Summer World Championships!

The Nut Cracker, Swan Lake…wait a minute….sorry, sorry wrong Tchiakovsky!

It’s the Russian town of Chaykovskiy that we are interested in as the biathlon Summer World Championships took place there over the weekend of the 25th to the 27th of August. There were 26 nations putting on their roller skis including biathletes from Greenland, Uzbekistan and Mongolia.

The Mixed Relays for the Juniors and Seniors took place on Friday followed by the Sprint races on Saturday and the Pursuits on Sunday.

The Russians dominated the Relays winning both the Junior and Senior titles. The Junior team did it the hard way with Kristina Reztsova doing two penalty loops and Valeriia Vasnetcova also doing one. The men fared better with Nikita Porschnev needing 3 spares and Igor Malinovskii using 5 to win the race by 57.9 seconds.

It was decided on ski speed as Russia with 3 penalty loops won the gold from the Ukraine who only used 6 spares in total! Khrystyna Dmytrenko used 2 on the first leg, Anna Kryvonos shot clean on her leg and the men, Vitaliy Trush and Taras Lesiuk needed two spares each. They finished well ahead of Belarus in third with a team of Anastasiya Anifryieva, Dzinara Alimbekova, Ihor Karpiuk and Anton Smolski incurring 2 penalty loops, one the first leg and one on the final leg.

Turkey finished in fourth, Kazakhstan were fifth, Romania sixth and Slovakia were seventh.

The Senior mixed relay was won by a strong Russian team. Uliana Kaisheva took the first leg using 3 spares. Sveltana Sleptsova was second using 2 spares. She handed over to Alexey Volkov who also used 2 spares and then Anton Shipulin led the team home to victory using 3 spares. They finished almost 30 seconds ahead of Slovakia who took the silver medal.

Their team of Paulina Fialkova (4 spares), her sister Ivona Fialkova (4 spares), Tomas Hasilla (5 spares) and Matek Kazar (3 spares) crossed the line nearly a minute in front of bronze medallists Ukraine.

As usual they shot really well with Yuliya Zhurakov shooting clean on the first leg, Mariya Panfilova using 2 spares, Anton Myhda with 1 spare and Maksom Ivko with 3. Fourth place went to Belarus, fifth to Kazakhstan, sixth to Moldova and seventh to Mongolia.

There were some familiar faces on the podiums for the Sprint races on Saturday. The Junior Women’s Sprint was won by Russia’s Kristina Reztsova. She missed just one shot in the standing shoot to finish 32.7 seconds ahead of the second placed athlete. That went to Dzinara Alimbekova from Belarus who missed one in the stand. Valeriia Vasnetcova was third but she missed 3 shots, two in the prone and one in the stand.

There was more home success in the Junior Men’s Sprint with a clean sweep of the podium from Russia. Igor Malinovskii won the race missing a single target in the prone. He was wearing bib23 which undoubted helped him win! The silver went to Vasilii Tomshin who missed 1 in the standing and finished 12.6 seconds behind the winner. Third went to Nikita Porshnev who missed 3 targets but was only 28.3 seconds back from the leader.

The Women’s Sprint also went to Russia. Svetlana Sleptsova won the gold shooting clean and then promptly announced her retirement! Maybe all she ever wanted was that gold! Second place went to Slovakia’s Paulina Fialkova with two misses in the stand and third went again to Russia with Olga Dmitrieva missing two shots and the silver medal by just under a second.

Finally in the Men’s Sprint we got a winner who wasn’t Russian! That’s right Vladimir Chepelin from Belarus took the gold with one miss in the prone. Russia got the silver with Alexey Volkov shooting clean but finishing 3.4 seconds behind Chepelin. Slovakia took another medal with Tomas Hasilla claiming bronze.

The final day of the Championships was on Sunday and we had 4 Pursuit races to look forward to. The Junior Women’s race went to Natalia Ushkina who came from 4th to grab the win ahead of Reztova and Vasnetcova. She shot the best of the three with just 1 miss while the others missed 7 and 6 shots. It was a comfortable victory in the end for Ushkina who led a Russian clean sweep of the medals.

