Raubichi 2015: The Joy of Juniors!

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The Junior Men and Women had to wait a day longer than the Youths to start their competition in Raubichi and it was lucky for them as the conditions were better than the first days racing. The Women got us underway in the Individual with an early start and it was the Ukraine who came out on top. Yuliya Zhurakov shot the perfect score and took gold but only by 0.2 of a second from Poland’s Kinga Mitoraj. She also shot clear to take silver and was maybe at a disadvantage starting bib 3 so that Zhurakov could get her timings having started later and knew she had to push hard. In third was Kazakhstan’s Galina Vishnevskaya who missed 1 shot. If she had shot clean she would have won as she was only 30 second behind the winner. Two Swedish women made it into the Top 15 with Linn Persson in 12th and Hanna Öberg in 13th which is a good boost for the team.

In the Men’s race France’s pocket rocket Aristide Begue won the Individual again! He loves this race! His shooting was outstanding with 20/20 and he managed to hold off the challenge from Russia’s Alexsandr Dediukhin by 3 seconds. In third was Norway’s Vemund Gurigard who also shot zero. Begue’s teammate Emilien Jacquelin was 4th missing one shot which prevented him making the podium. Great Britain’s Scott Dixon also just missed the one target finishing 18th in a high quality field. In fact the level of the biathletes in the Men’s Junior field is quite incredible. Some of the shooting in the race was fantastic not just for the accuracy but also the speed under real pressure. I thought Johannes Boe was a top shooter when it came to speed but looking at Begue, Dediukhin, Jacquelin and Gurigard I think he still has work to do!;-)

It was over to the Junior French Women on Saturday to continue their country’s success. Lena Arnaud won the Sprint race by 2.4 seconds from Galina Vishnevskaya who added silver to her bronze from the Individual. Chloe Chevalier added to France’s medals by winning bronze. The race was characterised by excellent shooting as the Top 6 all shot 10/10. It then came down to ski speed with Arnaud proving the fastest on the day. In the Men’s Sprint Alexsandr Dediukhin recovered very well from his exertions in the Individual to come home in first and claim the gold medal. Unlike in the women’s race he was the only one in the Top 20 to shoot the perfect score and so was a deserving winner. In second came France again but this time it was Fabien Claude who won silver. Taking the bronze was America’s Sean Doherty who got his first medal after moving up from the Youth category. Canada’s Aiden Miller impressed by getting his best finish of 8th and it was also good to see a Croatian biathlete doing well when Kresimir Crnkovic finished in 12th position.

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Both of the Pursuits took place on Sunday and we got our first German medal of the Championships. Marie Heinrich shot clean to win her first gold ahead of Vishnevskaya who took silver and has won a medal in every race. In bronze position was Yulila Zhuravok who added to her Individual gold. In the Men’s Pursuit Russia got back on the top step of the podium with Eduard Latypov taking gold ahead of Vemund Gurigard in silver and teammate Alexander Povarnitsyn who won bronze.

The final day of competition on Tuesday morning was for the Relays. The Junior Women were first and a very impressive French team won the gold medal. Chloe Chevalier, Julia Simon and Lena Arnaud only needed 6 spare rounds to win and finished 27 seconds ahead of second placed Russia. The Russian team of Victoria Slivko, Natalia Gerbulova and Uliana Kaisheva only used 7 spares themselves but couldn’t make up the time on the tracks. In bronze medal position were Germany whose team of Anna Weidel, Helene Terese Hendel and Marie Heinrich finished over 1 minute 30 seconds down on France who led from start to finish. The Swedish team came fourth with a penalty loop meaning they couldn’t reach the podium. The Norwegian team in 8th only used 7 spares like the teams in second and third but were over 3 minutes off the pace which must be a worry for their selectors.

The Men’s race was won by a really strong Russian team of Dediukhin, Viktor Tretiakov, Latypov and Povarnitsyn. Silver medal went to Norway who had a team of Andreas Kvam, Henrik Sagosen Smeby, Aslak Nenseter and Vemund Gurigard. They used 5 spare rounds to the Russians 4 but where still 1 minute 12 off the time of the winners. In third was France with Aristide Begue, Felix Cottet Puinel, Emilien Jacquelin and Fabien Claude. They used a total of 8 spares and finished 10 seconds behind the Norwegians.

What are the conclusions from the Junior World Championships? Firstly France are in really good shape and have an impressive Junior squad. They come away from Raubichi with 6 medals,three from the men and three from the women. Russia also have a strong squad and a star in the making in Dediukhin who is a fast skier and an excellent shot. The Norwegian men’s team look promising but the women’s side have a lot of work in front of them to match the high standards expected by their country. On the other hand it was great to see the Swedish women do well. They just missed out on the medals but after the criticism they have had in recent years it’s good to see some improvement from them. Individually it was a good Championships for Galina Vishnevskaya who won two silvers and a bronze, Lena Arnaud with 2 golds and obviously Dediukhin who won two golds and a silver.

There will be many happy biathletes leaving Raubichi having achieved their targets or even exceeded them. Equally there will be those who are disappointed and frustrated at their performances. The Junior category has an amazingly high standard of competitor this year especially in the men’s field. Some of the biathletes know just how hard it is to compete at this level and others will have gotten a massive shock at just how good the guys and girls are at Junior level. They will all be taking something away from these Championships whether it be medals or just the drive and motivation to train harder and practise more to come back stronger next year. That is the Joy of Juniors!

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