All posts by biathlon23

A RELAY great ending to the Olympics!

ukraine

Well that’s it! It’s over for another 4 years. What a great Games it has been and for Martin Fourcade, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen,Darya Domracheva, Anastasiya Kuzima and Emil Hegle Svendsen they get to say they are Olympic champion for the next 4 years until we get to Pyeongchang 2018!!!

The last races were they relays and we started with the first ever Mixed Relay to be included in the Winter Olympics. Unsurprisingly it was won by Norway and meant that Ole Einar Bjoerndalen became the greatest ever Winter Olympian winning his 13th medal. It was nice to see both him and Tora Berger take gold together in what is their last ever Olympics. Svendsen and Eckhoff also picked up their second medal of the Games. The Czech Republic were second winning their 5th Olympic biathlon medal in Sochi. It meant another silver for Moravec to take his total to three, a second medal for both Soukalova and Soukup and a first for Veronika Vitkova. Taking a well deserved bronze was Italy. Some assured performances from Wierer, Oberhofer and Dominik Windisch meant that Lukas Hofer had a pretty straight forward final leg to clinch the medal.

Next was the Women’s Relay which saw a well deserved and quite poignant, given the problems in their country, gold medal go to Ukraine. The team of Vita and Valj Semerenko, Olena Pidrushna and Julia Dzhyma were fantastic. It just shows you though how small the margins are in biathlon between winning and losing. On the third leg Valj Semerenko hit the last shot with her last spare round. If she had missed the Ukraine wouldn’t even have got a medal. She hit it under tremendous presssure and they went on to clinch gold. Russia came in second with a strong team of Yana Romanova, Olga Zaitseva, Ekaterina Shumilova and Olga Vilukhina. In third were Norway giving Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff their third medals of the Games and a first for Fanny Horn and Ann Kristin Flatland.

The best relay was saved for last however as on the final shoot of the Men’s Relay there were still 4 teams in contention for gold. Russia, Norway, Germany and Austria all came in to the range together. If you were going to put your house on who would hold their nerve between Svendsen, Shipulin, Schempp and Landertinger you would go for Svendsen every time. However he was the one who buckled under the pressure and allowed the other three to fight it out for gold while he went on the penalty loop. In the end Anton Shipulin took gold for the home nation in a fitting end to an amazing Olympic Games for biathlon. Along with Alexey Volkov, Evgeny Ustyukov and Dmitry Malyshko they final gave the great crowds in the Laura stadium what they had been waiting for – a Russian victory. The silver went to the German team of Erik Lesser, Daniel Boehm, Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp. Bronze went to a deserving Austrian team of Cristoph Sumann, Simon Eder, Daniel Mesotitsch and Dominik Landertinger.

That is the Olympic Games in Sochi over as far as biathlon is concerned. It has been fantastic with great racing, great crowds and great biathletes. We only have another 4 years to go until the next one in South Korea but it is a little sad that we are saying goodbye to some fantastic biathetes like Bjoerndalen, Berger, Henkel, Ferry, Bergman, Zaitseva, Mesotitsch and Sumann who have either announced their retirement or are very unlikely to compete in another Olympics. They still have the rest of the season to go and I am just happy we had a RELAY great end to the Olympics!

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Sochi Individually and Collectively!

dashasochi

Well I asked in my last post if anyone could beat Fourcade and Domracheva in the Individual races and the answer was a pretty emphatic NO!Both of them performed magnificently and even managed to win by clear margins while hitting 19/20 and while others around them shot clear. Their ski speed is a huge factor for both but for Dasha in particular her shooting has come good at exactly the right time.

Germany finally showed up and Erik Lesser took silver in the Individual going someway to make up for his grandfather losing out on an Olympic medal when he crashed into a spectator. In third was birthday boy Evgeniy Garanichev who turned 26, won a bronze medal and did it all from bib 1! A great display as you have no idea how any of the field are doing behind you and no time references. Other men who did well were Lowell Bailey who finished 8th the highest an American has achieved in this event and also Alex Almoukov who did the same for Australia finishing 45th.

Selina Gasparin won silver in the women’s race to add to the amazing season she has already been having with a clear shoot and pipped Nadezhda Skardino into bronze. The Belarus biathlete made it a great day for her country by getting on the podium along with Domracheva. Other biathletes who had a good race were Anais Bescond who finished 5th and Veronika Vitkova who was 6th.

