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Interview with Elisa Gasparin, Professional Biathlete

Don't be surprised when you hear the name ‘Gasparin’ multiple times while watching a biathlon World Cup race, yes sisters are competing together at the highest level Biathlon organization. I asked Elisa Gasparin about her career and the importance of individual sponsorship in biathlon.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Elisa Gasparin

Elisa Gasparin


by Meryem Aksoy

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The winter sports career of Elisa Gasparin did not start with biathlon, at the beginning of her career, she has competed in cross country. These experience are of course still helping her. Inspired by her sister's achievements, she decided to become a biathlete at the age of 14, and in a very short time, she qualified for the Swiss National Junior Team. Olympic biathlete Elisa Gasparin has been competing in the World Cup, which is the top organization of the biathlon, with her biathlon passion, professionalism, and patience. I had the opportunity to interview Elisa Gasparin about her career and the importance of individual sponsorship in biathlon.

Elisa, when did you start skiing and shooting? Who encouraged you?

As soon I learned to walk, I stood on the skies, even my parents weren't sports canons. I competed in cross country for many years, even I didn't really like it, it was just fun to be with my friends. And I was always last. With 14 years I tried the first biathlon race, without training and I didn't hit the target, maybe some tree or something, haha! But then I started to be really interested and began to train and getting stronger.

Elisa Gasparin

Elisa Gasparin - 2018 Oberhof Biathlon World Cup - Sprint Women - Photo by Christian Bier

I would like to learn more about your life besides your biathlon career, could you tell us about yourself? Who is Elisa Gasparin?

I’m a really happy girl who likes to try new things, experience the world and nature. I’m going crazy for mountaineering and climbing, travelling in other countries and get to know other cultures and people. Sometimes other people wished I would be more correctly because sometimes I’m a mess :)

I think these days it’s important to enjoy the moment, put away the cell phone go to the mountains and just be.

When did you decide to be a professional biathlete? Could you tell us about your biathlon career?

With 16 years I finished the obligatory school and didn't know if I should learn a profession, or keep going to school, so I can be a biathlete at the same time...I didn't really had a profession dream that age, so I decided to be a professional Sportsman as my sister, because I was always impressed what she had to tell after she was in training camp or at races and finally I started to love training, competing and I got better and better, so I qualified for the Swiss national junior team.

Elisa Gasparin

Elisa Gasparin - 2018 Oberhof Biathlon World Cup - Sprint Women - Photo by Christian Bier

Are you training together with Selina and Aita? How does it feel to compete together with your sisters?

My sisters and I established a private biathlon team, to train more professional besides the camps from Swiss-Ski. As we all are in the national team, we train together and compete together in the World Cup. Many people ask if we are competitors, yeah at the end of course we are, biathlon is a single sport and everyone races for herself, but we always hold to each other, are happy if one of us has a good result and help each other with Tipps and tricks...We’re all happy to have each other, to travel and race together, we’re not just sisters, we’re also good friends!

You have competed in many national and international competitions, including the World Championships and Winter Olympic Games. Could you tell us about your achievements?

Every athlete’s dream is an Olympic medal. My sister Selina won Silver in Sochi 2014 what makes me really proud! My dream is the same, and after 3 Olympic diplomas (top8) I know I’m not that far away and it’s possible. I had to correct my goals three years ago, as I was overtrained because of too much training and too lightweight...So I had to take a break from training and races, and now 3 years later I can finally say that I am back in business. Even if I achieved two Olympic diploma last winter in Pyeongchang, I wasn’t too strong in skiing, still because of my story. I felt much better this summer, changed my training and I hope to be able to race with the big ones this winter and achieve my goals...

What does biathlon mean for you?

Biathlon is an inspiration, passion, and love. No one does biathlon to get rich or just as a hobby. It’s a profession which needs a lot of professionalism and patience. We have to renounce about many things in life, but in the end, I am so happy to be outside every day, it’s a daily challenge to feel good and make my body and mind stronger. And after been racing in World Cup, World Champs and Olympic games, I have to say it’s an emotional life and I wouldn't change it with anybody else, because it just makes me happy, and the ups are taking overweight to the downs athletes can have...

Elisa Gasparin

Elisa Gasparin - 2018 Oberhof Biathlon World Cup - Sprint Women - Photo by Christian Bier

Biathlon is not like any other individual professional sport, you are competing together with your national team. What are the advantages of being a member of the national team?

The national team in Switzerland is small and still growing. If I compare the work of Swiss-Ski in the last 10 years, it changed a lot, I mean the woman team exists just since 2014, before I had to train with the men team or the junior team...

We get the chance to train with a strong team, we are good friends and can push each other to the limits. The whole team with coaches, skimans, physios, doctors, and athletes makes everyone stronger, what isn’t possible if you train alone.

We are facing financial problems at every moment of our lives. What are the main expenses of a biathlete throughout the year? How could biathletes finance this expenses? What is the permanent solution?

A biathlete who doesn’t stand on the podium many times a year has no chance to live from the prize money. That’s why it’s very important to have some sponsors. It’s quite hard with the economic situation to find some sponsors you can also trust in bad moments. But I and my sisters are really proud and thankful for our main Sponsor Roland. Roland helped me through my overtraining and still believed in me, that’s just amazing and I hope I can give something back to them with good results! And of course, there’s also the Border Police, where I’m employed since 2014. That makes possible to have an education and being able to run the races all winter long and train professional.

