Max Cobb fell in love with biathlon at an early age. The problem? “I wasn’t any good at it,” he says with a chuckle. But in a classic case of those who can’t do, teach, Cobb—U.S. Biathlon’s president and CEO—is now the country’s face of the sport.
The position, which he assumed in 2010, was a reflection of all Cobb had done since joining the U.S. Biathlon Association in 1989. However, what he’s accomplished in the past seven years is remarkable, and it appears the best may be yet to come.
The U.S. biathlon team enjoyed its best season by far this year. Lowell Bailey became the first American biathlete to win the world title. Susan Dunklee won silver, making her the first U.S. woman to capture an individual medal at the world championships.
Should either win gold at the 2018 Olympics, it would be a crowning achievement for Cobb. Marching with the U.S. Olympic team during the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Albertville Games remains of Cobb’s lasting memories. “It was a pivotal experience in my career,” says Cobb, who was then a member of the national team’s coaching staff. “I realized what the Olympic movement was about. It was inspiring.”
Cobb’s rise from his days on Dartmouth’s club team is impressive. What he thought would be a nice job before graduate school has become a career in one of the world’s most popular winter sports. In this country, though, biathlon lags behind figure skating, downhill skiing, hockey “and just about everything,” Cobb admits.
To boost biathlon’s presence, Cobb assisted in bringing two world-class facilities to Maine. Additional resources are being poured into the development of younger athletes like Dunklee and Sean Doherty, the all-time leader in individual medals on the junior circuit. U.S. Biathlon is targeting cross-country skiers with the idea that shooting—the other skill required in the sport—can be taught at an older age.
Cobb says his “myopic experience” with biathlon both helps and hurts in his leadership role. He says he has learned much from other USOC executives who have worked in multiple sports and industries. But there’s replacing his team on the snow. “My direct background in the sport helps me every day,” he says.