Kazakhs-Yan Savitskiy!

yansavitskiy

Cleverly disguised as the German team last year (the ski suits were hard to distinguish) the Kazakhstan biathlon team enjoyed a pretty good season. One biathlete in particular achieved some of his best results ever. Yan Savitskiy was born in Ridder, Kazakhstan on April the 29th 1987 and achieved a career best result in the World Championships in Nove Mesto finishing 11th in the Individual.

Last season also saw him produce his best result on the World Cup finishing 16th in the Sprint in Anholtz. He followed that up with 3 further TOP 20 finishes and 2 in the TOP 30. He finished the season in 52nd place in the Total Score up 18 places from the previous year. He was 22nd overall in the Individual event which was his highest placing from all the different disciplines.

Yan is one of few biathletes who has already won a gold medal at a major games. He won relay gold in his home Asian Games in Almaty in 2011. Having already competed at the 2010 Vancouver Games this gives him some much needed experience in preparing for and competing in Sochi in February.Almaty is also bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and so they will be looking to all their winter sports stars to try and raise the profile of Kazakhstan as an Olympic venue. Any success their athletes provide is sure to help them in their campaign.

So what does this season hold for Yan? Well his results so far in the first third of the season have been nothing to write home about.He got a 30 second penalty in the Pursuit in Hochfilzen for starting outwith the 3 second interval but still recorded his top results so far finishing 51st in both the Sprint and Pursuit. Hopefully he is saving his best form for after the Christmas break! His best event from past results would seem to be the Individual and that is probably his best chance of achieving a TOP 10 result both on the World Cup and at the Olympics. It would be an amazing result for Kazakh biathlon and Yan himself if he could do it. It would also be a boost for Asian biathlon in general.

If anyone can pull this major achievement off it has to be Kazakhs-Yan Savitsky!

Like biathlon23 on Facebook!
Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter!

Advertisements

UnBølievable Annecy : Le Grand Børnand!

boannecy

World Cup round 3 in Annecy was dominated by the new “golden boy” of Norwegian biathlon Johannes Thingnes Bø. An extraordinary performance by the 20 year old saw him win the Sprint and Pursuit double by 33 and 37.5 seconds respectively.I always expected him to win a World Cup race but not this soon and not in such a dominant style! He also helped a weakened relay team to a fifth place on Friday. He has certainly announced himself as a real threat this year and I hope he can be consistent because I am really looking forward to seeing what he can do against his brother and Svendsen and a Martin Fourcade in better shape. Never short of confidence he stated after his Sprint win that “It is cool to beat Martin here.” He is a real contender now and I think the bigger names in the Norwegian team should start to worry about their places for Sochi.

Elsewhere and playing second fiddle to the Bø show was the great performance of Selina Gasparin who won her second Sprint race in a row. They are like buses those Swiss you wait ages for a win and 2 come along at once. There was also another first time winner on the women’s side. Valj Semerenko took the Pursuit race by maintaining her composure in the final shoot and finished in front of Irina Starykh and Tiril Eckhoff who both finished a career best second and third. In the Sprint race second place went to Kaisa Makarainen and third to Valj Semerenko. The women’s competition is fantastic this year mainly thanks to the amount of amazing biathletes around just now and without last year’s dominance from Tora Berger we are getting some superb racing.

Back to the men and behind Bø in the Sprint came Ondrej Moravec and Martin Fourcade. Following him in second and third in the Pursuit where Erik Lesser and Anton Shipulin. Lesser coming home for a career best finish for him as well. Another stand out result for the men has to be Canada’s Nathan Smith who finished 8th in the Pursuit after starting the year on the IBU Cup.

In the relays the German women’s team put in a great performance to win . The younger members,Preuss,Hildebrand and Dahlmeier, were especially solid on the shooting range and did well in the individual races too. Ukraine got another podium and now have to be the favourites to win gold in Sochi. Norway took third and the Canadian team did an incredible job to get their best ever result of fourth. For the men Russia came back into form with a great finish from Anton Shipulin to sprint past Schempp and take the win. It was also good to see Austria in third to put a disappointing Hochfilzen firmly behind them.

Speaking of disappointment it was a rough weekend for the French team with only Martin Fourcade’s third place to cheer about. However they have a great venue in Annecy. The tracks and the shooting range may not be the most difficult on tour but they make for great close racing that I personally love to watch. It was an UnBølievable weekend for Johannes Bø but it was also a successful one for Annecy. I can’t wait to go back!

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year! We will catch up again in Oberhof!!

P.S For new readers or anyone who is unfamiliar with the blog- a)what’s wrong with you? and b) no seriously, what is wrong with you?- I always keep an eye on whoever is wearing bib 23 and this weekend bib 23 won the men and women’s Sprint races!!!!YES!!!