So after the Individual race we went on to the collective races with the Men’s and Women’s Mass Starts. Well we tried anyway. The Men’s race was postponed about a million times because of fog but the Women’s went off without any problems. Well one big problem actually for all the biathletes who aren’t Darya Domracheva! She took her third gold in a row in imperious style beating Gabriela Soukalova into second. Bronze was won by Tiril Eckhoff who just pipped Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle in the final straight. Others like Anais Bescond 5th, Monika Hojnisz 6th, Susuan Dunklee 12th and Karin Oberhofer 14th continued their excellent form so far in these Games.

The Men’s race finally got underway on Tuesday instead of Sunday! Luckily we got what we have all been waiting for since the Games started, another titanic battle between Svendsen and Fourcade like last year in Nove Mesto. The outcome was the same too with Svendsen winning by centimetres! It was a gutsy performance from Emil who hasn’t had quite the Olympics he was hoping for but I am sure today made up for it. For Martin it’s an historic three medals and in third another outstanding race from Ondrej Moravec gave him his second medal this time bronze. Brendan Green and JP Le Guellec did Canada proud finishing 9th and 10th and Matej Kazar did an amazing job to qualify for the Mass Start and finished a highly creditable 15th.

So it’s on to the real collective races tomorrow with the Mixed Relay, then the Women on Friday and the Men on Saturday, weather permitting of course! All the medals have been won strong>individually and it’s now down to the teams to see who can take them collectively!

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Sochi so far: Biathlon Royalty!

sprintsochi

Phew! A rest day for biathlon today and just in time for me to calm down a bit from my ridiculous over excitement and keep you up to date with what’s been happening. We have had 4 races so far – 2 Sprints and 2 Pursuits. Unless you have been on a trip to the moon or deep under the ocean you will have heard by now that the King of Biathlon Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won the Men’s Sprint race on Saturday. His highness claimed his 12th Olympic medal and equalled the record of his fellow countryman Bjorn Daehlie. The Women’s Sprint was won by Queen Kuzmina who successfully defended her Olympic title from Vancouver.

The Prince and Princess of Pursuit were Martin Fourcade and Darya Domracheva who both showed amazing ski speed and backed it up with highly accurate marksmanship to take their first ever gold medals. The other medallists so far have been Dominik Landertinger and Jaroslav Soukup who took silver and bronze in the Sprint. Soukup’s achievement was all the more amazing after recovering from an arm injury that doctor’s thought might mean he would never ski competitively again. Well he showed them!

In the Women’s Sprint silver and bronze went to Olga Vilukhina, who pleased the home crowd, and Vita Semerenko. The other Pursuit medals went to Ondrej Moravec and Jean Guilliame Beatrix and for the women Tora Berger and Teja Gregorin who won Slovenia’s first ever medal in Olympic biathlon.

The Czech Republic are having a great games so far with 2 medals for the men in 2 races and are looking very good to win more in the relays. Gabriela Soukalova looks back on form in the Pursuit coming from 29th to finish 4th. France have also done well again with 2 medals from 2 races and a very good Pursuit performance from young Simon Destheiux who went from 46th to 21st. They will be difficult to beat in the Men’s Relay.

On the other hand Norway’s Crown Princes, Svendsen and the Boe brothers, have been a little bit off the pace. They haven’t raced competitively since Ruhpolding but will no doubt come in to form for the latter races. The German team haven’t performed very well either with the exception of Schempp but will still be in with a chance especially in the relays.

The Olympics can bring out the best in people. Even thought they might not win a medal for it some of the biathletes have been performing really well. JP Le Guellec finished 5th in the Sprint an improvement on 6th place in Vancouver and he was leading the Pursuit race up until his unfortunate fall on that treacherous corner. Tobias Arwidson of Sweden outperformed his much more experienced countrymen Ferry and Bergman by being one of only two men to shoot clear in the Pursuit – the other being silver medallist Moravec. You also have to feel for Anton Shipulin who came so close to a medal in the Sprint at his home games. Hopefully he will get something from the remaining races.

For the women Karin Oberhofer and Dorothea Weirer of Italy did exceptionally well in the Sprint finishing 4th and 6th. Anais Bescond had a great race finishing in 5th and Switzerland’s Elisa Gasparin finished 8th beating her big sister Selina. In the Pursuit Ann Kristin Flatland made up a lot of places finishing 9th from a start bib of 24 and Olga Zaitseva showed some encouraging form coming from 28th to finish 11th. Sunsan Dunklee has also been breaking all kinds of US records finishing 14th in the Sprint and 18th in the Pursuit.