The Junior Men’s race went to Taras Lesiuk and Ukraine. He came from 4th to take the win by nearly 18 seconds from the two Russians Igor Malinovskii and Stepan Parfenov. Again the shooting was crucial with just 3 targets missed by Lesiuk compared to 5 and 6 from the Russians.

The Women’s Pursuit was won by Sleptsova giving her 3 golds from 3 races. Not a bad way to retire! Ukraine got another medal with Nadiia Bielkina coming from 5th with just 2 misses to get silver. The bronze went to Paulina Fialkova who dropped one spot from the Sprint.

The Men’s race went to Russia too with Alexey Volkov taking the gold by 43.7 seconds from teammate Anton Shipulin who started 6th. Krasimir Anev of Bulgaria came from 5th to 3rd and another Russian Sergey Klyachin went from 18th to 4th despite four missed targets. Let’s just say across all the races the shooting wasn’t the best. Luckily there is still time to improve before the snow comes!

It was a very successful home Championships for the Russian team leading the medal table with 18 medals, 8 of which were gold. The Ukraine were second and Belarus third. Slovakia and Bulgaria were the only other teams to win medals.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Advertisements

The Road to PyeongChang? Seriously?

Apparently there is something going on next year in February and March. Not sure what it is but maybe it’s one of those new reality TV shows about survival. People keep talking about the road to PyeongChang. I don’t know about you but the only road I know that goes to PyeongChang runs through North Korea so maybe I am right!

Of course not! It’s the Winter Olympics and Paralympics! If nuclear war hasn’t broken out by then the eyes of the biathlon world will turn to South Korea. There are other ‘so-called’ sports taking place too but none of interest to us! 😉

PyeongChang is a county in the Gwangwon province of South Korea. It is located in the Taebaek mountain region and is around 180km east of the capital Seoul. Happy 700 PyeongChang is the slogan of the area. The average height of the region is 700 metres above sea level and apparently this is the optimal elevation to live at. Expect lots of elderly spectators at the biathlon then.

The biathlon races will take place at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre which will also be used for sports such as cross country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined. Or as I call them biathlon’s annoying little cousins! 😉

The arena has 4500 seats and room for 3000 people to stand giving an official capacity of 7500. The altitude difference for the tracks is from 749 to 796 metres. They weren’t joking about the height of the area!

There will be 11 biathlon events taking place. On the 10th of February is the Women’s Sprint followed by the Men’s Sprint on the 11th. Both Pursuit races take place on the 12th. The 14th and 15th are for the Women’s and Men’s Individuals respectively. The Mass Starts are on the 17th and 18th. The Relays are all at the end of the programme with the Mixed Relay on the 20th, the Women’s Relay on the 22nd and excitingly the Men’s Relay on the 23rd!!! An auspicious day indeed! 😉

The races will all be held in the evening local time which means if you are watching in Europe they will be on mid-morning or early afternoon when everyone is at work. If you are watching in North America they will be on very early morning when you are asleep! Great news!

Defending their title (because let’s face it no one remembers who won in Sochi!) will be Anastasiya Kuzmina and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen in the Sprints, Darya Domracheva and Martin Fourcade in the Pursuits and the Individuals and Domracheva and Emil Hegle Svendsen in the Mass Starts. Hoping to hang on to the Relay titles will be Norway in the Mixed Relay, Ukraine in the Women’s Relay and Russia in the Men’s Relay.

It should be a great Olympic Games and it will be followed in March from the 9th to the 18th by the Paralympics. There will be 18 biathlon events over 3 categories. Men and women compete in the visually impaired races, the standing races or the sitting races depending on their impairment.

They will race over 3 distances which are the short, middle and lndividual. The short distance is 6km for the women and 7.5 for the men. The middle distance is 10km or 12.5km and the Indvidual is 12.5km or 15km.

The champions from Sochi in the short distance for the women were Russia’a Mikhalina Lysova (VI), Alena Kaufman (standing) and Germany’s Andrea Eskau (sitting). For the men it was the Ukraine’s Vitaliy Lukyanenko (VI),Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtsev (standing) and Russia’s Roman Petushkov (sitting).

