All posts by biathlon23

Gold in her Zaits?

zaitseva

It’s a huge year for all the Russian biathletes but Olga Zaitseva probably has a little bit more pressure on her shoulders than the others. She is by far the most experienced biathlete in the team and she was the top female Russian in the Total Score last year coming 11th overall. Therefore the team will be looking to her to deliver medals in Sochi.

Olga Alekseyevna Zaitseva was born on May 16th, 1978 in Moscow. She began her career in 1994 and has won 2 Olympic gold medals, both in the relay, and a silver in the Mass Start in Vancouver. In the World Championships she has 3 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals.

However a pretty dismal display in last year’s World Championship by the Russian team (with the exception of Shipulin) doesn’t bode very well for their chances in Sochi. Surely next season is all about peaking for Sochi and I would have though the World Championships would be the perfect practice for getting that right. In the end it meant the sacking of yet another coach, the third in 3 years for the Russian Biathlon Union.

So what does this mean for Olga? Well she has the hopes of a nation on her shoulders and she showed quite good form in Sochi back in March when she was second in the Individual event. A first place in Oberhof in the Pursuit and a third place in the Mass Start in Ruhpolding means she is capable of beating the other women on any given day. The biggest hurdle will be producing the performance when it counts – at her home Olympics.

At the moment it looks as if Russia’s best chance for gold will come in the relay events but if Olga can produce her top form next February she will also have a chance of an individual medal possibly in the 15km Individual or the Mass Start. Whatever my assessment of her chances I’m sure that Olga definitely has gold in her Zaits!

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Bjørn winner!

bjorndalen

What can you write about Ole Einar Bjørndalen that hasn’t already been said? The man is a legend! He is the King of Biathlon and the best biathlete of all time. He has won about a million medals in his 100 year career (slight exaggeration but it feels like that sometimes!)

Ole Einar Bjørndalen was born in Drammen, Norway on the 27th January 1974 although he now lives in Austria. He won his first junior medal in 1992 and made his debut on the World Cup in 1993. To cut a long story short he then went on to win everything there is to win! He has a record 11 Olympics medals in biathlon, he has won the overall title six times and has more World Championship medals than he knows what to do with!

An unbelievable career which will culminate in his last ever biathlon season this year. He has announced that he will hang up his biathlon skis at the end of this season after competing in his 6th Olympic Games. He will be 40 years old by the time Sochi comes around and if he keeps his fitness up he will surely be able to add to his medals haul in the Norwegian relay team.

Strangely for an older athlete Bjørndalen has maintained his ski speed but seems to have suffered more with his shooting. Really you would expect the opposite to happen, the legs to go before the eyes. Hopefully he will maintain this for next year but unfortunately I can’t see him winning any individual races. The likes of Fourcade, Svendsen, Bø and Shipulin are just too strong for Ole to compete with now.

What I would love though is for someone to fire up the flux capacitor and get the DeLorean to take these guys back to around 2002 and see them compete against Bjørndalen at his best. What a race that would be! And you could even throw in Raphaël Poirée and Sven Fischer just to add some more spice! However until time travel is actually invented it will just have to be raced in my head, but who would win?

Well you can’t look past Bjørndalen. At his peak I think he could beat anyone past or present. After all he is a Bjørn winner!

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Happy Henkel!

henkel

Finishing 3rd in the Total Score was a happy surprise for both Andrea Henkel and us last season. The 35 year old, who has been competing in biathlon since 1998, managed to reach third place overall by only making the podium 4 times and never winning a race. Experience and a coolness under pressure meant she was more consistent and scored more points than the majority of her competitors.

Andrea Henkel was born on December 10, 1977 in Ilmenau, Germany. She is the younger sister of Manuela Henkel, a successful cross-country skier and girlfriend of fellow biathlete Tim Burke. Like many biathletes she started out as a cross-country skier but changed to biathlon when it became an Olympic sport. This proved to be a wise decision for Andrea. She has won 4 Olympic medals so far; a gold in the 15km individual in 2002 and a gold, silver and bronze in successive Games in the relay event.

She has also produced some remarkable results on the World Cup. It only took until her second year of competition to win her first event and she took the overall title in the 2006/07 season. The World Championships have also been a happy hunting ground for Henkel. She was the first biathlete to become World Champion in each individual event and has a total haul of 8 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze medals. This includes the silver she won in Nove Mesto in the Individual event matching her boyfriend Tim’s result in the men’s race.

