Kari Swenson

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Kari Swenson
Personal information
Born 1962 (age 54–55)
Occupation Biathlete, veterinarian
Sport Biathlon

Kari Swenson (born 1962) is an American former biathlete. In 1984, she was a member of the bronze medal-winning U.S. relay team at the first women's Biathlon World Championships in Chamonix, France. She placed fifth overall in the women's 10-km final, the best ever for a U.S. biathlete of either sex in 26 years of international biathlon competition at that time.[1]


In 1970, when Swenson was eight, the family moved from a suburb of Philadelphia, where her father headed Temple University's physics department, to Bozeman, Montana.[2][dead link]


On July 15, 1984, Swenson was abducted near Big Sky, Montana, during a training run on her favorite cross-country route.[1] She was held captive for over 18 hours, most of it spent chained to a tree. A search party was organized when she was overdue.[citation needed]

Swenson had been abducted by father-and-son pair Don and Dan Nichols, two survivalists who had designs to make Swenson the son's bride and start a family in the mountains. Alan Goldstein, a friend of Swenson's who was part of a search party looking for her, stumbled onto the Nichols' camp and was killed by Don Nichols. Swenson was shot through a lung by Dan Nichols when his gun accidentally discharged. The Nicholses subsequently abandoned their camp, leaving Swenson chained to a tree. She sat alone with her dead friend for over four hours before being discovered by the posse.[citation needed]

The Nicholses evaded capture until December 1984. Both men were eventually tried separately in Virginia City by prosecutor Marc Racicot. In May 1985, Dan Nichols was sentenced to 20 years for kidnapping and misdemeanor assault. In September 1985, Don Nichols was sentenced to 115 years for kidnapping, murder, and aggravated assault. Dan Nichols was released on parole in 1991. Dan Nichols was again in trouble with the law in 2011 when he was allegedly caught with marijuana that he intended to sell at a concert. [3] In May 2012, Dan Nichols was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service.[4] On April 27, 2017, Don Nichols was released on parole after serving just over 30 years of his sentence. Parole Board members Sandy Heaton and Mary Kay Puckett granted his parole. It was the fourth time Nichols had been up for parole. [5]

Biathlon World Championships[edit]

Swenson completed physical rehabilitation in time to compete in the Women's Biathlon World Championships in Chamonix, France. Despite having only 80% lung capacity, Swenson led the U.S. Team to a bronze medal in the 3 x 5 km relay, and finished fifth in the 10 km biathlon.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

Swenson works as a veterinarian in Bozeman, Montana.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

A made-for-TV movie starring Tracy Pollan (The Abduction of Kari Swenson) was made about the incident. Swenson served as technical adviser and filmed her own ski sequences.[7]

Swenson's story was featured on Investigation Discovery's TV series Your Worst Nightmare. This Season 3, Episode 9 program is titled "Into the Wild" and premiered on 11 February 2017.


  1. ^ a b Jones, Robert F. (1985-03-18). "Terror in the Wilderness". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 2012-10-05. 
  2. ^ Tribune Staff. "125 Montana Newsmakers: Don and Dan Nichols". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Notorious 'mountain man' from 1980s is up for parole". Tampa Bay Times. Associated Press. 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2016-06-26. 
  4. ^ Volz, Matt (2012-05-23). "Marshals: 'Mountain man' didn't turn self in". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. Retrieved 2016-06-26. 
  5. ^ ""Mountain Man" granted parole in murder, kidnapping case". MTN, News. 2017-04-27. 
  6. ^ Swenson, Kari (2012-04-25). "Kari Swenson speaks out: Nichols still a threat, still belongs in prison". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 2016-06-26. 
  7. ^ "A Made-for-Television Movie Brings Biathlete Kari Swenson Face-to-Face with Her Past". People.com. 27 (11). 1987-03-16. Retrieved 2016-06-26.