When you think about Australia the first things that come to mind are sun, sea, sand, barbeques, corks on hats and deadly animals. If you think about Australian sport you might come up with Aussies Rules, Rugby Union, cricket and surfing. What doesn’t immediately spring to mind though is biathlon.
Biathlon I hear you cry! But it doesn’t even snow in Australia so how can they do biathlon? Well it does and they do! Not only that but they also have athletes who compete on the IBU World Cup. One in particular made history last season by becoming the first Australian male biathlete to finish in the Top 40 and score World Cup points. His name is Alex Almoukov.
Yes I know what you are thinking, Almoukov? Isn’t that a Russian name? Well of course it is and in fact Alex was born in Russia in Solobo to Russian parents and moved to Australia when he was six. Let’s face it it’s no bad thing to be Russian if you want to do biathlon! But he competes for Australia and considers it his home having spent the majority of his life there.
The 23 year old has recently graduated from University and is a fellow WordPress blogger. You can follow him here and on Facebook. It is an interesting insight into how the other half live. By the other half I mean the biathletes who struggle to get sponsorship and funding rather than the more fortunate who get a lot of support (you can find them at the top of all the standings!). It’s not easy when you compete for one of the countries whose Winter Sports teams are not well supported. Travel costs are high as are equipment costs especially ammunition.
Alex seems to progressing really well despite all of these hardships. He took part in the last Olympics and has shown good improvement especially in the Individual event. However it’s not easy to gain experience on the World Cup circuit as competition is fierce and chances to race are limited due to only the Top 60 or Top 30 being able to start the Pursuit and Mass-Start respectively.
This year the Australian team have been able to go to Russia for some summer training which will be a great help. Unfortunately if you are an Australian biathlete you tend to live in eternal winter. You spend winter in Europe competing and go home where it’s winter again. On the plus side you can spend the “summer” training skiing on real snow in Australia in places like Whisky Flats rather than on roller skis.
So what about next season for Alex? Well he did pretty well in Sochi last season so I am sure he will want to improve on his placing there in the Olympics. A good season for him I think will be to build on his progress from last year and try to break into the Top 40 more often. So next time you are watching biathlon look out for Alex and cheer on The Blizzard of Oz!
You can find Alex on Facebook or read his blog http://almoukov.wordpress.com.
For more information on Australian biathlon see http://www.biathlon.asn.au/
Don’t forget you can like biathlon 23 on Facebook!