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Holly Dabb photos Antija Quintilio, 13, from Barrhead, Alberta, Canada, trains on roller skis along Skyline Drive over the Fourth of July holiday.

Former and possibly future Olympians train at high altitude in Pinedale

Seven minutes, 28 seconds

– That is what it takes to roller ski 2.5 kilometers

uphill from Orcutt Road to the Fremont

Lake overlook.

Longer for some of us; however, that was

the time it took for 16-year-old biathlon competitor

Syver Norstegard of Norway on July 4.

Closely behind him was 15-year-old Henrik

Quintilio from Barrhead, Alberta, Canada.

Only minutes behind was 13-year-old Antija

Quintilio, also from Barrhead, and former

Olympic competitors Kevin and Ntala

Quintilio.

If the name “Quintilio” sounds familiar it

could be because Henrik’s and Antiija’s parents

both competed in past Winter Olympics

in biathlon events.

Mother Ntala Skinner Quintilio grew up

in Pinedale and later moved to Sun Valley,

Idaho. She competed in all three women’s

biathlon events for the United States during

the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

On the same American Olympic team as

Picabo Street and known as Ntala Skinner at

the time, her name might be less known due

to the obscurity for the sport in the United

States.

In 1993, Skinner was the only junior team

member to make the U.S. squad for the 1993

World Cup. She attended the 1994 Winter

Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, but did

not compete.

Henrik and Antija’s father Kevin Quintilio

is also a former biathlete who also competed

in the 1998 Winter Olympics – on the Canadian

team.

“We competed all the time from high

school on and were friends,” Ntala said. It

wasn’t until after the Nagano Olympics that

they married. Fast-forward 20 years and they

are training the next generation.

Together their ranch hosts the Crazy Mare

Ranch Biathlon Club in Alberta, which also

has a small eight-point biathlon rifle range.

“I’m the Crazy Mare,” Ntala said.

For the past two weeks, the family has visited

Ntala’s parents Ole and Karen Skinner in

Pinedale. Not to skip training, the family used

high-altitude trails in and around Pinedale to

stay fit. Joining them is Syver, a foreign exchange

student from Norway.

While others were barbecuing and watching

fireworks on July 4, Quintilios and Syver

were skiing intervals at 8,000 feet. That

means roller skiing at the fastest pace an athlete

can set for the 2.5 kilometers – that’s just

over 1.55 miles.

For the two boys Henrik and Syver, the

drill was repeated. Antija only did it once because

of her age.

“It’s a tremendous mental challenge to

push through at your highest capacity,” Ntala

said of the interval training. “They learn how

to push those limits and continue when the

legs burn out.”

The training finished, they returned home

at a much slower pace.

“Only 20 percent of training is done at that

intense level,” Ntala said.

While here and showing the sights to their

foreign exchange student, they worked out by

hiking trails or riding bikes.

On this day, friend Shelly Pence – a former

ski pal in high school – came down from

Jackson to help time and ferry athletes. “Ntala

took skiing a little more seriously than I did,”

Pence said of her former co-competitor.

Grandparents Ole and Karen also cheered

them on the upward slope.

Kevin and Ntala still ski, but do more

coaching. “We used to keep up with them,”

she said, referring to her children. “Now they

are way ahead of us.”

“We train for 10 months of the year. The

summer is used for dry-land training,” Ntala

said. The time in Pinedale helps them adjust

to high altitude. “It’s good to train at different

altitudes so you know how your body reacts.”

On a trip in Norway, they were advised by

a wax tech of a family whose son was also

training – Syver.

“When training with your parents it is always

good to train with other people,” Ntala

said. So Syver headed to Canada for three

weeks with a detour in Wyoming and Yellowstone

National Park. On July 14, he returns

to Norway with Henrik in tow to train

in Norway.

“I wanted him to see other cultures and

what it is like,” Ntala said. “It’s Syver’s first

time in North America.”

“There is nothing this high in Norway,”

Syver said. That said, he referred to Pinedale

as “flat” compared to the steep mountain valley

where he lives. Galdhopiggen is the tallest

mountain in Norway at 2,469 meters or 8,100

feet above sea level.

Norwegians are more competitive in

Norway and residents understand the sport

better than in North America, Syver said. Henrik

is rated 25th to 28th in his age group in the

United States. Syver is 125th in his country.

“We don’t see the same competitiveness

here,” Ntala said.

Interested by the geysers in Yellowstone,

Syver was also excited to find “brown cheese”

– a carmelized goat cheese from Norway –

sold at the local grocery store.

Another find he will take home with him is

peanut butter. “We don’t have peanut butter

in Norway,” Syver said.

As for his goal in Norway, Henrik said he

plans to “beat the Norwegian.” Also, to try

pickled herring.

Biathlon

Biathlon is a unique and challenging

sport, combining cardiovascular exertion

from top-level cross-country skiing with the

small-muscle finesse and mental focus of rifle

marksmanship.

Originating with tracking game and hunting

it, more recent credit came in the early

days of World War II, when the Russian

Army invaded Finland in the infamous “Winter

War.”

On paper, the Soviets should have won an

overwhelming victory, rushing 20 heavily armored

divisions across the border. But within

a few days, most of their vehicles had frozen

in the arctic conditions. Underdressed foot

soldiers fell to a Finnish guerrilla force that,

while lightly armed, moved rapidly through

the forest on skis. More than a million Soviet

soldiers died against Finnish losses of 25,000.

The first biathlons were military competitions

organized in the cold-war atmosphere of

the early 1950s. The sport made its Olympic

debut at the Squaw Valley games in 1960.

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