Susan Dunklee, 35, will compete in her third and final Olympics during the 2022 competition in Beijing. The biathlete will try for the gold in the biathlon one last time during the Winter Olympics. The Vermont native had participated in the competition, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, on multiple occasions, but plans to hang up her skis this year. Here are five things to know about Susan before she goes for the gold!
1. Susan competed in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics.
Susan will give the Olympics her all one last time in the 2022 competition in Beijing. Her first two competitions were the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia and the 2018 competition in PyeongChang, South Korea. Unfortunately, she hasn’t medaled in competitions previously. During her first games, she placed 13th in the relay, 15th in the mixed relay, 19th in the individual race, and 66th in the sprint. She improved in her second Olympics, placing 7th in the relay, 8th in the mixed relay, 34th in the individual race, and 14th in the sprint. For the 2018 games, she also came in 11th in the mass start and 18th in pursuit, via the Team USA site.
2. She’s competed in biathlon competitions for a decade.
While this Olympics will be her third and final shot at taking home a gold medal, she has competed in International Biathlon Union (IBU) competitions for well-over ten years. She’s also taken part in almost every IBU world championship since 2012 (she didn’t compete the years she was in the Olympics). She’s won two silver medals: one for the sprint in 2020, and another for the mass start in 2017.
She shared that she unofficially competed in a biathlon back in December 2021, before she headed off to Beijing. She seemed very glad to get a competition in at home. “I’m glad I finally snuck in one home race during the final months of my career,” she wrote in an Instagram caption. ” It was a blast! My parents surprised me and rallied a hometown fan club comprised of the Robitaille clan plus several family friends… I may not have any family or friends spectating in Beijing in February but I certainly will feel supported.”
3. She announced her retirement in 2021.
Intensive competitions like a biathlon (or any sport really) take a massive toll on the athlete’s bodies. Susan explained that not being able to recover as quickly as she used to was a major reason she opted to retire after the current season. “When you’re younger, you’re pushing the volume to be able to build your capacity and keep improving your VO2 max,” she said in an interview for Team USA. “At this point, it’s more about the quality of the sessions and doing really good work with intensity, then recovering from it.”
Despite stepping away from the sport, Susan will leave behind a lasting legacy, especially with the creation of the “Silver Bib” for older athletes. The special award is a play on the IBU’s “Blue Bib,” which biathletes 25 and under compete for as a distinctive honor. Susan knit the first silver bibs (one for male athletes and the other for female), which are awarded to the top biathletes that are 33 or older.
4. She’s the director of running at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
After she steps away from competition, Susan will still be involved in athletics and outdoor activities! She accepted a job with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in her home state of Vermont. She seems very excited about the next chapter of her life and getting to work with the next generation of athletes. “So far, my favorite part of my new job as Director of Running at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center has been managing the GRP Running Team,” she wrote in a December 2021 Instagram post.
5. She’s a climate change activist.
Through the IBU, Susan was one of the organization’s “Climate Change Leaders,” and one of her goals was to have 100,000 trees planted. She gave environmental updates on her Instagram as the campaign went on. With her followers’ help, she announced that they reached the goal in a May 25, 2021 Instagram post, and asked for suggestions on other actions that could be taken for climate change. “We did it! With your help we planted 100,000 trees as part of the Biathlon Climate Challenge! Thank you for all the kilometers you logged,” she wrote.
Other than caring for the environment, Susan also shared that she’s an animal lover in an April 2021 Instagram post, where she spoke about her childhood pet, which was a salamander named Woody. “I wanted to be a wildlife biologist when I was a kid. At age 5 I found a spotted salamander under a log and kept it as a pet for 6 months,” she wrote, before explaining that she noticed that a major highway she was driving on was a point where salamanders crossed during migration. “I stopped my car several times to help Woody’s cousins cross the road safely.”