Andrea currently writes a blog on the IBU website which is a great insight into the athletes training as well as her analysis of her own performances last year and some amusing little travel stories. She also has her own website http://www.andrea-henkel.de and page on Facebook (Andrea Henkel Biathlon) making Andrea one of the most accessible and interesting biathletes around.

In her own analysis of last season she said that her skiing improved during the year but her shooting, especially the final shoot, was not up to her previous standards. Personally I think this is one of the most important parts in biathlon. How you deal with the pressure coming into the final shoot, especially in a close race, can mean the difference between finishing on the podium and dropping outside the points. In previous years Andrea was very good in the final shoot and if she can regain this skill for next season she will have a good chance of medalling in Sochi and making another Top 3 finish in the Total Score.

Andrea turns 36 before the Olympics and obviously this will make winning more difficult but it seems in women’s biathlon at least the older you get the better you become like Berger and Zaitseva. So don’t be surprised if we see a very Happy Henkel appearing somewhere on a podium in Sochi next year!

Good luck Andrea!


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Bye, Bye Berger!

berger

Rumour has it that Tora Berger is going to retire after next season. She has let it be known that after this Olympic season she will hang up her skis for good. If she does stick to her decision she will be sorely missed.

Tora Berger was born on 18 March 1981 in Ringerike, Norway but she grew up in Lesja with her older brother Lars. She married her high school sweetheart in 2010 and lives in Meråker with her husband and 2 dogs. Away from biathlon Tora enjoys hunting, fishing, knitting and reading crime novels.

Tora has been competing in biathlon as a member of the Norwegian women’s team since 1999. However it has only been in the latter stages of her career that she has been successful. Somewhat surprisingly Berger had never been a World Cup winner either overall or in any of the individual disciplines until the end of the 2011/12 season.

However last season made up for that! Winning 11 races, being on the podium 19 times, winning all the Chrystal Globes, the Nation’s Cup for the women, the mixed and women’s relay titles on the World Cup was only part of a stellar season for Tora. In Nove Mesto she became the first biathlete to win 6 medals(4 gold and 2 silver) at a single World Championships, as well as the first woman to defend the 15km individual title.

So it’s no wonder she wants to retire, it’s going to be very hard to top last season’s amazing results! Luckily for Tora her final season includes the Sochi Olympics and provides probably the only way of topping last season by winning Olympic gold. Of course Tora being Tora she already has an Olympic gold medal from Vancouver in 15km individual. I’m sure she is hoping to go out on a high by defending that title and winning some more for good measure.

She will however be another year older and faces some stiff competition from the other female biathletes. But if she keeps up the amazing consistency from this past season I wouldn’t bet against her saying “bye, bye” to biathlon with a bunch of medals in her hand.

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Simon Four-midable!

simon fourcade2

Biathlon23 tries not to show any favouritism because I really like all the biathletes but I am going to make an exception for Simon Fourcade. He has to be one of my favourite biathletes. Not because he is the fastest skier or the best shot or the most successful but because he is the most enthusiastic. Every time you see him in an interview talking about biathlon you can see the twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face and you can see how much he loves the sport. You can also tell what an incredible competitor he is when you see a very different look on his face if he performs badly. These are the type of sportsmen I like the most. Not the ones who do it for money or fame but for a genuine love of what they do.

Simon Fourcade was born in Perpignan on the 25th of April 1984. As a youngster his family moved to Céret and that is where he discovered his love of sport. He practised Judo and also ice hockey before discovering biathlon at the age of 10. He became a member of the French National team in 2001 and he is also a non-commissioned officer in the French Army.

His greatest biathlon successes to date must be winning the Chrystal Globe in the Individual event in the 2011/12 season along with a gold medal in the mixed relay in the 2009 World Championships, a silver in the Individual event in Ruhpolding and 2 silver medals in the men’s relay event at successive World Championships.

Last season was disrupted by an operation for compartmental syndrome on his leg and so we didn’t see his best results until the end of the season where he again got to share a podium with his younger brother Martin. 2013 also saw his acting debut playing James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Biathlon. He’s done a bit of modelling and showed off some of his dance moves at the end of season parties so he has plenty of options post biathlon!

