Vail’s lone gun biathlete shooting for top level
Marcus Gore will defer a year of college to shoot and ski full time
VAIL — Local athlete Marcus Gore feels like a bit of a lone gun in the sport of biathlon. In an area full of snowsports competitors, Gore is the only person in Eagle County competing in the upper levels of the skiing-and-shooting sport.
Gore won the youth men’s pursuit at the 2019 U.S. Biathlon Championships in Jericho, Vermont, on March 30, and finished third in the sprint a day earlier. It was an encouraging result after a season that contained some otherwise frustrating performances, most notably at the trials event for the junior world championships in late December.
“The junior world trials is the gateway to the rest of the season,” Gore said. “To compete in Europe, you have to do well there, and I just didn’t. … I had let stress consume me, and because of that I just shot really poorly.”
Not only would the result kill his chances at competition overseas, it also meant he wasn’t likely to make the development team again next season, after being on the team the year before.
In a sport where athletes often reach their prime a full decade their entry point, Gore, now 18, said he was undeterred by the setbacks he faced this season.
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“You gotta take it in steps,” he said.
When the U.S. Biathlon Team nominations were made in April, Gore wasn’t on the list. But the development team contained fewer nominations overall, something Gore said will prove to be better for those on the team.
“Marcus did get a couple of camps out of (being on the team),” said Theron Gore, Marcus’ father. “But other than that, being on the team didn’t have a whole lot of meaning at that development level that Marcus was at, so not being on the team shouldn’t set him back too much at this stage.”
Marcus said that by shrinking the development squad, it seems that more resources will be afforded to those athletes who did make it.
“By the team being smaller, they’ll be able to support the athletes more so it will have more meaning,” Marcus Gore said.
A team player even if not on the team, Gore said he was fully understanding of the changes for this year.
“My season didn’t go well enough for me to make it, but this way it will be better for those who did,” he said.
Gore said while he has received top-level training in the cross-country-skiing aspect of biathlon through Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, he struggles to find a suitable area to shoot his gun.
“You have to be at a dedicated biathlon range to get any kind of quality training,” he said.
The nearest biathlon range is nearly two hours away in Granby.
Gore was introduced to the sport through Marc Sheppard’s West Yellowstone biathlon clinics.
“Marcus did a try-it biathlon series up there a couple years in a row and saw that he had a talent for it,” Theron Gore told the Vail Daily in 2018.
Those same West Yellowstone clinics continue to host kids from all over the country each year, and in attending them with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes, coach Ksusha Shambarger says that now more kids than ever are interested in biathlon in Eagle County.
“(In 2017-18) we had four kids from the Nordic group try out biathlon,” Shambarger said. “This year, we had 14 kids. And they all loved it. … They’re looking at Marcus, and they have an example in front of them.”
Marcus said he hopes to continue to inspire growth in the program.
“The skiing culture here is all about Alpine skiing, and the whole cross-country group is a pretty niche group, and then biathlon is an even further departure than that,” he said. “It’d be awesome to develop a place for it.”
For now, the best thing Marcus Gore can do for biathlon skiing in Eagle County is to leave the area and find success elsewhere, Shambarger said.
“He’s showing them that it can be done,” she said. “It’s a small pond here in the U.S., and it’s kind of nice to be a big fish in a small pond.”
Gore is a senior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy and will graduate May 31, but rather than head right to the university (he’s been accepted to Bowdoin College in Maine), Gore has decided to see how far he can take his budding biathlon skills.
To do so, he hopes head to Solfefea, Sweden, in June.
“I’m hoping to go for a year, to focus fully on biathlon,” he said. “The Scandinavians are notoriously good; I want to see what they’re all about, follow in their footsteps, and hopefully some greatness will come out.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.