LEHT’s go KADRI!

lehtla

Estonia has only been a country in its current form since 1993. It has a population of around 1.3 million, one of the least-populous in the EU, and yet it is producing some quality biathletes. Kadri Lehtla is one of these.

Born in Tallinn on the 3rd of May 1985 she has been competing in biathlon since 2006. She has managed to break into the TOP 30 at least once every single year since 2007 which is an amazing feat in itself and she finished 18th in the Pursuit in Kontiolahti in the 2011/12 season. Already an Olympic athlete she achieved some respectable results in Vancouver finishing 18th in the 4×6 km relay, 45th in the 15 km individual and 64th in the 7.5 km sprint.

This summer she has spent time training in Estonia, Finland and Austria. She trained alone away from the rest of the Estonian team in Obertilliach to help her prepare for Sochi. Estonia is not a very mountainous country, it can be described as hilly at best, so it is important to do some training at higher altitudes. Kadri suffered a minor setback with her rifle this summer when she got it caught under her rollerskis and snapped a piece off. Fortunately she has a very handy brother who stuck it back on with glue and tape so she could carry on shooting!

Kadri’s big goal for this season is to break into the TOP 10 and obviously to perform well in Sochi. She needs to improve by around 10-15 places to achieve this and it will be difficult considering the competition but she definitely has the potential to do it. If she can remain illness free for a whole season there is no reason why she can’t be up there with the top biathletes. In biathlon if you can shoot clear anything is possible.

At 28 Kadri is probably now getting to her peak years. With plenty of experience behind her now is the perfect time to try and push on and attain the high goals she has set for herself. She has started this season well with a career best 15th place in the Individual in Oestersund shooting clear. If she does break into the TOP 10 it will be a massive boost both for herself and Estonian biathlon. If she can keep her rifle in one piece she has a great chance – LEHT’s go KADRI!

Kadri’s website: http://www.kadrilehtla.com
You can find her on Facebook too.

Like biathlon23 on Facebook!
Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter!

HO HO HOchfilzen!

hochfilzen

It’s close enough to Christmas to get away with that title,right? Well either way we got a few pre-Christmas treats from the biathletes this weekend in Hochfilzen. It all kicked off with the women in the Sprint which saw Selina Gasparin taking her and Swizerland’s first win on the World Cup with a great skiing and shooting performance. Some great shooting also saw Veronika Vitkova match her best result so far in second and Irina Starykh taking her top result finishing third. I was especially pleased about Irina Starykh as she just happened to be wearing bib 23!

It was followed by the men and Lars Berger stormed back onto the World Cup by winning the Sprint with an amazing skiing performance after starting out on the IBU Cup.He managed to beat Martin Fourcade into second and a resurgent Ole Einar Bjoerndalen into third. It’s great to see Berger doing well again for his fun personality if nothing else. I would also like someone to check Bjoerndalen’s birth certificate to make sure he really will be 40 next month.I don’t know how he does it! Whatever his parents fed him when he was young I want some of it!

On Saturday we had the first men’s and women’s relays of the season. The Ukrainian women’s team put in a stellar performance to win. All of their athletes did a great job but Julia Dzhyma stands out for her overall performance over the weekend. They were followed by Germany and France but Norway were noticeably absent from the podium. Over on the men’s side however the Norwegian men won with a dominant display and a characteristically great last leg from Svendsen. Sweden took a great second place with Bergman striking like a cobra into the stadium to fight off the Russian charge and leave them in third.

On to Sunday and the Pursuit. A great race from Solemdal gave her a second victory in Hochfilzen and made up for another difficult day on the shooting range for Tora Berger. Dzhyma took a fantastic second place thanks to some great shooting and Poland’s Palka made up 8 places to finish third. Unsurprisingly Martin Fourcade won the men’s race followed by Svendsen and Boe. Just a little tip for the Norwegians you can’t give Fourcade a 40 second lead in a Pursuit if you want a chance of winning it! Having said that both the Norwegian guys have stepped up a gear from Oestersund and it’s just a pity they won’t be competing in France this coming weekend.

For the home crowd Cristoph Sumann gave them something to cheer about getting 5th in the Sprint and 7th in the Pursuit. They got 4th in the men’s relay too but unfortunately Simon Eder couldn’t carry on his form from last week in Oestersund and Dominik Landertinger didn’t perform as well as he would have hoped at home. The large home crowd was swelled by Biathlon Fans Hungary on their first outing of the season and I am sure their blog and Facebook page will be full of great photos and interviews.

