Minnesotan Leif Nordgren competes in Sochi

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - It's been said that great athletes are born, not made. In the case of Leif Nordgren, both are true.

Leif's earliest memory of skiing goes back to age three. The youngest of four children, he tagged along on family ski outings near their home in Colorado.

But it wasn't until the Nordgren's made a move that Leif realized his calling.

"Once we moved to Minnesota, you know you can go skiing five miles down the road, so it was way easier to ski everyday," said Nordgren.

It was Leif's sister Sonne who talked him into trying the sport of biathlon, but at first, Leif was hesitant.

"It always seemed like it was really cold, and so when you're little and on the mat trying to shoot and your hands are freezing off, it's maybe not to exciting then," said Nordgren.

But Leif stuck with it, and by the time he hit high school, he was hooked.

"I remember the first national team camp that he came home from, it was a spring ski camp and he was 17, probably 18, and I said, 'well what did you learn?' and he said, 'I learned how to ski'," said Leif's father Carl Nordgren.

Leif's deep rooted love of skiing grew into a passion for one of the toughest winter Olympic sports. Biathlon is as much a mind game as it is a physical test of endurance.

"You can be in 20th place coming into a shooting stage and miss a couple of targets, target, and then you can be in 50th place," explained Leif.

"One shot can just totally ruin somebody's race, or one shot or two shots can make somebody's race, too. It's very nerve wracking," said Leif's mother, Sue Nordgren.

At age 24, Leif is the youngest on the U.S. team.

"Realistically, you don't hit your peak in biathlon until you're in your late 20's or late 30's, so in that case, I'm kind of on the young side," said Leif.

The Road to Sochi for Team USA has been a grueling one, with regular 4-7 hour daily training sessions in all types of weather. But this young Olympian isn't looking back.

"It's something I've been dreaming about since I was a little kid, growing up watching skiing on TV," said Leif. "And so now that it's here, maybe the chances of me winning a medal are slim, but anything can happen."


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