Tomorrow is the Men’s Individual and then it’s the Women’s turn on Friday. I am not even going to try and predict any medallists as it’s a difficult one to call with the 1 minute penalty per missed target. The gold medals in Sochi so far have been dominated by biathlon’s royalty but can anyone beat them in the next races? You will just have to watch and see!

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Going for Gold!Part 2

women olympics

The heat is on, the time is right,
It’s time for you for you to play your game,
’cause, people are coming, everyone’s trying,
trying to be the best that they can,
when they’re going for going for gold!

The heat is definitely on! With only 3 days until the women’s opening race on Sunday in Sochi there is just time for a final preview of the female biathletes. They kick off just like the men with the Sprint event followed by the Pursuit, the 15km Individual, the Mass Start, the Mixed Relay and finally the Women’s Relay on the 21st of February.

This is probably one of the most open Olympic Games for a while on the women’s side.There are some favourites of course but no one athlete has really dominated the World Cup so far like Tora Berger did last season. Of course Tora is still one of the favourites to win gold but her problems in the standing shoot have left the door open for the other biathletes. Particularly impressive so far this season is Gabriela Soukalova. She has won 3 races and is the leader of the overall World Cup. Her wins in the Individual races mean she is likely to medal in that event in Sochi but she could be on the podium in more than one race.

The run of races after Christmas showed that Darya Domracheva is also back on top form after a quiet start to the season. Germany(Oberhof and Ruhpolding) in particular was a strong period for her and she has a great chance of winning a few medals in Sochi. Kaisa Makarainen had exactly the same run of form as Domracheva and could also feature on the podium. Her skiing is excellent but her shooting might mean that she can’t quite reach the top step.

These four will be contending for medals in all the races but they are not the only ones. Selina Gasparin has come into her own this season and with 2 Sprint victories she can’t be discounted to do the same in the Olympic Sprint.The Semerenko twins are always there either on or around the podium. Valj seems in better form than Vita but the Olympics could change that. Olga Zaitseva will be under extreme pressure to deliver in her home Olympics and her form has been patchy up to now and so it will be difficult for her in Sochi. I think she will be able to rise to the occasion and handle the pressure with her vast experience. Another veteran in with a shout is Andrea Henkel. She thrives in the big competitions and I wouldn’t be surprised if she follows up her silver in last years World Championships with another medal in Sochi.

On the other hand there is a lot of good young talent emerging this year. Germany have a strong young team and it’s possible that Laura Dalmeier could spring a shock and take a medal(she also shares her name with the stadium – a good omen?).Anais Bescond is coming off the back of a first win in Antholz and will be full of confidence. Tiril Eckhoff is currently having the best season of her life and she too could challenge at the sharp end. My only concern for these girls is lack of experience in the really important competitions and the huge pressure they will need to cope with.

There is also Veronika Vitkova, Marie-Laure Brunet, Synoevve Solemdal, Anastasiya Kuzmina and Olena Pidhrushna who have the capabilites of winning medals. The women’s side is really tough to call at this Olympics. The relay is exactly the same. Russia, Norway, Ukraine and Germany are the ones most likely to be fighting for the top three spots but any penalty loops could destroy their chances and leave the door open for teams like France, Belarus and also Canada if they can better their amazing performance in Annecy.

In the mixed relay the same teams will be involved at the front. I would also throw in The Czech Republic, who won the only mixed relay of this season in Ostersund, and Italy to pick up any places lost by any bad performances from the top teams. All in all the women’s races are going to be very exciting and pretty unpredictable. It would nice to see some of the Russians on the podium in their home Games but whoever takes the medals will do so in one of the most difficult and competitive years and so will fully deserve their victories when they are going for gold!

Good luck ladies! Especially those lucky enough to wear bib 23!!!

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Going for Gold!

,men olympics

The heat is on, the time is right,
It’s time for you for you to play your game,
’cause, people are coming, everyone’s trying,
trying to be the best that they can,
when they’re going for going for gold!

I know what you are thinking – what an amazing poem about the Olympics! You would be right it’s just that I didn’t write it, I stole it from popular 90’s British game show “Going for Gold”! Either way it’s still works when talking about the Olympic Games which begin on Friday with the Opening Ceremony. We are getting very close to the end of the “Road to Sochi” and all the hard training and preparation is almost finished. It’s down to pure competition athlete vs. athlete to see who is the strongest both mentally and physically.

As regular readers of my blog may have noticed I end all my articles by wishing that those I have written about win some colour of medal in Sochi. Unfortunately that is not possible as there are only 12 individual medals on offer and another 9 for the relays. So here I want to take a closer look at the favourites for gold and also some outside chances who may surprise us come crunch time. (These are merely my views and have no basis in statistical fact or indeed any expert knowledge of any kind and should under no circumstances be used to bet on the races!!!)

