The 2016 Open European Championships were held in Tyumen in Siberia. The programme was a short one with a Single Mixed Relay and a Mixed Relay held on Day 1. That was followed by a Sprint then a Pursuit and finally a Mass Start all in the space of 5 days.
The first event was the Single Mixed Relay on Wednesday. With home team Russia dominating the IBU standings it was no big surprise when they won by a comfortable margin of 38 seconds. The team of Victoria Slivko and Anton Babikov were untroubled from the start and led the entire race. There only slip up was Babikov using 4 spares on his final loop as the pair hadn’t missed a single target up to that point. The silver medal went to the German Team of Luise Kummer and Matthias Dorfer who needed 7 spares and in bronze medal place were Norway with Ingrid Tandrevold and Vetle Christiansen.
Later in the day came the Mixed Relay and what an exciting race it was! It was won in the end by Russia by 0.1 of a second. On the final loop Evgeniy Garanichev started in third place 42 seconds behind the leading team Germany. Florian Graf had a nightmare on the first prone shoot incurring 3 penalty loops and left Russia and Slovakia to fight for the gold medal. Unfortunately for Slovakia Martin Otcenas couldn’t hang on to the lead and was just beaten on the finish line. The team of Anastasia Zagoruiko, Olga Iakushova, Matvey Eliseev and Garanichev made it a great first day in Tyumen for the big home crowd. Silver medals went to Paulina Fialkova, Jana Gerekova, Matej Kazar and Otcenas. Third place went to Norway’s team of Sigrid Neraasen, Bente Landheim, Henrik L’Abee-Lund and Haavard Bogetveit.
After Russian clean sweep in the Relays it was the German ladies chance to get in on the act on Thursday in the Sprint race. Nadine Horchler beat her sister Karolin and her teammate Annika Knoll to make it gold, silver and bronze for Germany. Fast skiing by Nadine denied her sister gold as Karolin shot clean and she didn’t but was much quicker on the track. A clean shoot by Knoll ensured a bronze and an all German podium.
The Men’s Sprint however swung back in the direction of the Russians with Evgeniy Garanichev fresh from his heroics in the Mixed Relay taking gold. He missed one shot but had a great ski to beat Norway’s Henrik L’Abee-Lund by 5 seconds. L’Abee-Lund shot clean as did Russia’s Anton Babikov in third but they couldn’t match the pace of Garanichev. Florian Graf recovered from his Relay debacle to finish in 4th and he hit all the targets this time which shows a lot of courage.
Friday was a rest day but if we hadn’t already been entertained enough then came the Pursuit races on Saturday. They were great! The Women’s race was won by Nadezhda Skardino who did her best to try and lose after shooting clean on the first three shoots she missed 2 on the final standing shoot and in the end won by 7.4 seconds from Karolin Horchler who won her second silver medal. Third place was really exciting as Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold came from 16th to snatch third place away from home biathlete Anastasia Zagoruiko by just 0.3 of a second. The sprint to the line left the Norwegian with her first Senior medal and the Russia in tears. As Tandrevold is currently Biathlon23 Youth/Junior Biathlete of the Year it was very pleasing to see her compete so well in the Senior race.
You might not think that the Men’s Pursuit could top that – but it did! In an amazing head to head battle between the Russian pair of Evgeniy Garanichev and Anton Babikov they shot exactly the same score 19/20 and both missed their one target on the final shoot. Then in the Sprint for the line Babikov just beat his teammate by 0.1 of a second to claim his second gold of the Championships. Garanichev added silver to his 2 golds and in third was Florian Graf on the road to redemption from the Relay disaster.
The final races on Sunday were the Mass Starts and again provided plenty of entertainment. The Women’s race was won by Luise Kummer of Germany who kept a cool head and shot well to take the gold medal. Second went to Slovakia’s Paulina Fialkova who was able to ski away from any challengers on the final loop. Bronze went again to Ingrid Tandrevold who this time passed 2 Russians to win on the line again this time breaking Iakushova’s heart. Tandrevold is probably not that popular in Russia!!!
The Men’s race was another cracker. Going into the last shooting we had Matthias Bischl, Anton Babikov and Henrik L’Abee-Lund in the lead. Coming out of the final shoot we had Florian Graf, Jaroslav Soukup and Babikov at the front. Misses from the leading three and probably tiredness from Babikov allowed Bulgaria’s Vladimir Iliev to catch up to him and take the bronze medal with Graf out skiing Soukup for gold. It was a sweet victory for Graf after his troubles on day 1.
Well the Open European Championships in Tyumen have been absolutely fantastic this year. All the races have been full of incident, with great performances and nail biting finishes. The Russians and the Germans came out best but didn’t have everything their own way. The World Championships start in Oslo next week and they really have a lot to live up to after this. What a great event it has been!
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