But back to the present. This season we have the Olympics in Sochi but for someone who lists kebabs among his likes on his website I’m not sure how good Simon’s chances will be!!Joking aside his best chance of a medal may again come in the relays but I have a feeling he could do something in the Individual event too. Whatever happens next season the other biathletes will find him four-midable, Simon Four-midable!

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“Dash”ing through the snow!

dasha

It might feel like she has been around forever but Belarusian biathlete Darya “Dasha” Domracheva is still only 26 years old! She has been competing in the Biathlon World Cup since 2005 and is therefore one of the most experienced female biathletes currently competing.

She was born in Minsk in 1986 and when she was four Darya moved to Nyagan, in Siberia. In a newly created town there was little fun to be had apart from cross-country skiing, and so Darya took up the sport. Darya later changed sport to biathlon and has won an Olympic bronze medal in the Individual event, 2 gold medals, 3 silvers and 1 bronze in the World Championships including her victory in the Mass Start in Nove Mesto.

This has led to her becoming quite the celebrity in Belarus and this year she was given the honour of presenting the voting results in the Eurovision song contest. That’s when you know you have made it! Apart from presenting Dasha has also turned her hand to movie making. She documented all the biathletes from 2008 until after the 2010 Olympics showing them training, competing and relaxing which gave all the fans an amazing insight into the life of a professional biathlete. She also starred in “The Spy Who Loved Biathlon”, and as a self-confessed lover of dance, is there nothing this woman can’t do?!!!

This year Dasha will be competing in the Olympics in Sochi, Russia which I suppose will be the closest she can get to a home Olympics and I’m sure she will have a lot of Belarussian fans there to cheer her on. She produced a great performance there this year finishing first in the Individual event. She has a consistently good shooting record and she is a strong skier. Even though she seems like such a nice girl don’t be fooled as she is also a fierce competitor.

The main problem for Dasha and all the other female biathletes is of course Tora Berger. Darya has managed to finish second in the Total Score 2 years in a row. She was also second in both the Sprint and Mass Start standings last season. When she is on top form Darya is very difficult to beat but she needs to find some more consistency over the season if she is going to topple Tora from the top spot.

So will we see her dashing through the snow this season to Olympic glory? Well she has as good a chance as anybody and so hopefully we will see her dancing on the top step of the podium next season!

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Ant – holz Shipulin!

shipulin

Anton Vladimirovich Shipulin not only has the best name for a bond villain ever but is also a fantastic biathlete! He was born on August 21, 1987 in Tyumen, Russia and shares the biathlon limelight with older sister Anastasiya Kuzmina.

Last year was pretty successful for Anton. He won 2 medals at the World Championships in Nove Mesto, a silver in the mass start and a bronze in the pursuit. He was named Russia’s top male biathlete for helping them to Nation’s Cup victory as well as finishing 3rd in the pursuit standings and in the top ten of the total score.

He lists his favourite event as the mass start but recently he has picked up better results in the pursuit and sprint races. I don’t know what his favourite track is but I would hazard a guess at it being Antholz- Anterselva in Italy. Why do I think this? Well his results there have always been good. Last year he won both the sprint and pursuit races, the year before he was 2nd in the mass start and the year before that he took another victory in the sprint.

So what is it about Antholz that makes Anton produce these great results? The area is at altitude so maybe he performs better in those conditions. The Russian team often train there too, sometimes in between World Cup events and so that’s another reason why he is so good there. Or maybe it’s just that different athletes perform better on certain tracks and Antholz is his. I bet he wishes the Olympics were being held there as he would have a great chance of winning medals.

However they are being held in Sochi and as a Russian biathlete there is huge pressure on Anton and the rest of the team to be successful at their home Olympics. Last year seemed like a big training run for them to prepare for this season. I really hope the home team can get some good results in Sochi as I know biathlon is really popular in Russia and the biathletes have put a lot of work in to prepare for it already. For Anton it’s a great chance to take a medal in front of his home fans. All you need to do is pretend you are in Antholz, Shipulin!

I know a few Russians read the blog so большое спасибо!

Selected Results:

1st Pursuit 2012/13 Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
1st Sprint 2012/13 Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
1st Sprint 2010/11 Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
2nd Mass Start 2012/13 Nove Mesto (CZE)
2nd Mass Start 2011/12 Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
3rd Pursuit 2012/13 Nove Mesto (CZE)

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