The middle distance gold medals were won by Lysova and Kaufman and Germany’s Anja Wicker in the sitting race. The men’s were won by Lukayenko, Russia’s Azat Karachurin and Petushkov. The Individual titles went to Russia’s Iuliia Budaleeva, Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova and Russia’s Svetlana Konovalova. Winning for the men were Russia’s Nikolai Polukhin, Ukraine’s Gyrgorii Vovchynskyi and Petushkov completeing his clean sweep in the sitting races.

At the time of writing it is unknown whether the Russian team will be allowed to compete in PyeongChang as they are currently banned after the McLaren Report findings. The decision will be made in September by the International Paralympic Committee and will be an important one as you can see where a lot of the medals tend to go!

There are less than six months to go before the Games get underway. The biathletes are already quite far along the road to PyeongChang. However I would recommend booking a flight. Seriously!!! 😉

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Carine Leijn: The Interview!

Carine Leijn is a Dutch biathlete who was born on the 11th of March 1999. She raced on the Junior World Cup last season achieving a best result of 46th in the Individual in Lenzerheide. She also raced in the Junior Open European Championships in Nove Mesto as well as the Youth World Championships in Brezno-Orsblie. Her big sister Lilian also used to be a biathlete until she recently gave up the sport leaving Carine as the only female Dutch biathlete.

Follow her on Twitter: @CarineLeijn
on Instagram.com/carine.leijn
and Facebook: Biatleijn
Website: http://www.leijn.eu/

Why did you become a biathlete?

Besides the fact that biathlon is just plain awesome, I have two older sisters who used to do biathlon. So you could say it runs in the family. So when my parents were around 30 years old they started cross country skiing. And we grew up going to Sweden every winter to do cross country skiing in the snow. We also practised on these plastic ski mats in Gouda (yes yes Gouda from the cheese). It’s hard to imagine what it looks like and even harder to describe its appearance, so I’ll leave it at that. Eventually the Dutch ski federation asked my oldest sister if she was interested in doing biathlon. Since then our family was in love.

How do you assess last season? You raced in the Junior World Cup and at the Youth World Championships. What were they like?

Last season started out pretty good in Lenzerheide and Hochfilzen. I had overall good races and felt good on the skis. Last season was supposed to be promising. With sneak peeks of my good races I was excited to see what more I could do at the Junior cups and The Youth World Championships. Sadly my nightmare came true after the Christmas break, at the first day of the IBU-IOC training camp in Slovenia I got sick. Not the “I don’t feel so good but I will train anyway even if coach said not to cold” but the real deal 39 degrees, hot and cold am I dead yet fever! So I had to take a lot rest and a lot of Slovenian honey to get back on my feet. So the races in Pokljuka and in NMNM were kind of doomed before I even started because they were directly after this camp. Then I got home for a few weeks to prep for the Youth World Champs. I was feeling a bit more in shape but not as good as I was before. In Slovakia the conditions weren’t the best, a lot of rain, wind and soft snow. Swimming was almost faster than skiing on the tracks. No but in all seriousness taking into account the short period of time Osrblie had to organize everything they did a really good job. At all the venues the people were so nice and kind. It was a great experience to be able to compete at the Junior cup with so many countries. I learned so much which I am really grateful for.

Do you have a favourite race from last season? Which one was it and what was special about it for you?

My favourite race was in Hochfilzen, before I got sick. There were a few factors which made it really special for me. I really liked the tracks, the up and downhills, tricky curves and the high speed. So I was testing my skis and all of a sudden I heard Dutch people and realized they were talking to me. They told me they just moved to Hochfilzen and asked me if I was going to compete in the Junior cup. They told me they were going to try to come and watch the race. The next day they actually showed up, wished me good luck and cheered for me from the tribunes. So in that Sprint I shot clean, had the best skis and gave everything I had. So this was really my favourite race from last season.

You can also race in the Single Mixed Relay with Jarl Hengstmengel. Do you like that event?

The Single Mixed Relay was really something on its own. I never did a competition like this before but I really liked the fact that you’re a team against all the other countries. Also the girls start in a mass start which I’d never done before, so that was really awesome. This Single Mixed Relay was when I was had just started training a few days after my fever. So I was dying during the whole race. It was good that we had a little rest in between when the boys were racing. But Jarl and I agreed beforehand that no matter what happened we weren’t going to do the penalty loop and we were going to beat the Belgian team. We succeeded at both so we were quite happy with our race.