This article will deal with the men’s prospects and the women will be in Part 2. I don’t think I am going out on a limb by saying that Norway have the best chance of winning the men’s relay. They have the strength in depth just now that no other country has and all of the relay team are capable of winning a gold medal in the individual events and you can’t say that about any of the other countries. Only some bad shooting can stop them winning. There are others who will run them close of course. France has a decent squad and with Martin Fourcade on the last leg anything is possible. Russia also have a good team but the pressure of a home Olympics will be hard to deal with. The Germans are returning to form and will be in with a shout for a medal.Others with a shot at the podium include Austria, Sweden,Slovenia and maybe Canada too.

Moving on to the individual events which are the Sprint,Pursuit,Mass Start and Individual. These are much harder to predict but again there are the favourites which have to be Martin Fourcade and Emil Hegle Svendsen. They shared most of the medals in last season’s World Championships and barring any major disasters will probably do so again. However it won’t be easy with a resurgent Ole Einar Bjoerndalen desperate to get more medals in his final Olympics and Tarjei Boe looking to add to his relay gold from Vancouver the competition is strong.

Others in contention for medals are of course the Russian team and I think Anton Shipulin is probably their best shot at getting them. He can perform under pressure and the pressure will be immense in Sochi. Simon Schempp is going into Sochi in great form after 2 wins in Antholz and could be a contender especially in the Sprint.If Jakov Fak has recovered fully from his illness he is also a candidate for a medal as he usually turns up on the big occasions. Please don’t be foolish enough to write off the young guys because of their age. Johannes Boe, Simon Desthieux and Alexander Loginov could all get on the podium too.

There is a good chance that the Sprint and Pursuit medals will go to the same people but the Individual is the best chance to spring a surprise. Guys to watch out for here are the likes of Dominik Landertinger, Michal Slesingr, Tim Burke,Fredrik Lindstrom,Lukas Hofer and the rest of the Russian team. Andrejs Rastorgujevs has been having a great season has the possibility of winning a medal to add to his recent European Championship gold in the Individual.

Even though I would like all these guys to do well what I really want is for whoever is wearing bib 23 to get gold! It has been great just supporting the man in 23 this year!Whatever happens I know that whoever wins will definitely deserve it and I want to wish all of them good luck! The Olympics only comes round every 4 years so make the most of it and remember to be the best that you can when you are going for,GOING FOR GOLD!

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Doping is for dopes!

doping

Isn’t it funny how the word “dope” has two meanings that go together really well. One meaning is a drug and the other is an idiot. They complement each other perfectly in the case of sport. You have to be pretty stupid to take performance enhancing drugs and think you can get away with it these days.

Unfortunately it occurs in biathlon but it doesn’t seem to be as big a problem as it has been in sports like cycling and athletics. The recent discovery of 3 positive tests before the Olympics has again brought the issue of doping into sharp focus. It isn’t the first time biathletes have been caught doping and I am sorry to say it won’t be the last. However I believe it is grossly unfair to name the accused before their B samples have been tested and especially when no official statements have been released naming them.Even though names have been released on the internet and one athlete has confirmed it they are innocent until proven guilty by the IBU Anti-Doping Panel. I firmly believe that the vast majority of the biathletes are clean but when you hear about these cases it always makes you wonder a little bit.

It does surprise me that biathletes who cheat think it will do them any good. I mean it might make you stronger, faster and give you more stamina but if you can’t shoot all the ski speed in the world won’t help you. Drugs are never going to turn you into the best athlete ever. They may benefit you in small increments but if you are considering taking them you probably aren’t good enough to be at the top anyway. At best you could qualify for the World Cup races or your national team or maybe push youself up 10-20 places from where you are. If however it does take you to the top you will be under intense scrutiny from WADA (The World Anti-Doping Agency) as they always test the winners, for example Emil Hegle Svendsen revealed that he has been tested 7 times in 2 weeks,and you are highly likely to get found out. Then your career is over and you will always be under suspicion if you return from a ban. All the hard work you have put in (because the drugs alone don’t make you win) will be a waste of time.

However playing devil’s advocate you can see why people can be tempted into it. For example if you have worked really hard and can only attain a certain level drug free the desperation to improve and do well can be all consuming. Athletes are a breed apart and basically give their whole lives up to their sport. Not succeeding can be crushing and if you are not mentally able to handle that the temptation is there to cheat. If like now the Olympics are coming up it makes people more obsessed with qualifying for them. Recent high profile examples in other sports prove that even people you might not expect can be so desperate that they will do anything to win. There is no excuse however and I think the majority of biathletes give their everything and if it’s not good enough they just accept it and do the very best they can cleanly.

