LAKE PLACID — After a long and successful career with US Biathlon, Clare Egan, a 34-year-old Lake Placid resident, decided to hang up her skis and rifle following the conclusion of the US Biathlon National Championships on March 27 in Lake Placid.
“I was really happy. It was the only time in my biathlon career that I got to race at home and slept in my own bed and got to go to the races on my home course,” Egan said. “It meant that my boyfriend could be there and he hasn’t been able to see a biathlon race in two years because of the pandemic and because all of our competitions were in Europe or China. He wasn’t able to travel to see us. I was glad that he could be there and my kind of local friends and fans could come out.”
Egan, a two-time Olympian, took first place in both the women’s sprint and pursuit competition. She said the event was the biggest US biathlon competition she had ever been a part of.
“To see that kind of turnout was really encouraging, especially as I retire,” Egan said. “It makes me feel like there is growth and there is momentum and there is kids, boys and girls who are doing it together and it interests them and having fun — seeing that kind of growth in the sport made me feel happy as I’m stepping away.”
Egan decided she wanted to retire from biathlon over a year ago, but recently, her decision hasn’t been easy.
“The whole year, I just knew that every time I did something it was my last time, and right down to the last race that I did. I’m really glad that I had that closure,” Egan said. “I never had any second thoughts, but at the same time, it’s not easy. I mean, I thought it was easy until the last month or two.”
She said things have been hard in a way she didn’t anticipate or hadn’t heard about from other athletes who have retired.
“Reckoning with the last couple of weeks of my career, I suddenly felt this grieving feeling about saying goodbye to my hopes, dreams and goals, that my best days are ahead,” Egan said. “I’m reckoning with the fact that’s not the case — it’s over. My best performances are behind me.”
Egan said she has poured so much time and energy into believing in herself and that is why it has been difficult for her to walk away.
“That’s how we stay motivated through roller skiing in the rain in Lake Placid and early November and training,” Egan said. “When you are tired and you’re missing your family reunion it’s that belief in yourself.”
Egan decided to try biathlon when she was just 26 years old, and after representing the United States in two Olympic Winter Games, it’s safe to assume she made the right choice.
While Egan said that making an Olympic team was a huge accomplishment, she added that, to her, it represented how much commitment and hard work it took to get to that level.
“It’s not just hard work, it’s sort of a lifestyle commitment. Where, even in your time off, it’s not that you can do whatever you want. You have to really prioritize rest and recovery,” Egan said. “Sometimes it’s how you even behave on your time off. It’s a 24-hour thing and it’s a decade of that, just vying for a team (Olympic team). I think making Olympic teams in any sport is a representation or evidence of such a big commitment.”
Following her first Olympic Games in 2018, Egan finished the 2018-19 season ranked 18th in the World Cup rankings.
That season Egan earned her first World Cup podium, finishing in third place.
“I’m one of only a few Americans to have done that,” Egan said. “I was also a part of fifth place women’s relay at the World Cup, which is the best result by US Biathlon in modern biathlon.”
She finished in the top 10 in seven different World Cup events over her career.
Her best Olympic finish was during the 2022 Olympics in the mixed team relay event when she, along with Americans Susan Dunklee, Sean Doherty and Paul Schommer, took seventh place.
IBU Athlete’s Committee
While Egan clearly succeeded on the biathlon course, she said one of her biggest accomplishments might be with her involvement with the International Biathlon Union.
“I’m not leaving behind the legacy as the best athlete ever,” Egan said. “I am leaving a legacy of being the first athlete ever to serve on the IBU executive board and leading the committee to create that position.”
In March of 2018, Egan was elected to be the chair of the IBU’s Athlete’s Committee and a month later, the former IBU president and ex-secretary general were forced into resignation after being accused of accepting bribes to defend Russian biathletes against doping accusations.
Under Egan’s leadership, she, along with the IBU itself, helped make biathlon a clean sport.
“I think there is no doubt that the work our Athlete’s Committee has done under my leadership has really helped guide the organization into a new era that really tries to put athletes first,” Egan said. “That’s a very big difference from the situation we sort of inherited when we came in, which was really an unfortunate situation when the IBU was marginalizing athletes.
“It’s certainly not just from me. We were lucky that the police got involved and raided the headquarters. It was bigger than just athletes speaking out,” she added. “Athletes speaking out is a really big part of that movement and I was a big part of that movement and also my predecessor Lowell Bailey was a member of that movement as a member of the Athlete’s Committee up until 2018.”
Having just recently retired, Egan said she doesn’t exactly know what she is going to do next, but she does want to continue certain things from her biathlon career.
Egan, who has a master’s degree in linguistics and can speak multiple different languages, said she hopes to continue using the language skills that helped her during her biathlon career and as the chair of the Athlete’s Committee.
“I also hope that I can find another job that is dynamic and active,” Egan said. “I know I won’t be doing something as physically active as biathlon, but I also know that I can’t go from biathlon to sitting in a chair working on a computer all day.”
She said she doesn’t have her heart set on what.
“I’m going to give myself some time to figure it out,” Egan said. “Also rest and relax a little bit and spend some more time with friends and family before I jump into whatever is next.”