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Sven Jonsson, two-time silver medalist and member of the Swedish Biathlon team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is setting his sights on winning gold this weekend. But he’s not just relying on world-class training, fifteen years of experience, and the best equipment that money can buy–knowing that 90% of winning is mental, the athlete has a few tricks up his sleeve that he thinks will give him the edge.

Sports psychology has become entrenched in big-time athletics, and biathlon is no exception. Jonsson has Ken di Nuovo, who helped coach Brazil to World Cup Soccer success in 2002, on his team.  He’s expected to help Jonsson stay within himself and envision success in this grueling sport.  But it’s Jonsson’s other coach who’s drawing the most attention: the late Baron Wolfgang Hohenzoller von Hesse, famed big-game hunter notorious for his pursuit of “the most dangerous game.”  Before his mysterious disappearance last year, the reclusive and eccentric billionaire reportedly worked with Jonsson on von Hesse’s 30,000 acre private island in the Baltic Sea, in particular helping to hone his shooting skills.

“Biathlon, being a combination of cross-country skiing and marksmanship, demands a lot from an athlete,” Jonsson relates, “And I have always been a strong skier, with a tenacious ability to dig deep for that extra burst of speed or endurance, but it is physically taxing, and I had been having trouble keeping that same focus when it came to my shooting.  Then, when I washed ashore on his island after my sailboat sank, I met the Baron, and he instilled in me, over the course of a nightmarish weekend which cost the lives of my best friend as well as my fiance, the proper motivation to not only travel fast and light, but to make sure that every shot from my rifle counted.

“Yes… he meant to teach me something about embracing life, I think, and what the human spirit is capable of when faced with a life-or-death proposition.  At first I wouldn’t accept his methods, but when the woman you intend to marry dies in your arms because she couldn’t ski fast enough or aim steadily… well, one learns quickly.  Now, even if the skiing has exhausted me, and I feel about to give up, I never miss a shot… this I promise you, my friend.”

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