LAKE PLACID — While many athletes competing in the 2023 FISU Winter World University Games will have ties to the area, Van Ledger will be the lone athlete in the World University Games who grew up in Lake Placid.
Ledger, 20, who now attends Montana State, will compete for the United States biathlon team at the World University Games, which officially begin today, in Lake Placid.
“It’s going to be awesome to have a big competition like this at home, especially an international competition,” Ledger said.
Ledger said that being at home for the Games will bring a bit of pressure, but he also said that growing up in Lake Placid has been huge for his biathlon career.
Ledger graduated from Lake Placid High School in 2020 and he competed for the high school’s Nordic team for a couple of years before moving to the Olympic Training Center to focus on training in biathlon.
“There are other places in Vermont and out west where biathlon is pretty big, but it’s not like always sort of front and center where you can see it,” Ledger said. “I think this is one of the places where you don’t have to put in a ton of work to search out for one of the great winter sports.”
Typically when he’s asked about how he got into biathlon, Ledger said he tells people that he started biathlon because he grew up in Lake Placid.
“That’s sort of simplifying it. But it’s kind of what it is,” Ledger said. “Just starting Nordic skiing here and the national team is based out of here, and I would see them skiing around all of the time. Then you would see them with the gun and you’d be like, ‘Wow that looks really cool.’ I started trying it and then I kept going.”
He said first picked up a biathlon rifle at an Eastern development camp.
“I thought it was an introductory camp and it turned out to be more of an intermediate-level camp,” Ledger said. “I remember they handed me a gun and were like, ‘OK, we are dry-firing,’ and I was like, ‘I haven’t even touched this before. I don’t know what I’m doing.’ But it was actually really good because I got to jump right into the fire.”
While Lake Placid was one of the main reasons he started biathlon, Ledger said he doesn’t often compete in the village. He said the last time he competed in Lake Placid was last month for the U.S. Biathlon Nationals.
Ledger said wasn’t sure if the Games to be one of the biggest events he has ever competed in. He said he was excited to compete in an international event.
“The biggest competition I have competed in was the youth Olympics a couple of years ago,” Ledger said. “But since then this is the first international competition that I’ve been in. I’m definitely psyched to get back to that level.”
At the Games, Ledger will be joined by five other men’s biathletes competing for Team USA, and six women’s biathletes. He said that he has a solid relationship with each of his teammates, especially with Tim Cobb.
“He’s my roommate and we’ve been teammates for years,” Ledger said. “It’s hard to be in a sport like this and not know almost everybody in the sport really well because it’s still pretty small in the U.S.”
The men’s biathlon roster was announced Jan. 2, just a few days after he competed in the Team USA biathlon trials in Anchorage, Alaska.
“That was mainly to qualify for Junior World Championships and the U.S. has had a really good year this year. We already had three juniors pre-qualify for the team,” Ledger said. “The downside of that was that there was only one spot left to go qualify. That was the most nervous I’ve been for a race since ever going in.”
HOCKEY GETS UNDERWAY
The Lake Placid FISU World University Games’ Opening Ceremony is set for tonight in Lake Placid’s Olympic Center. But the 11-day multi-winter sports and global festival opened one day sooner, Wednesday, with preliminary round men’s and women’s ice hockey games.
“We’re looking forward to the first games of the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games getting underway on Wednesday with five contests on tap in Potsdam and Canton,” Rick Patzke said before Wednesday’s action. Patzke is the Lake Placid FISU World University Games head of sport. “These are the first FISU World University Games’ hockey games since 2019.”
Hungary and Slovakia opened men’s ice hockey play Wednesday at Cheel Arena. The United States took on Great Britain, at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Led by Hobart College head coach Mark Taylor, a Canton native, the U.S. squad is composed entirely of NCAA Division III players, 12 players are from eastern universities and colleges and 11 are from western universities.
SUNY Canton’s Roos House also featured men’s ice hockey action when Japan faced off against Latvia.
Great Britain and the Czech Republic opened the women’s hockey tournament when they faced off at SUNY Potsdam’s Maxcy Hall.
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