline surcharge. You still get that nervous feeling in your stomach before a competition, but from a different perspective. However, all in a positive way, I like that feeling and I am a competitor. I like to compete and I like this job. It is fun and challenging.
Can you take some advantages out of being active into your role as a competition-leader?
All the experience you have are good and depending on the situation you are in you can use most of them. An advantage as I see it is that I already know many of the biathlon rules by heart. It is a security I see as a very big advantage.
What is the most fun in your role as a competition-leader?
It is meeting all these different persons, both within the organization but of course also with all our competitors and leaders!
Do you have any special memory from previous seasons that stand out?
Yes, there are many, but the latest World Cup, for example, we had a tuff time with the weather. It had been very good in our build-up and, basically, we were a day before schedule, so we felt very safe when we said “goodbye” to each other on Friday night. Then it was a lot more wind during the night then what the forecast had predicted. I woke up and felt that “… this does not feel good …” so I got out of bed and went to the stadium and was met by a not too encouraging arena. Fences, advertisements and all kinds of material was laying all scattered around on the inner surface of the arena.
We build about 400 meters of fences on the inner surface and it is a big effort to secure and anchor them in the snow. We saw in the snow where we lower the fence so that they shouldn’t show on TV. To anchor them, we use reinforcing iron, cover the feet with snow, water for freezing, yes, we use all our best ideas to make the fence as stable as possible.
Now the wind had caught the fence and blown out almost everything, so it was only to start from the beginning and try to get it as good as possible before official training. But, everything worked out and times like that I’m very thankful for my amazing volunteers who does a fantastic job!
On the picture Ulrika is checking the snow stock, where last years snow is saved.
Would you like to experience the competitions in Östersund? Read more about the World Cup 2017 at www.worldcupostersund.se, tickets for WCH 2019 will be released March 7th 2018.