I am a lucky girl to have two so big and important sponsors, without them I couldn’t do what I do on such a high level.

And not to forget, all the brands which give me the gear all the years, so I have good skis(Rossignol), poles(Leki), goggles(Uvex) and clothes(Odlo).

And then we have also many small donators who support us every year, who I am also really thankful.

What is the best way to attract sponsors' attention?

To find good sponsors you also have to be a little bit lucky, besides good results. I have the luck, that three successful sisters in the same sport and discipline are quite an attraction, and good also for sponsors to make some commercial with us.

What contributions do sponsor brands provide biathletes?

Every athlete has his own value. Some contracts are with products, some with money or both. In return, the athlete makes commercial for the sponsor and wears his logo.

Elisa Gasparin

Elisa Gasparin - Picture taken by Marcus Cyron, Biathlon European Championships 2017 Sprint Women 1356, CC BY-SA 4.0

You are competing with your national team suits. How do you make your sponsors' brands visible throughout the season?

In Switzerland, we have some free spots, where we can put the logos from the sponsors, like the hat. And in biathlon, it’s even better, because we have the rifle where we have space for two more stickers. The homepage and our private team bus also have space for sponsors.

And beside the private sponsors, we have the team sponsors from Swiss-Ski, which are visible on all the clothes from the whole team, like: Audi, Swisscom, Helvetia, BKW, Odlo and Raiffeisen.

Biathlon is a winter sport, but in summer, the competition continues on snowless roads. Do you participate in the Biathlon Summer Season?

I don’t race in summer, because that’s the time where we train. We say, biathletes are made in summer. So the only races are some test races.

What do sponsors expect and demand from biathletes?

Sponsors expect professionality, and good behaviour in the public, as we wear their name. And of course, also clean sport.

In your career, when did you first attract sponsors' attention? How did you do this?

My first sponsor was Victorinox. As an athlete in young ages, you have to ask the companies if they want to support you. I was lucky my sister established a management with two friends, and they had some young athletes under contract and tried to find some sponsors for them. When Selina achieved the top of the world level, we changed to some other management, to save time to organise all the meetings with media and sponsors, and find new sponsors. But as we still couldn’t find any more sponsors, now we decided to make the management by ourselves, because it’s hard to find sponsors and so it is just too much money which ‘is spent' for a professional management.

Elisa Gasparin

Elisa Gasparin - 2018 Oberhof Biathlon World Cup - Sprint Women - Photo by Christian Bier

Could you tell us about your sponsors? What are the brands that you collaborate with?

As I already said, the main sponsors are Roland and the Border Police.

Then the material Sponsors like: Odlo, Rossignol, Leki, Winfoce, Uvex, and Polar.

For our private Biathlon team, we have many small local sponsors, who also support us as a goodwill...

How many different platforms do you represent your sponsors throughout the year?

Homepage, Instagram, Facebook

What are your expectations from your sponsors?

The best is if a sponsor supports you the whole career, that’s what every athlete is dreaming about I think! But of course, it’s hard because if you’re not a world number 1 or you’re injured a year, the sponsor can’t take any good of you, because the media is not on your face...But to support athletes is a good thing for companies, as athletes are a good example for public and in biathlon, everything is possible in a race...

What are you paying attention to when a new brand contacted you about sponsorship?

I think it’s important to have sponsors in different parts of the economy, it’s not nice if you have two sponsors which are competitors on the market...

What are the main factors that affect the beginning and continuity of successful sponsorship?

Fairness. I have to replace my sponsor and represent it right and in a positive way, bring good results so the media talks about me and the sponsors can be visible.

Elisa Gasparin

Elisa Gasparin - 2018 Oberhof Biathlon World Cup - Sprint Women - Photo by Christian Bier

If you had a chance to speak on behalf of all professional biathletes at a meeting with brands, what would you say them for convincing these brands to sponsor biathletes?

In biathlon a lot is possible. It’s not like in other sports where always the same are winning, it’s really interesting in every race until the finish line who is the leader and with the shooting, it can change from one second to the other. And we have many spaces where we can represent the brands on clothes and rifle, biathlon is a very popular sport in Europe and we have many spectators at the races.

Do you have any advice for biathletes who want to pursue a professional career?

Do the sport because of passion! Don’t give up to fast!

What do you think about social media? How did it affect the popularity of biathlon?

This days social media is really important for athletes themselves and sponsors. The replacement of person and products can affect a lot of attention with good posts. But it shouldn't affect the main thing in sports.

How can our readers follow you?

Facebook (@www.gasparin.ch), Instagram (@elisagasparin), Gasparin Sisters Biathlon days in Winter which take place in Lenzerheide Biathlon Arena, at the biathlon arena in training, cheering at the races and support us.

What is next for you?

This week we travel to Lillehammer for the last preparations, then some days in Lenzerheide on snow and in 4 weeks the season starts. So now, it’s just the focus of staying healthy, do the last Steps and getting into race mood :)

Thank you Elisa for this enjoyable interview.

For more information, please click here and visit the website of Elisa Gasparin