Glen Ewing got close, but missed Olympics
EBY CREEK MESA Glen Ewing couldnt have picked a worse time to have a bad month.It was the winter of 1979-80, and the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y. were coming in February. Ewing, a member of the U.S. Biathlon team, was in a groove before Christmas. The team would send a six-man team to Lake Placid and Ewing was easily in that top group.Then something happened.After Christmas I was pathetic, Ewing said. I went from third to 11th.And that was it for an Olympic dream.Ewing went to Lake Placid with the rest of the team though. His identification badge is still on the mantle in his living room, along with other trophies., two of which have some irony attached. The month after the Olympics, Ewing went to a national competition.I got a first and a second, he said.Ewing still had a good time in Lake Placid. He skied the Nordic courses as a forerunner for other racers, and shuttled competitors around Lake Placid.And we hit everything we could at night, he said. It was a big party, a lot of fun, but in the end, you want to be competing.Ewing may have missed the Olympics, but his ride as a biathlete was a good one. And it started by accident.Learning to shootEwing was competing at Western State College in Gunnison on the Nordic ski team in the 70s. In his senior year, he and other team members went to a race in Aspen and ended up skiing faster than several biathlon team members. After that, he and a friend were invited to a training camp in Jackson, Wyo., where they made a disturbing discovery.We found out we knew nothing about shooting, he said.But during a race in Jackson, fog rolled in over one of the target ranges. The biathletes stopped and waited. Ewing and his friend just stopped, emptied their rifles into the grayness, and kept skiing.
So it was time to learn to shoot. After taking some lessons from a coach back in Gunnison, It turned out I could shoot and my friend couldnt, Ewing said. After an invitation to join the biathlon team in 1975, Ewing threw himself into training. Then, as now, training for international competition was year-round work, so Ewing spent a couple of summers in Georgia, training with the U.S. Shooting Team.One of the secrets in biathlon, he said, is learning to shoot between heartbeats.Youve got to get you heart rate down to 120 or so to shoot accurately, he said. That means biathletes have to time their skiing so they can slide into the shooting areas fairly relaxed.Some competitors were more relaxed that others.The Olympic Creed is to participate, not to pound the other guy into the ground, Ewing said. The media doesnt really understand that.Fat & television Over several years of international competition, Ewing got to know a lot of people.Biathlon is the largest sport in terms of participation by country, Ewing said. Everybodys got a military. Some are good, some are terrible.Like the Greek soldier who would ski, then take a break at the shooting areas for a cup of coffee and a cigarette. Or the Argentine coach who carried a portable stereo in his back, blaring the teams favorite music as the skiers trained.But by the time the 1979-80 season was over, Ewing had had enough. Like most things done well, countless details have to come together all at once to create a great performance.I was just tired of it, he said. So Ewing took himself out of competition, and pretty much out of recreational skiing, too.I wrote a few magazine articles about how to de-train, he said. I wrote about increasing fat intake, adding more TV watching.For about 18 years, that was it, as a young family took priority over athletics. But when the Ewings oldest daughter Joan hit high school in 1998, she asked her dad if hed coach the schools Nordic skiing team. He agreed.In 2002, he took the team to Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympics and a close-up look at Nordic skiing at its highest level.It was really an eye-opener for them, he said. But Nordic skiing at Eagle Valley High School isnt the best place to breed future Olympians. The kids have to ski the Nordic track at the Vail Golf Course for practice, and kids dont really get serious about the sport until they hit high school.We wont take the next step until we have it in the elementary and middle school in Eagle, he said.Still, when asked how hed feel if one of his kids ever made an Olympic team, Ewing got misty for a moment.It would take so much, he said. It takes such an individual effort. And it takes enormous parent support. It takes millions to get a few people there.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado