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By 1st Lt. Nathan Rivard
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
Vermont Air National Guard Master Sgt. Travis Voyer added to an award-winning year of Vermont National Guardsmen biathletes by being named the U.S. Biathlon Coach of the Year.
“It felt really good because it’s the other coaches voting and its recognition from your peers. It made me feel warm and fuzzy,” laughed Voyer. “I’ve coached a long time, but only head coach for five years. It made the last five years at the helm good. I’ve put in a lot of hard work throughout the years and it’s nice to feel that from your peers.”
While Voyer appreciates receiving the honor of being named Coach of the Year, his focus is on developing athletes. He has been coaching the sport of biathlon for 18 years and he imagines he has worked with more than 80 athletes on the development side.
“What’s the best feeling as a coach? It’s easy, as a coach with the Soldier-athletes, watching them succeed in their military career and ski tracks,” said Voyer. “In past 5 years as head coach, we changed the way we approach the military side and biathlon side, that’s the best part. The success in both careers is amazing. I’m thinking about the 10 athletes we currently have; we have four who are now Sgts.”
He also recommended getting the ‘travel bug’ while young and when people’s bodies bounce back quicker.
“Traveling while old sucks, but as a young Airmen, being able to travel was amazing,” laughed Voyer. “Argentina and Chile around 15 times and just about everywhere in Europe and Scandinavia. Traveling was a big deal and I was able to do a lot of it.”
Voyer has 26-years of military service and is currently serving in the Vermont Air National Guard with the 158th Logistics Readiness Squadron. This most recent Olympics was an event he saw as possibly one of the most influential for U.S. Biathlon.
“This winter Olympics, we had four Vermont National Guard Soldiers on team and the big springboard is one of our two females, Sgt. Deedra Irwin getting a 7th place in her first individual race, she was one shot away from a bronze or silver medal,” said Voyer. “This past Olympics, we had more Olympians than we’ve had since 90’s, it’s truly special.”
That 7th place finish was the best finish an American has ever placed in biathlon at the Olympics. That team growth was also a direct impact from the recruiting Voyer has put into the team.
“Master Sgt. Voyer’s commitment to his craft has enabled him to grow the National Guard Biathlon Team during his tenure,” said U.S. Army Maj. Kevin Elmer, the National Guard biathlon coordinator. “The year he took over as head coach of the team the National Guard provided just 6% of the U.S. National Biathlon Team members. Currently, we provide 37% of the US National Team, and that number is likely to continue to grow.”
Looking to the future, Voyer is hopeful for what the athletes will accomplish.
“It’s been fun to have support and it’s been a lot more fun lately. Some biathletes decided to join the National Guard and it’s been good. We can keep it up. I have around three years left of military service and I’m hoping to see the team reach something better than 7th place at the Olympics.”