A U.S. Olympic sport’s headquarters are moving to Midway

U.S. Biathlon will become the fourth governing body of an Olympic sport to make Utah its home.

U.S. Biathlon is closing in on winning an Olympic medal. Utah is closing in on hosting an Olympic Games.

As of Thursday, they may be boosting each other’s chances.

The national governing body of U.S. Biathlon has announced it will be moving its headquarters from New Gloucester, Maine, to the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway. The relocation comes as the organization tries to expand its reach in the U.S. It was also prompted by the International Biathlon Union’s directive to double participation in the sport, which combines Nordic skiing with target shooting.

Hours after U.S. Biathlon revealed its intention to relocate, the United States Olympic Committee announced during a schedule press conference that its board “fully endorses and supports” Utah as it submits a “preferred host” bid to the International Olympic Committee for either the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympics. The IOC’s full membership will discuss bids during a meeting in October. Local organizers could know as soon as December if the IOC intends to select Salt Lake City to host one of those Games.

“Salt Lake City has the means to host the world,” U.S. Biathlon spokesperson Sara Donatello said in an email to the Tribune, “so I hope our presence can help boost the appeal!”

With U.S. Biathlon’s arrival, the national governing bodies of four Olympic sports will call Utah home. The others include U.S. Ski & Snowboard, US Speedskating and USA Climbing. In addition, USA Nordic Sport, the national leadership organization for ski jumping and Nordic combined is based in Park City.

“We are excited to expand our footprint westward and join the Utah Olympic community,” said Jack Gierhart, president and CEO of U.S. Biathlon, in a news release. “Our presence in Midway directly supports our 2030 strategic plan to grow the sport of biathlon in the United States, recruit and develop top talent and support our athletes on their journey to the Olympic podium.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Unites States' Deedra Irwin competes in the women's biathlon 12.5km mass start at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.

U.S. Biathlon’s “north star” is to win a medal at the 2030 Olympics, Donatello said. Biathlon is the only Winter Olympic sport in which the United States has not won a medal. Last year, Deedra Irwin recorded the highest placing of an American biathlete in an international championship when she placed seventh in the women’s individual race at the Beijing Olympics.

Irwin and the rest of the national team will remain based out of Lake Placid, N.Y. Similarly, Bozeman, Mont., will continue to host U.S. Biathlon’s junior national and paralympic teams.

Soldier Hollow, which hosted biathlon and Nordic sports during the 2002 Olympics, is expected to host those events again if Salt Lake City is chosen as the host for either the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games. In the less-distant future, it will be the site of the U.S.’s only IBU World Cup event in March.

Yet the main impetus behind the move is to broaden awareness and participation in the sport. The IBU has singled out the U.S. as a key market for growth, and U.S. Biathlon plans stimulate interest by tapping into established Nordic skiing communities and, according to the release, “introducing the sport to a new generation of athletes.” Team Soldier Hollow and the Soldier Hollow Charter School program together already engage more than 500 local kids in cross-country skiing at least twice per week during the winter, according to the Utah Legacy Foundation.

But will U.S. Biathlon’s presence help bring the Olympics back to Utah? Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission, is optimistic.

“Establishing the United States Biathlon Association headquarters in our state,” he said, “will strengthen Utah’s commitment to its Olympic and Paralympic legacy.”