It’s not easy being a Dutch biathlete. What are the hardest things about it? What are the good things?

No it sure isn’t. The hardest of thing of all is that I always have to train alone. Given that I am the only girl at this point, there isn’t a training group it’s just me. I used to have my sister as a training partner but when she quit I really had to do it on my own. One of the good things about being a Dutch biathlete is I think the IBU-IOC camps. Because The Netherlands isn’t a major country in biathlon we get invited, along side other small countries, to these camps. My motivation really gets a boost from these camps. You meet a lot of new people and go to places that are really awesome. But for me most important thing is the fact that you train in a group which is really important because no matter how hard you work you can’t always do it on your own.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life?

At this point I’m still in high school. I split the year before my senior year in 2 years. So I had more time to train, this was in the last school year. But next year I’ll be a senior and hopefully will be graduating high school. My high school is really cooperative with my sport. They help me with my school planning and I get a lot of guidance. As for my social life, my friends support me all the way and help me stay motivated for school and for training. They help me study when I miss a lot of school due to races or a training camp.I really love having my friends around and I don’t have the idea that biathlon is in the way of that.

Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

Not particularly. I’ve never been a person who likes to go out or something like that. So I don’t miss it and it’s not something I would want to do. Because I really grew up in the sport I am used to making certain sacrifices.

What are your goals for next season and further into the future?

My big goal for next season is to qualify again for the Youth World Championships. And to not get sick during the season. And for further in to the future it isn’t that easy to say. I think we all dream really big, which is a good thing. But we have to have goals in between to keep our feet on the ground. For now I hope I will make a lot of progress in the Junior cup over the next years and who knows what we can achieve with hard work, passion and big dreams.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? What will you be working on over the summer?

I think one of my strengths is that I am mentally able to push myself to the very end, during training or a competition. My weakness is my speed on the shooting range, and my shooting time which I am currently working on. The less time you spend on the shooting range the better.

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

Pokljuka for sure, the track in the winter is really fast with quick turns which is really fun. Also I’ve been there so many times that every time I get there it feels like coming home which feels really special to me.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Darya Domracheva. Since I was little she has been my favourite. I always watched the races, looked at her skiing with her perfect technique and wanting to be like her. So I was really excited last season when she was making a comeback in Oberhof. I can’t wait to find out what she’ll do next season.

Does your rifle have a name?

I don’t think I got the note stating this was a thing… It is a thing! A biathlon23 thing! 😉

Describe yourself in three words.

chaotic – resilient – hard worker

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Finland
Favourite shooting range: Hochfilzen
Lucky bib number: 17
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: Michael Rösch
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: Tarjei Bø
Best thing about being a biathlete: The food in all the different countries.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Brittany Hudak: The Interview!

Brittany Hudak is a Canadian para biathlete. The 24-year-old from Prince Albert competes in the standing races and made her World Cup debut in 2013. She was born without the lower part of her left arm and was inspired to pursue para nordic sports seriously after meeting Canadian para cross-country skier Colette Bourgonje. She has already competed at the Paralympic Games in Sochi 2014 and is looking forward to the next Games in PyeongChang in March 2018. As well as racing in cross country and biathon she is also studying for a degree in social work.

You can follow Brittany on Twitter: @brittanyhudak93
and Instagram: brittany_hudak

Why did you become a biathlete?

I grew up on an acreage in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan so I had shot paintball guns and pellet guns as a kid. I mainly aimed the paintball gun at my older brother and then shot army men and old pop cans with the pellet gun. Then I first tried the biathlon rifles when I was 18 and immediately loved it! I guess I always enjoyed shooting, so the idea of combining skiing and shooting was appealing to me.
I also like how every race can feel so different and it’s always exciting. I find I just keep coming back for more because of the challenge. I knew I would never be bored in this sport! Plus, shooting is FUN! Also, I really like nature. Skiing in all different places really makes me happy.

How do you assess last season? Were you happy with your performances?

