Healthy Directions

Paul Kulas' Success Story

From Fitness Fanatic to Canadian Competitor

Biathlon Alberta sanctions Power Systems employee, who earns three medals at Nationals

May 03 - Paul Kulas' lifelong pursuit of fitness led him to the performance of a lifetime; he earned two silver medals and a bronze medal as a member of Alberta's Nationals Biathlon Team at the Canadian Nationals Biathlon Championships. He competed in the Masters Division (35+) against Canada's top 10 Masters as part of a field that included members of the 2010 Winter Olympic team.

It all started when members of John Deere Power Systems' SAP implementation team were working at John Deere Reman - Edmonton. The project offered a rare chance for Paul to fulfill a dream. He recalls, "I had always wanted to ski the biathlon course at Canmore, the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics. I had to join a biathlon club to satisfy firearm regulations, and that is what got the ball rolling. The club let me know of some events going on and invited me to participate." Hoping to turn in competitive times in two Canadian Cup races, Paul won one event and was selected to be on the Alberta National's Team. Because of his work in Edmonton, Biathlon Alberta sanctioned Paul to represent them in the National Championships.

Winning a Canadian Cup race wasn't a fluke. Paul became interested in biathlon after watching the Calgary Olympics in 1988. He states, "The Americans really struggled and despite never having shot a firearm, I thought I could do better. The next week, my father-in-law taught me how to shoot." Within 12 months, Paul ranked in the United States' Top 20. Despite lots of hard work, he fell short of making the 1992 US Olympic Team. Most recently, Paul has participated in triathlons, pushing himself to become more competitive. Training an average of ten hours per week over the course of the year meant Paul was fit for the challenge. Despite 18 years with no biathlon experience since 1992, Paul enjoyed being around world-class athletes. "Canada's biathletes are all very fit and very driven. They had some excellent results in Vancouver, and they had some great stories from the Olympics. It was definitely a case of working hard and playing hard."

The Edmonton project was not the first international SAP assignment for Paul and his team. With their help, Industrias John Deere Argentina - Rosario went live on May 4, 2009. International travel doesn't interfere with Paul's exercise regimen. He considers it an interesting change in scenery that keeps his routine from becoming, well, routine. He comments on how he maintained discipline for the Biathlon, "I've been active my entire life, so training's just something that I like to do. It did take a bit to get into a 5:00 AM workout routine, and the first couple of mornings was an internal battle. Believing that my competitors were also getting up at 5:00 to train drove me to do the same. It sounds silly, but it worked." Paul's approach to fitness carries into how he works. He says, "Some of the benefits have been in time management, setting objectives, and achieving deliverables. I see a direct correlation between successful planning and execution in my job as in an athletic endeavor. Good results require a step by step plan and the discipline to stick with that plan. Unexpected variables will also occur, so visualizing and preparing for alternatives is important to be successful."

6K Sprint: Silver Medalist
The 6K sprint consists of a 2K ski loop, followed by 5 shots prone, another 2K ski loop, then 5 shots standing, and ends with a 2K ski loop. Targets are 50 meters away; prone targets are the size of a silver dollar and standing targets the size of a grapefruit. Each miss added a 150 meter penalty loop to be skied before starting the next loop. At the finish line, Paul hit 8 of 10 targets and trailed the winner by just 9 seconds; the third place medalist crossed 14 seconds later.

10K Individual: Silver Medalist
The 10K Individual consists of circling a 2K loop five times with four shooting rounds. Each miss added a one minute penalty to the elapsed ski time, so accuracy on the range is more important than being the fastest skier.

The 10K Individual event took place the day after the 6K Sprint. In the end, Paul hit 13 of 20 shots, not the kind of accuracy it takes to win a National Championship, but when combined some good skiing, it was enough to take another silver medal. The gold medalist won the race with by shooting 16 of 20 and finishing nearly 4 minutes ahead of Paul, whose time included 3 penalty minutes. The bronze medalist followed a little over a minute behind despite shooting 15 of 20.

7.5K Pursuit: Bronze Medalist
Following a day of rest, the final event was the epitome of the biathlon. The Pursuit race has competitors starting in the order according to finish place in the Sprint race. As Paul was second in the Sprint race, he started 2nd, 5 seconds behind the winner, with the 3rd place finisher starting 5 seconds behind him. The course is a 1.5K loop 5 times with 4 shooting rounds. Each miss results in a 150 meter penalty lap.

From the start, it was a tight race. Paul skied stride for stride with his closest competitors going into the final shooting station. Tied after 2 prone rounds and the first of two standing rounds, the final shooting would determine medal color. But mental fatigue led to a hitting only 2 of 5 shots, and a bronze medal.