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Inexperience defeats Olympic biathlon hopeful Michael Brothers

— Last week's Olympic tryouts were an experience of a lifetime for biathlete Capt. Michael Brothers.

However, it may have been his lack of experience against elite fields that kept him from making the 2002 Winter Games.

"I'm really happy the Air Force gave me the opportunity to train full time," Brothers said. "In practice I shot real well, but I was just average in the competitions, and that doesn't get you to the Olympics."

Brothers thinks the crowd noise, the loudspeakers and the excitement that surrounded the event held at Soldier Hollow in Park City, Utah, made it hard to concentrate in the shooting portion of the events.

"I think my lack of experience was a factor," said Brothers, who has been cross-country skiing for years but just became a biathlete a year ago.

Brothers, whose parents, Jane and Lyman, have lived in Steamboat the past several years, placed 14th, 21st, 12th and 16th in the Olympic qualifiers.

Not bad for his first Olympic trials, but not good enough to make the 2002 U.S. Olympic team this time around.

After the completion of the trials on Thursday, the four-person American team was named. The squad will be made up of Lawton Redmond, Jay Hakkinen, Jeremy Teela and Dan Campbell. Those athletes all earned positions on the team at last week's trials.

A biathlon combines the disciplines of cross-country skiing and shooting into a single event. Skiers must complete laps around the course and then stop and shoot after each lap. The skiers are penalized, either with laps or with additional time, depending on how well they shoot.

While Brothers was always at the top of the skiing results, he said he struggled with his shooting something he hopes he can fix in the future with more practice.

In his first race on Dec. 29, Brothers' times on the cross-country 20-kilometer course were in the top 5. His shooting, however, was average (60 percent) and he dropped to 14th in the final standings.

In the race, Brothers completed five four-kilometer loops. He also shot from the prone position on the first and third laps and the standing position on the second and fourth laps.

The next day, Brothers competed in a 10-kilometer sprint event in which he placed 21st. Once again, he shot well. But a problem "zeroing" the sights on his rifle hurt him in the shooting portion.

"I was just a little bit low on every shot," Brothers said.

By the time he figured it out, he had already dropped out of contention. He said with more experience he might have discovered the problem and had been able to adjust sooner.

The skiers completed loops of three, four and three kilometers in the event and shot from both the prone and standing positions.

On Jan. 2, the skiers completed a 12.5-kilometer pursuit race in which Brothers finished 12th. The final event was another 10-kilometer sprint, and he was 16th in that one.

"Realistically, looking at it I'm pretty satisfied with the way I performed," Brothers said. "Of course I wanted to make the team, but the top skiers are a lot more experienced."

Brothers will head to Europe in February to take part in the Military Olympic Games, which take place every year. He then will take a position as an instructor at the Air Force Academy, where he hopes to coach the college ski team. With a little luck, Brothers said he hopes to make another run at the 2006 Olympic Games.

"It's too early to say for sure, but if I'm still skiing well enough, I will give it another try."

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