Vermont's Redman stands willing to trade biathlon rifle for an M-16

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawton Redman is one of America's best winter athletes, expected to earn a spot on the U.S. biathlon team for the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Redman also is one of America's highly trained soldiers, a sergeant in a Vermont National Guard mountain infantry unit.

And depending on what happens in the expected military campaign against terrorism, he knows he might be far away when the Winter Games are set to begin next February.

''I've improved really fast in biathlon over a short period of time, but if a full-scale conflict erupts, I wouldn't have a problem leaving sports behind,'' he said Monday.

Redman is the reigning national champion in biathlon, where competitors race on cross-country skis and then, with their muscles pulsing from the workout, stop at a firing range to shoot targets.

He competes under the Army's world-class athlete program, which allows soldiers with top potential to train for the world championships or the Olympics while still receiving military pay.

The U.S. biathlon team has more members, nine, in the Army program than any other winter sport. The bobsled team has four soldier-athletes, and the program also sponsors athletes in boxing, track and other sports.

The catch, of course, is that the athletes are still soldiers. That means they can be called to military action.

''Absolutely no problem,'' said Redman, of Florence, Vt. ''I'd go. That's a responsibility that all soldier-athletes accept when they enlist in the military. If the country needs our help, then we'll be more than happy to do it.''

On the American biathlon team, the possibility of deployment isn't something the athletes are dwelling on, but it's a concern.

''It's a little unnerving to know your teammates face a possibility of being called up,'' said David Gieck of Jackson, Wyo., a civilian biathlete. ''Having friends shipped off to serve is scary.''

They spoke during a news conference at Salt Lake Organizing Committee headquarters, where five athletes described how the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had affected their lives.

They're all back in training now, trying to resume their routines leading up to the games Feb. 8 to 24.

''My family bought their flights to the Olympics two days ago,'' bobsled driver Jean Racine said. ''They want to be here, and they're not going to let terrorists decide whether they're here or not.''

Olympic officials have pledged the games will go on, although their $200 million security plan is being re-evaluated. Chief organizer Mitt Romney would not specify the improvements Monday.

Redman hopes he's in Utah to compete.

''It's difficult to say if I'll have to go,'' he said. ''I've been trying to follow the news, but I don't know what's going on in the bowels of the Pentagon. I think it's safe to say it's not going to be a conventional conflict.''



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