Last season was difficult for me. For those that don’t know, I struggled with injury last season. I had anterior compartment syndrome which proved to be a challenge in getting through my skate races. The symptoms were the worst in my biathlon and skate races so luckily, I had classic technique races I could compete in as well. Sadly, many of my performances were below what I would have hoped for but I was still able to set a goal for each race. Even though sometimes that meant my goal was to just shoot clean or work on race strategy, I felt like I always did my best.
On a positive side, I was able to really work on the mental aspects of sport as well as my shooting. I actually found that with my skate technique being put on the back burner due to injury, I put a lot more focus on improving my shooting. I had some of the best shooting I’ve ever had in my races last season, so I was thoroughly happy with the progression I made with my ability to shoot over the year.

The World Cup returns to Canmore this season. Are you excited about racing at home? Do you get nervous or feel extra pressure racing in Canada?

It’s pretty rare that we get to race in Canada on our circuit so I’m really excited about racing at home. I’m a little nervous to be racing at home just because I know there will be so many people rooting for us so I would really like to perform well. That being said, I know that I will be able to feed off the home crowd energy and push a little harder while out there on the tracks.

What are your plans for summer training? Is there anything specific that you would like to improve?

The first part of my summer has been easing back into training while recovering from surgery. May and June consisted of a lot of biking since that was the mode of training that I was first able to do after surgery. For July, I will be hanging around Canmore, AB. for training. My first training camp with the team will be in New Zealand for three weeks in August. This camp is on snow so I’m really striving for improving my ski technique. Since I’ve only been skiing 5 years I still put a significant emphasis on refining my overall ski technique and efficiency. Then again this appears to be a sport where you’re always working on your technique so I would say that is mainly my focus for the summer months.

Are you excited about the up coming Paralympic Games? What are your goals for racing in PyeongChang?

The Games are coming up really fast which has me both excited and anxious! I’m excited to race at the Paralympic Games but I’m amazed at how fast the four years leading into the Games went by. I remember having so many goals in mind and now that the time is fast approaching, I’m reassessing some of those goals and fine tuning a bit. I think my main goals for the Games are to have performances that resemble my true ski ability. As simple as it sounds, I’m really striving to have races that are the best of my ability. More specifically I’m really hoping to do well in the long-distance biathlon. Shooting clean in this race is very important and I would say with my shooting results in this discipline last year, I would love to shoot clean in this race at the games. Really hoping for good shooting results at the Games!

Can you describe for my readers (who probably don’t follow much para-biathlon) how you shoot with one arm?

So how it works for shooting with one arm is we are allowed to have a stand that the stock of the rifle can rest on while we shoot. Since many of the athletes have one shorter or no arm at all, we need something that allows the barrel to be pointed in the right direction. This stand has a spring attached that flexes in all directions. The rules are that the spring must be lined up straight while shooting and not being forced in any direction.
The easy part for us in biathlon is that we approach the range and our rifles are brought out to the stand with a magazine loaded.

Do you train alone mostly or with your teammates? Do you ever train with the biathletes from the IBU team?

While I do love to be social, I would say for the majority of my training I do it on my own. Depending on the day, I will train with my teammates or coach Robin McKeever. If I’m training in Canmore, I will have shooting practices with my teammate Mark Arendz and will often do intensity sessions with him as well. If I’m away on a training camp, then I definitely train a lot more with my teammates. I do put an emphasis on training alone for some sessions so that I can tune in to what I’m doing and really spend the time I need to work on something specific.
While I don’t specifically train with the biathletes like Rosanna Crawford, I do see them on the trails quite often! It’s really inspiring to get to be around so many high level skiers in one place!

Canada has a really good para-nordic team. Do you get help from your country in term of funding and support like coaching/physios/wax techs etc? How does it work?

Our team has been fairly consistent with producing results, so this in turn has led to a rewarding amount of support and funding. Our training centre is based out of Canmore so all our support staff are here as well. We have access to our national team head coach Robin on a daily basis as well as physio, massage and wax techs. As long as we produce results, our program will continue to earn funding that goes to cover the costs of getting support like physio, wax techs, coaching and travelling to competitions. We are ever so fortunate to have such amazing staff because I think it helps keep the team progressing forward with their goals.

More and more of your fellow athletes are doing both a winter and summer sport now. Have you ever considered turning to the ‘dark side’ of summer sport? What sport would you do?