Standouts for me from Hochfilzen have to be Simon Schempp and the German team in general. Schempp finished 8th in the Sprint, 6th in the Pursuit and 6th in the relay. Daniel Boehm and Arnd Peiffer got 2 TOP 20 finishes and the women were second in the relay. Julia Dhzyma as I mentioned before had a good weekend all round finishing first in the relay, second in the Pursuit and fifth in the Sprint. The big movers in the Pursuit were Alexis Boeuf and Benjamin (Darth) Weger gaining 20 and 34 places respectively and the Semerenko twins and Gabriela Soukalova(Bib23) who started 22,23 and 24 and finished 7,8,9.

So after HO HO Hochfilzen now all thoughts turn to France and a first visit to Annecy. None of the Norwegian top guns are attending which is a big disappointment but Martin Fourcade and the French team will be there so the crowds will be happy. What awaits the biathletes in Grand Bornand? We will just have to wait and Annecy!

P.S Has anyone else noticed the interviewer in the IBU official Press Conference always asks a question with the word “surprise” in it. I can’t watch them properly because it makes me laugh everytime I hear it! Listen out for it in Annecy!

Like biathlon23 on Facebook.
Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter.

Dutch courage!*

chardine

It’s flat. It doesn’t have a lot of snow. It’s more famous for windmills, tulips and clogs and a liberal attitude to just about everything. The Netherlands is not a place you would readily associate with biathlon. You would however be wrong! Not only do they have biathletes, they have a whole family of them!

All born in Waddinxveen the Sloof family comprising of brothers Joël and Luciën and sister Chardine are taking the biathlon siblings thing to a whole new level! Especially as their coach just happens to be their dad, Eddy! Despite being the youngest, the most successful and probably best known of the three is Chardine. She burst onto the scene in 2012 at the Junior World Championships in Kontiolahti winning two gold medals in the Individual and the Pursuit. In doing so she made history by becoming the first Dutch athlete to win a World Championship.

JoelSloof

Moving to Sweden in 1999 obviously helped all of the Sloofs in biathlon as The Netherlands neither has the weather conditions or facilities to support professional biathletes. Torsby is the location the family chose and it has paid off as all three children have done well in biathlon. The eldest brother Joël born on the 15th of November 1988 has had most experience on the IBU and World Cup. He has had some good results in the past year finishing from around 50th to 95th on the World Cup and a 51st place in the World Championship Individual in Nove Mesto was a great achievement. Luciën born on the 7th of June 1990 is obviously slightly less experienced but has produced some good Top 50 results in the Junior World Championships and also in the European Championships.

luciensloof

However the Sloof family don’t have the monopoly on Dutch biathlon. The recently retired and brilliantly named Herbert Cool had a good career and there is another up and coming biathlete Jarl Hengstmengel, who placed a credible 48th and 68th in the Individual and Sprint respectively in the Junior World Championships in Obertilliach this year. He trains in Germany and has set a goal of becoming one of the Top 50 in the World. As an 18 year old he has great ambition and also the time to try and achieve it. He is aiming high and there is nothing wrong with that unless you are on the shooting range of course!

jarl

So there you have it, The Netherlands has quite a few good young biathletes coming through. It just shows you that you don’t need hills or snow to be good at winter sports. A little help is required of course in these cases from Sweden and Germany but a bit of Dutch courage can take you a long way.

Good luck to all of them!

You can follow all The Sloofs and Jarl on Twitter and Chardine, Luciën and Jarl on Facebook. I strongly recommend you do so – they need your support!

You can find out more info at: http://www.sloofbiathlon.com
(It’s in Dutch but you can translate it easily with an online translator.)

*just so we’re clear I mean Dutch courage as in brave people who are Dutch. I am not advocating drinking alcohol for courage(as the saying means in English) before doing biathlon!Although……


Like biathlon23 on Facebook!
Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter!

The Swede Smell of Success!

oestersund

Well that’s Oestersund over for another year. A disrupted calendar due to high winds but pretty interesting all the same. It began what feels like about 10 years ago with the mixed relay. The Czech Republic won with a very solid performance from all 4 athletes and with a little help from Martin Fourcade who proved he is in fact human and not just a lean, mean, biathlon machine.

He soon put all that behind him though by winning the Individual by over 2 minutes with an “in your face doubters” kind of display. What’s most remarkable about this guy is that after a disaster in the relay and 4 days to sit and dwell on it he comes out and shoots clear. His mental strength is unbelievable and you can’t help but be impressed by the way he handled the situation. We know his physical ability but to have that mental toughness is why he will be so hard to beat this season. Many people would have crumbled after the relay but he comes out even stronger and wins the Sprint too just for good measure. Four-midable!

