Kari Swenson

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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]

On July 15, 1984, Swenson was abducted near Big Sky, Montana, during a training run on her favorite cross-country route.[3] 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 experienced survivalists who had designs to make Swenson the son's bride and start a family in the mountains. A friend of hers, Alan Goldstein, accidentally stumbled onto the Nichols camp and was killed by Don Nichols, and Swenson was shot through a lung by Dan Nichols. Spooked by the turn of events, the two Nicholses 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 and remains in prison. Dan Nichols was released on parole in 1991.[4] 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.[5] In May 2012, Dan Nichols was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service.[6]

Swenson completed physical rehabilitation in time to compete in the world championships, winning a bronze medal despite having only 80% lung capacity.

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]