I’ve considered trying to do both a winter and summer sport. I think it would be cool to compete in shooting for a summer sport. I’ve looked into it a bit and found a few different options for shooting categories. I don’t think it would hamper my training for cross-country or biathlon either so that’s a bonus! Other than that, I would choose swimming as another sport. In Saskatchewan, I lived near many lakes so swimming has always been a passion of mine. I don’t know any technique for swimming but I just love being in the water.

What are your hobbies away from biathlon and cross country?

Does university count as a hobby? Just kidding. I do take online courses for a degree in social work which takes up a fair amount of my time but I enjoy many things. If it’s something outdoors, you can count me in! Whether it’s hiking, fishing or swimming I have a real passion for the great outdoors so you can often find me wandering outside. Or perhaps reading an interesting book and writing my genius ideas in my journal.

Does your rifle have a name?

Strangely enough I haven’t named my rifle.

Describe yourself in three words.

Goofy, adventurous, determined

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): France
Favourite track: I don’t think I could ever pick just one!
Favourite shooting range: middle of nowhere Saskatchewan. Technically not an official range, but doesn’t that make it more exciting?
Lucky bib number: 93
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Myself… I think I’m hilarious.
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Mark Arendz…he’s single ladies.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Being able to travel the world with a ski bag and a rifle.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Tobias Torgersen: The Interview!

Tobias Torgersen is the new head coach of the Polish Women’s biathlon team. The Norwegian had a successful Junior career as a biathlete before moving into coaching working with clubs in Oslo and Lillehammer as well as in Switzerland. Before taking his new role the 34-year-old was coach of the Swedish Junior Team.

You can follow Tobias on Twitter: @tobiastorgersen

You competed in biathlon as a Junior. Why did you become a biathlete and why did you stop?

My godfather was national team coach in Norway in the 80`s. He was always an inspiration to me. Plus it appealed to me after watching it on TV like other sports could not.

I stopped after having various health and injury problems from 19-23 years of age, including asthma, heart problems and some serious cuts and broken bones.

When did you become a coach and why did you want to do it?

In the Spring of 2006, just after finishing my career and my studies to be a coach at the sports university in Oslo. I guess I felt that I had “unfinished business” in this sport. And I love the excitement that top-level sports bring.


Who were your coaches when you were a biathlete? What did you learn from them that you now use as a coach?

I had many different inspiring coaches. But Knut Tore Berland taught me a lot about taking responsibility for the goals you set.

You have a new job working with the Polish women’s team. How is that going so far? What have you already done with them and what are the plans for the rest of the summer?

In my eyes it is going really well! We have a lot of fun, and train really well and hard. We are now in Ramsau on our fourth camp (this was in July). Here we got some kilometres on the skis together with the normal summer training. We also had a cycling camp in Mallorca, shooting camp in Kracow, and a camp “at home” in Duszniki-Zdroj. Next on the plan is the Blink Festival in Norway before a camp in my home town of Oslo.

How much time do you spend with the biathletes? Do you send them a programme to work through alone or do you see/speak to them every day?

I see them on all the camps of course which is around two weeks every month. And then I follow up the athletes individual programs in the breaks between camps on email and the phone. How often varies a lot with the individuals, and what kind of training they are doing.


Are you excited about working on the World Cup and going to the Olympic Games? Are you feeling any extra pressure for this season?


Of course there is extra pressure in an Olympic season. This is also my first head-coaching job. But I always focus on the excitement part, and not the pressure.

Do you enjoy thinking up new ways of training and new drills? Is it hard to keep things fresh and interesting for the biathletes?

Of course! I think most coaches do. The important thing is to find the correct mix of new ideas, and doing what you know will give results.


Obviously you physically train the biathletes but do you do a lot of mental work with them too? If so what kind of things?

I would not call it specific mental-training, but we have a lot of talks about how to think and what to focus on at what time. I try to put my athletes in many competition simulations to make them comfortable with these situations.

What do you do before, during and after a race as a coach?

This totally varies depending on what kind of staff we have. I quite often join the wax-team for the ski test.
During the race I like to mix it up between being on the shooting range and on the track. You will hear me loud on the toughest sections of the track! 😉
After the race the main thing is to have a quick evaluation with the athletes and wax team. And then start planning the next race.

Did your rifle have a name?

Hehe, she did actually. Celina. After a childhood friend of mine. A fun coincidence that I would later coach Selina Gasparin. No connection.

