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Team USA biathlete becomes a dad as he waits to compete at Olympics

The Winter Olympics are the second most exciting part of 2022 for biathlete Leif Nordgren.
/ Source: TODAY

Team USA biathlete Leif Nordgren left his home in November an Olympian and will return later this month with an even better title: Dad.

Nordgren's wife, Vermont NBC-5 meteorologist Caitlin Napoleoni, gave birth to their first child, a happy and healthy baby girl they have named Astrid Lynae Nordgren, the evening of February 6 at the very considerate Beijing hour of 8:55 a.m. Astrid weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces and 20 inches long, and her very excited and proud dad was able to be present with the help of FaceTime.

Nordgren and Napoleoni kept baby Astrid's gender a surprise until her birth.
Nordgren and Napoleoni kept baby Astrid's gender a surprise until her birth.Courtesy of the Nordgren Family

Nordgren hasn't been home in three months. While he and Napoleoni are used to his long absences for training and competitions, he left their home in Vermont this time with a heavier heart knowing what he would be missing.

When they discovered she was pregnant, the couple immediately did the math and realized she would be due in February, Napoleoni told TODAY Parents. But it wasn't until her first prenatal appointment that the doctor delivered the news that her due date would directly coincide with the Opening Ceremonies of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the event Nordgren had been training for over the past 14 years — his third Olympics after PyeongChang in 2018 and Sochi in 2014.

Athletes, especially those with Olympic dreams, are used to sacrificing for their sports, the couple said. It’s a sense of commitment they hope to pass on to their child.

That doesn't make it any easier for Nordgren, 32, to be far away during this big moment. Though he is getting to live the dream he has worked for in Beijing, "I'm actually excited to get the Olympics over with and get home, more than anything, I think," he said.

Nordgren said he is ready to compete, though. After leaving his first two Winter Games unhappy with his races, he would like to end his final Olympics and leave the sport on a good note.

The biathlon — which pairs cross-country skiing and rifle shooting — will consist of six events spread out over the next two weeks. Nordgren’s last definite race will be on February 15th, and the latest he will leave for home is the 18th.

"One of the nice things about biathlon is that so many different things can happen, both positive and negative, in so many different ways, that biathletes are very resilient and good at adapting to change," he said. "I just make sure to be in the moment and stay focused on the task at hand."

“He keeps telling me everything with the baby is mostly my job the first couple of weeks, anyway,” laughed Napoleoni.

"Obviously I wish I could be there and get to hold Astrid but it will be another week and a half or so and you know, then we can kind of start the rest of our lives together," Nordgren said.

Nordgren and Napoleoni met online and were engaged a year later and married the following winter in 2017. Both are from the Midwest — Nordgren from Minnesota, Napoleoni from the Chicago area — and grew up playing sports.

Nordgren, who serves in the Vermont National Guard when he isn't training and competing, said he was on skis by the age of 2, and he hopes to do the same with Astrid.

"Skiing is a great family sport and a great way to get kids interested in the outdoors and winter," he said.

Napoleoni is on board with that plan. "I love watching little skiers and snowboarders. I cannot believe little 2-year-olds can keep their balance so well. I see pictures and videos of our nieces and nephews, and some of them are better skiers than me!" she said. "If Leif has anything to do with it, our kids will be those kids too."

Nordgren and Napoleoni grew up playing a variety of sports, and they can't wait to get Astrid on skis.
Nordgren and Napoleoni grew up playing a variety of sports, and they can't wait to get Astrid on skis.Courtesy of the Nordgren Family

Skiing skills aren't the only thing Nordgren hopes Astrid will learn from him, though.

"To be at the Olympic level and go to the Olympics takes a lot of hard work," Nordgren said. "I think that's important — to know the value of hard work and to know that things don’t always turn out well. Sometimes, you're disappointed, but it's not the end of life, of course. There’s more to life, and you worked hard to get there and you can be proud of yourself for that."

Napoleoni hopes people will see their story and realize there is more to the story than what they see on television the next few weeks.

"To get to the level of his sport that Leif has, you have to put the work in and learn a lot about yourself and how to handle it when things go wrong," she said.

"A lot of people who participate in sports don’t get the glory and the fame, but they keep doing it because they are willing to make those sacrifices, and that’s just a huge part of everyday life, too. That attitude will help us when we are raising our children," she said.

"I hope people realize that it’s more than just showing up and getting medals. I hope people see that part of it when they watch the Olympics. We'll make sure our kids understand that."