When a kid from Falun or Lillehammer dreams about becoming a skier – that’s commendable – and also quite natural. But what if that kid hails from, say, Yorkshire, United Kingdom where narrow skis are as exotic of a sport as sled dog racing? And not just dreams – we suppose many a girl or a boy dream of something – but actually shapes her or his life around their dream, despite all obstacles? Here at the Daily Skier we love the stories of ambition and dedication – so one’s life could serve as an example to hundreds, perhaps thousands of the others. Where there’s a will – there’s a way!
Meet Sofie Hopkins, member of Junior British Biathlon Team. This year Sofie has packed her bags and has moved to world-famous Oberhof in Thuringia, Germany in pursuit of her dream.
And not just” moved” – one of the most impressive things about Ms. Hopkins, 20 is how she juggles not just her training and competition schedule – but also how to pay for that lifestyle – by dealing with various sponsors, giving lectures and doing for fundraising.
The task, no doubt assisted by her lynguistic abilities: Sofie speaks fluent German and English, as well as some Finnish, Spanish , Russian and even Mandarin Chinese.
So, how did a girl from Northern England fall in love with biathlon of all sports? And how did Oberhof come into your life?
I was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. After being told I had no potential for sport I started to give up on all previous aspirations, however in December 2011 at a Xmas party my dad’s old friend from the Army commented on my size 9 feet and said that I would make a good biathlete with such large feet. I had no idea what he meant so had to look it up on YouTube. I then watched the whole season on Eurosport for the first time and was instantly inspired by the shining star that was Magdalena Neuner at the time and knew that this was something I must do. I first started air rifle shooting at the age 5 so I had always naturally been interested in shooting sports. Naturally I had lot of doubt from what had been said and also the fact that their was not a lot snow in England, but my dad always said “anything is possible if you put your mind to it” and we set the ball rolling.
I first visited Oberhof at the age of 14 when I started with biathlon and instantly fell in love. After receiving no help in Britain from the beginning of my biathlon pursuit I started to feel very unhappy and like I would not succeed in biathlon if I continued to train alone without guidance. After the IBU Junior Cup last year I knew that my only step would be to move to Oberhof (a big step, but worthy) and in May this year I moved into my apartment and have had lots of amazing experiences so far. Now I am a full member of WSV Oberhof 05 ( venerable local sport club with long history in biathlon) who have been providing me with outstanding support. I now also have a coach that sends me training plans etc. and I am fully satisfied with my life.
What are your sporting goals/ambitions?
First I would be to achieve a top 20 in the IBU Junior Cup first then move onto the IBU World Cup. For me achieving the highest position for my country is an ultimate goal to allow the profile of winter sports to boosted in the U.K. so that young aspiring athletes can get the right support so that we can then have future gold medalists in winter sports.
Being a biathlete is not cheap. Rifle & ammo are expensive plus training, lodging, travels – how does it work in your case?
I am sponsored by Eley ammunition who provide me 5,000 rounds per year, which takes a big weight of my shoulders. My previous shooting club kindly bought me my Anschutz rifle. Last year I collaborated with Easy Composites who made my my carbon fiber rifle stock as part of a project . Last year I met some amazing people from Finland here in oberhof who then invited me to Finland where I helped out the children of Rauma with rollerski training. In return I got a sponsorship deal with Finnish company Pyora Nurmi who provided me with Fischer Speedmax for the season.
Back in England I did talks for schools and business which then lead to companies and lots of generous people donating money. One year I accumulated over £3000 from donations and creating fundraising events. Last year unfortunately my uncle Glenn passed away 2 weeks after coming to oberhof to see me train. The money left from him has allowed me to stay here in Оberhof as that is what he wanted
How many hours per week do you train – and what does being in Oberhof – compared to, say, Ruhpolding, Bavaria – give you?
I’m now training approximately 12-14 hours per week. Oberhof has the indoor ski centre which is very advantageous as you can have snow under your feet all year, which is important for me as I need to develop a better ski technique and that allows me to do this along with shooting practice with skis.
What does skiing give you? What would you advise to people who saw it on television but unsure how to start and whether it’s the right sport them?
Skiing gives me a sense of purpose and fills me with joy. All I’ve ever wanted in life is to be happy and healthy and that is what it has done. I also love making friendships with so many great people from all over the world. For me making friendships is something special and with the biathlon “family” it’s great to feel part of something. My motto is “if you enjoy doing a job you never work a day in your life” – and I have found that connection with biathlon. I think if it’s something that you want to do – then do it, but ensure to make good connections and gather good knowledge. If you have the right support, coaching, facilities and of course good equipment then you are set. All you’ve got to do then is convince your mind that is possible and then the world is your oyster.