Describe yourself in three words.

Enthusiastic, Genuine, Emotional

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation: (not your own) Now it is Poland. Not just because I work here now, but because of the great atmosphere we have in the team and the warm welcome I have received from the girls and the staff.
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Elisa Gasparin’s “Swiss Mountains”
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Italy. They always bring nice new designs. Especially the blue and white coaches clothes!
Favourite biathlon venue: Holmenkollen, I grew up 10 minutes from the arena. But Antholz is also amazing!
Favourite biathlete: Michael Rösch. We competed as juniors, and he has been a friend ever since. And you just have to respect a man who has been fighting so hard to get back like he has. He dares to be different, and wears his emotions on the outside.
Funniest coach on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: Jean-Pierre Amat of France. The most clever smile, and maybe the best shooting coach!
Nicest coach on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: So many nice ones! But I loved working with Johan Hagström, Matias Nilsson and Anna Maria Nilsson of Sweden for the last three years! Also Anders Brun Hennum of Norway is a close personal friend!
Best thing about being a coach: To be a part of the development of an ambitious athlete that tries their hardest to reach their full potential.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

SUPER SPRINT!

Disclaimer: It’s possible that none of the following information is correct!

Well, well, well the IBU have decided to surprise us once again by trialling a new competition. Over the last few years we have been getting used to the Single Mixed Relay and now we have the Super Sprint!

“What is that?” I hear you cry! Well it is a Sprint that is Super. That explains that! It doesn’t of course but it not that easy to find any information about it. It just appeared as if by magic on the new race calendar for 2017/18. If you look up the dates for the IBU Cup you will find on the 13th of March in Khanty-Mansisyk ‘Super Sprint Men’ and ‘Super Sprint Women’ scheduled for that day.

In true detective style (that’s in the style of a true detective rather than the style of the detectives from the TV Show of the same name) I have done some undercover work and here’s what I found out.

The Super Sprint comes in two parts. The first is like the regular sprint race with a few changes and instead of using it as a qualification for the Pursuit it will be qualification for a Mass Start.

So the first part will be like a time trial with 15 seconds between each biathlete instead of the 30 in the normal sprint. There will still be three skiing legs with both a prone and standing shoot. However the ski distance will be shortened to between 800-1200 metres for each leg.

The biathlete will have 3 extra rounds, like in the relays, to hit the 5 targets. If they fail to hit all 5 targets with all their bullets they will be out of the race.

Those left will be ranked, I presume according to their speed in finishing the sprint, and will go on to contest the Mass Start. The Mass Start will be like the regular Mass Start with 5 ski legs and 4 shoots but will also be over a shorter distance. The only difference is if you don’t clear all the targets with all your bullets, again including spares, you are out of the race. Although if everyone misses I don’t know what happens! Probably just chaos! 😉

Hopefully this new format will allow some different biathletes to qualify for a Mass Start race. Normally it is just the Top 25 in the Total Score and 5 others who have performed the best at each World or IBU Cup round who qualify for it. This means that there are many biathletes who have never raced a Mass Start.

If they can do well in the Sprint qualifying they can get a chance. Since you are out of the race if you don’t hit all the targets it will also be a good thing for the better shooters among the biathletes. There won’t be an opportunity to ski yourself out of trouble. The usual suspects will probably still be on the podium but if others get a chance to show what they can do it would be a good thing.

I believe they do already have this type of race at the Blink Festival and I think in Puttlingen and the Race of Champions but they are just exhibition events rather than official IBU races.

It is not yet clear how many biathletes will qualify for the Mass Start but I think it will be the normal 30. There are many questions still to be answered on the exact details of the race but I am sure they will be cleared up nearer the time.

The question I would like to ask is why are they doing it at all? Does biathlon need another type of race? Can they fit them all into the schedule?

Currently on the World Cup we have around 3 or 4 Individual races and 2 Single Mixed Relays. The schedule is dominated by the Sprint races and Pursuits. Will they reduce the number of Pursuits to accommodate the Super Sprints? Or will they replace the Mass Starts with these new two part races?

Who knows! It’s just a trial for now. However biathlon does need to move with the times and it is a growing sport. People like the action packed races more and so maybe the time trials will be less and less frequent in the future.