It is a pity that sport is blighted by the curse of doping but as long as chemicals exist that can enhance your performance there will be those who give into weakness and take them. All we can do is continue to test and expose those who do so and educate and encourage all athletes not to do it. The risks athletes take in general can cause a lot of harm to their bodies. Elite athletes are damaging themselves by pushing their bodies to the limit on a daily basis and so adding to that by doping is very dangerous. Your sports career is very short in relation to your entire life and so taking health risks can ruin the rest of it. By their very nature these drugs are illegal and so you don’t know what the long term affects are because they are not rigorously tested like medicines.

It is always sad when a sport is damaged by athletes who dope and it generally reflects badly on the reputation of the sport and it’s athletes. However you must remember that it is a small minority who dope and generally they get caught if not straight away then in the fullness of time they will be discovered. WADA seems to be doing a good job keeping on top of the biathletes with rigourous testing and by catching those who do take drugs. Just remember anything you win or gain by cheating is not real and certainly undeserved. However tempting success maybe be in the end you will suffer the most because doping is for dopes!

For more info on WADA see their website:
http://www.wada-ama.org/‎
For updates on the doping scandal check the IBU website:
http://www.biathlonworld.com

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Is it a bird?Is it a plane?No,it’s Michal Šlesingr!!!

slesingr

If you look up an see something hurtling towards you out of the sky it’s probably this guy!Full time adrenaline junkie,skydiver,and biathlete Michal Šlesingr is one of the Czech Republic’s best known winter sports stars. Born on the 3rd of February 1983 in Ústí nad Orlicí he started training in biathlon at the age of ten. He graduated in 2004 by which time he had already won medals at Junior World and European level.

He has taken part in the World Cup since 2002/03 where he finished 78th overall in his first season and his highest overall position came in the 2010/11 season where he finished 9th. His only World Cup victory came in 2007 in Holmenkollen in the Mass Start and is one of eight podium finishes in his career so far. He enjoyed a successful World Championships in Antholz, Italy in 2007 winning a silver medal in the 10 km Sprint and bronze medal in the 20 km Individual. He didn’t have the best individual performances at his home World Championships in Nove Mesto. The mixed relay team won bronze but unfortunately he wasn’t in it.

This season has been disrupted by illness for Michal. He got the flu and then a bacterial infection which meant he only just came back to the World Cup in Oberhof.It was a great return though as he took 12th place in the Sprint, 5th in the Pursuit and 19th in the Mass Start. Some training in Pokljuka and Obertilliach probably helped with the first 2 results and lack of competition would account for the third. Coming back to race 3 hard races in 3 days is not easy for anyone let alone someone who is just back from illness.

As a baby Michal was described as “a little hyperactive”. A huge understatement if ever there was one! He has continued this hyperactivity into adulthood and includes among his many passions skydiving, scuba diving, climbing, white water kayaking and base jumping. Some quiet little sports there to fill in the time when he isn’t doing biathlon or looking after his daughter! In fact I think biathlon may be a bit tame and boring for Mr.Šlesingr.

What he needs to do is start a bit of extreme biathlon! Skydive out of a plane, land on the top of a ski slope, ski down to a river, kayak down over the rapids, get out at the biathlon track,hit the targets and head for the finish line!!! That would liven up his weekend a bit! Actually biathlonworld tv missed a trick not using him as a stuntman in their “Bond adventure”. Remember that scene from “The Spy Who Loved Me” when Bond skies of the cliff and parachutes down. See the clip here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvv2lv2s_gM
Michal could have done that easily! He might have used a Czech flag though!

So after his biathlon career he has plenty of things to keep him busy but we are a long way from that I hope. With another Olympics coming up Michal will be hoping the Czech team can reproduce their form from Nove Mesto and hopefully he will be able to beat his best Olympic performance of 16th in the Mass Start in Vancouver and 6th and 7th place in the relays. Having missed the start of the season he may be fresher than the others and has a good shot at an individual medal in one of the events at least. I really hope he can do it but he always has his adrenaline fuelled sports to keep him busy. So next time you see something in the sky and it’s not a bird or a plane,it’s probably Michal Šlesingr!!!

You can like Michal’s Facebook page or get more info on him from his website in Czech and English:

http://www.slesingr.com

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