Ever since 30 for 30 podcasts launched back in 2017, I have been hooked. These incredible podcasts are audio journeys into some of the most amazing and little-known sports stories ever. If you’re a fan of the 30 for 30 documentaries on ESPN, you’re sure to enjoy these podcasts as well.
The latest podcast in the series is titled “Out of the Woods” and focuses on world-class biathlete Kari Swenson and the traumatic experience she had with two men in the woods of Montana that changed the trajectory of her life forever.
Before listening to the podcast or even reading this review, you should know that the story centers around an act of violence and the traumatic fallout from it. In fact, the same warning is issued before the podcast starts. If that doesn’t seem like something you can handle, you may want to skip this podcast.
One day, when Swenson was at the peak of her athletic prowess, she set out into the mountains of Montana alone for a jog. While she was out, she encountered two men who grabbed her and told her they planned to keep her with them in the mountains until she decided to stay there with them.
After some time being bound to a tree, she heard potential rescuers approaching and began calling out to them. An altercation ensued that resulted in Swenson being shot, another man being shot and killed and Swenson’s captors getting away, leaving her behind. She was able to survive her wound thanks to her breathing techniques from training for the biathlon and was eventually rescued and brought to a hospital where she made a full recovery.
This podcast tells such a dark and compelling story that you completely forget its ties to the world of sports. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because the story is, as I said, very compelling. Still, I did find myself asking why this is being done on 30 for 30 before reminding myself that Swenson was a wold-class athlete.
Then, when the story eventually does find its way back to the world of sports, it all comes together. Hearing a crowd in Norway chant Swenson’s name, the name of an American athlete, is one of those incredibly powerful moments that can only be created by sports. That only gets topped by one of the other athletes pulling Swenson onto the medal stand, allowing her to celebrate her final race despite not winning a medal herself.
Again, this podcast contains some very emotionally heavy content. It features interviews with Swenson recalling the traumatic experience as well as the daughter of Alan Goldstein, the man who was killed attempting to rescue Swenson. Obviously, those interviews are necessary for a story like this, but they can certainly be a bit difficult to listen to at times.
Once again, 30 for 30 podcasts tell another incredible, albeit very dark, story based around the world of sports. This isn’t my favorite episode of the series, but it is absolutely another thrilling listen from the amazingly talented team at ESPN.
“Out of the Woods” is available now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.