There is a lot of competition from other winter sports for audiences. Cross country has brought in the Sprint races and they are very popular(even I like them!). Alpine now has the parallel slalom that can take place in the city. Biathlon has to keep evolving and try to win over new fans so this new concept is worth a try.

It will be interesting to watch and see what happens.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Maija Holopainen: The Interview!

Maija Holopainen is a Finnish biathlete who has recently become a coach. She was born in Liperi on the 22nd of February 1978. She made her World Cup debut in Oestersund in 2002 but now she has become coach of the Finnish Youth National team as well as at a high school in Vuokatti. Here she talks about what it’s like to coach biathlon.

You can follow Maija on Twitter: @MehisMaija

Why did you become a biathlete?

I was a cross country skier and was always better at freestyle because my mum didn’t know how to get my skis to work in classic. I wanted to try biathlon so I didn’t have to race in classic races anymore.

What is your best memory from your biathlon career?

There are a lot of good memories: training camps with the national team and friends, many World cup and IBU cup weeks. But maybe it’s my first two World Cup weeks in December 2002 in Östersund. It’s hard to choose, I have so many good memories with the biathlon family.

When did you become a coach and why did you want to do it?

My first season as a coach was in 2014/15 when I was still training and racing 100%, I only had some junior training camps. But in season 2015/16 I became a full time coach in Vuokatti- Ruka Urheiluakatemia (upper secondary school) and the Finnish biathlon association youth team coach.

I love biathlon and I have done almost nothing but biathlon since 1995, so it was natural for me to change from an athlete to a coach.

Who were your coaches when you were a biathlete? What did you learn from them that you now use as a coach?

I have had many coaches in my long biathlon career. I have learned most from Anatoly Khovantsev, Marko Laaksonen and Toni Roponen.

For example Marko taught me to train like a biathlete, not like a cross country skier or shooter. In Finland we have many good cross country coaches but they forget that we are biathletes.

You are coaching Juniors. Do you enjoy working with the young biathletes?

Yes, I really enjoy working daily with the juniors. It is very inspiring when they learn and progress at something. I think I can and want to help them most in growing as athletes.

How much time do you spend with the biathletes? Do you send them a programme to work through alone or do you see/speak to them every day?

I have some athletes who I help and write personal daily programmes for. I try to be with them as much as possible at training.

We have about 25 biathletes in Vuokatti who we see daily in our training and who we help daily in school time (from mid August to the first weekend in June). They all can get our training programme so we can train together and do some food biathlon training also.

In the Finnish Youth national team there are 10 athletes from our Vuokatti group, so I can see their training also in training camps.

What do you do before, during and after a race as a coach?

It depends whether I am the only coach or if we have two coaches in the races.

If I’m alone, I have to be in the range all the time. Before the race I normally test the skis with the girls and do some wax and grid testing (helping service) and zeroing with athletes, trying to get familiar with the wind. During the race I’m in the range giving some info to athletes or I’m on the skiing loop giving some intermissions or/and wind info from the range.

After the race I go through the race with the athletes, but only if they want to.

Would you like to be a coach on the World Cup one day?

Of course, I think I have similar goals to an athlete, going up step by step.

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

Antholz, I like the profile and altitude. It is always harder to shoot well at 1600 metres.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

I have many 🙂
Ole-Einar, Liv-Grete and Frode. OEB because he is OEB, he wants to be better and better year after year. Respect.
Liv-Grete and Frode because of the skiing technique. Just so easy and fast.

Does your rifle have a name?
Frode.

Describe yourself in three words.

Worlds smallest biathlon coach. Maybe the craziest also.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation(not your own): Germany, they know how to coach biathlon.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Italy
Favourite shooting range: Antholz
Lucky bib number: 8
Funniest coach on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: Jon Kristian Svaland,Peter Sendel and of course Andi Stitzl he is my idol! Just watch him in the races!
Nicest coach on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: So many, it’s hard to pick, I have got help from so many coaches when I was an athlete. But maybe Cristian Stebler.
Best thing about being a coach: I can still work full time in a sport that I love. And give something back to our juniors about what I have learned in my long biathlon career.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Biathlon blog."If it's not biathlon, it's crap!"