On the women’s side Tora Berger didn’t get off to a great start either. She also had a bit of a shocker in the relay. Like Fourcade she worked her way back on to the podium finishing 3rd in the Sprint.Elsewhere Gabriela Soukalova started where she finished last season with an impressive performance in the Individual and Ann Kristin Flatland had a great race to win the Sprint. It was great to see Marie-Laure Brunet get the podium that her amazing shooting deserves and Olga Zaitseva making it in there too after a rocky start for Team Russia. Slovakia also earned a podium through Kuzmina.

Special mentions have to go to the French men’s team especially Jean-Guillame Beatrix for his 4th place in the Sprint and Baptiste Jouty for an amazing 13th place in the same race.In fact the French men had 5 finishers in the TOP 40. Also to Fredrik Lindstrom for restoring some home pride in a tough meet for the Swedes. What might have been if he hadn’t fallen we will never know but I like to think he would have won. Tim Burke also hit some early season form in the Sprint and his fellow North American JP Le Guellec proved that he must really like Oestersund by getting a 4th place in the Individual to follow his Sprint win last year. The Austrian men also performed very well in the Individual with Eder in second, and Mesotitsch in third after competing in Idre in the IBU Cup.

The Italians also had some great results from both the men and women. Oberhofer and Weirer both finished in the TOP 10 -a first for Italy and Hofer and De Lorenzi repeated the feat for the men. Kadri Lehtla was the only woman to shoot clear in the Individual and earned her a career best 15th place. Andorra’s Laurie Soulie was also having the race of her life in that event right up until the final shoot.If she hadn’t missed 3 targets she could have made the TOP 5.

On the other hand it was a bit of a disappointing weekend for the big guns from Norway and Russia especially on the men’s side with no podiums for either team.If you are a fan of theirs though you shouldn’t worry too much. I think they both have a master plan that involves peaking in time for the Olympics and if last season’s World Championships are anything to go by the Norwegians at least will be bang on form for Sochi.

It was unfortunate that both the Pursuits were cancelled. It seems my powers of weather forecasting are brilliant as I did predict a hurricane in my last post! Not to worry though the fun starts again in Hochfilzen on Friday. Fourcade, Soukalova, Flatland and the Czech relay team leave Oestersund with the Swede smell of success but can they repeat it in Austria? You’ll have to wait and see!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter.
Like biathlon23 on Facebook.

Hurricane Murphy!

murphy

Don’t panic! It’s not the weather forecast for the rest of the week in Oestersund.( Well at least I hope it’s not because it would make the shooting pretty interesting and it’s been windy enough already!)It is in fact the title of my post about New Zealand biathlete Sarah Murphy. The nickname “hurricane” comes from her tendency to arrive, cause some kind of disaster and then leave. Slightly worrying for someone who uses skis, poles and a rifle in her chosen sport!!!

Sarah was in fact born in Canada but has dual nationality with New Zealand. She decided to represent New Zealand as she would become their first female biathlete and give her a chance to develop the sport in the country. However it is a choice that has probably made her life a lot more difficult. With no funding from her country and a difficult qualifying standard set for her for the Olympics she has a lot more on her mind than just training.

She has found a lot of help however from within the close knit and extremely nice biathlon community. She travelled with the Ukrainian team for 2 seasons and the Slovenia wax team took care of her skis last season. However like biathletes from the “smaller” biathlon nations she still struggles for funding in what can be a very expensive sport.

Sarah was lucky enough to compete in the Vancouver Olympics, which having grown up in Canada were also her home Olympics. A fantastic experience for anyone I am sure even though her results were maybe not all she was hoping for. She was only 22 at the time so the experience of a Games would surely have made up for any disappointment with her performance.

Still young in biathlon terms Sarah is just 25 years old. She has a lot of time ahead of her to improve and if she could break into the Top 40 this season it would be a massive achievement for her. She has finished just outside the Top 40 on two occasions and she definitely has the potential and desire to get there.

It would be amazing if Sarah can qualify for the Olympics(not least because she will celebrate her birthday right in the middle of it!). For New Zealand to have a representative there can only help to grow the popularity of the sport in that country. The residents of Sochi might not like a bad weather warning but I would love to see Hurricane Murphy hitting The Laura Stadium in February!(I just wouldn’t want to clear it up afterwards!)

Good luck Sarah!

You can follow Sarah on Facebook and Twitter and she also has her own blog:
http://murphy-biathlon.blogspot.co.uk/

Like biathlon23 on Facebook!
Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter!

Update as of 20/01/2014.Unfortunately Sarah isn’t going to make it to Sochi! A total travesty of justice if you ask me!!!

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