Tag Archives: Bulgarian biathlon

Iliev: The Bullet from Bulgaria!

iliev

I love a surprise, don’t you? One of last season’s biggest surprises came from Bulgaria’s Vladimir Iliev. He enjoyed his best season ever and turned in some very impressive performances. It’s always great to see biathletes from the so-called smaller nations doing well and fighting at the top with the big boys! Vladimir was born in Troyan, Bulgaria on the 17th of March 1987 and has been competing on the international stage since 2004.

We first noticed him way back in 2007 when he won his first medal in the Junior Summer World Championships in Otepaa. He took bronze in the 10km Sprint and proved that he is very good on the roller skis by winning the bronze in the Senior Summer World Championships in Nove Mesto in 2011 in the same event. He was also part of the Bulgarian Team who won a bronze medal in the Mixed Relay at the 2011 Universiade in Erzurum.

These achievements may not have made big headlines in biathlon but are significant steps for someone who doesn’t have the money and support behind them like the big teams do. He was making quiet progress on the World Cup up until last year with his best overall finish being 44th in the Total Score. He has taken part in 6 World Championships and 2 Olympic Games which has given him a wealth of experience which is now being put to good use.

Before last season Vladimir had only finished in the Top 20 three times, a 6th place in Pokljuka in 2012/13, an 11th place in the Ruhpolding Individual in 2011/12 and a 15th place in the Antholz Pursuit in 2013/14. Now he can boast 9 Top 20 finishes in a single season and two Top 10 finishes in the World Championships which were his best results by far in that competition. All of these excellent results meant that he finished a fantastic 25th in the Total Score.

So what has brought about this change in Iliev? Well he has always been a consistently good shot. He might not be the fastest shooter but he doesn’t miss a lot of targets. The thing that has improved however is his ski speed. He is now skiing faster and that coupled with his shooting skills has meant that he has propelled himself into the Top 20 biathletes more often and is scoring good points. He isn’t the only one however as his teammate Krasimir Anev also had a successful season. When Bulgarian biathlon legend Vladimir Velickov says “The boys in Bulgarian biathlon are very good” then you know they are doing something right!

The highlight of Iliev’s season was probably winning a medal in the European Championships in Oteppaa the scene of his first Junior medal. Again it was bronze but this time came in the 20km Individual race and is a big step in his career. Next season will be a crucial one for Iliev. He must continue his progress and not slip backwards which can happen very easily. He has to be aiming for the Top 5 and a podium is not out of the question. An improvement on 25th in the Total Score would be a success and a good showing in the World Championships in Oslo must also be on his agenda. Whatever happens in the coming season he is doing a fantastic job representing his country and making people sit up and take notice of Bulgarian biathlon. If he manages to improve his ski speed and shooting even more it will be a good season for the Bullet from Bulgaria!

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Golden ANEV-ersary?

anev

Krasimir Anev is a Bulgarian biathlete who was born in Samokov on the 16th of June 1987. He is probably better known for his performances at the European Championships than on the World Cup tour but that is starting to change. He has won 5 European medals to date including at last season’s event in his home country in Bansko. He took the bronze medal in the Individual event to cap off a fine 2012/13 season.

It began way back in Oestersund where he achieved his best result on the World Cup by finishing 8th in the Individual. This seems to be his best event as it has also provided him with 2 other European medals, a silver and bronze, and saw him round off the season with a 13th place finish in Sochi. Other impressive results for Anev include an 11th place finish in the Sprint in the World Championships in Nove Mesto and a further two 19th position finishes in Pursuit events in Nove Mesto again and also in Oslo.

This led to an overall finish of 38th on the Total Score for the season and 10th place in the Individual standings. He helped Bulgaria to 14th place in the Nations Cup just behind the likes of Switzerland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Bulgaria boasts some excellent biathlon facilities. Belmeken is a great training centre, there is also Borovets and of course there is Bansko where the European Championships were held and is a regular stop on the IBU Cup. It has produced some very good biathletes like Ekaterina Davofska who won an Olympic gold medal in Nagano in 1998 and is now the President of the Bulgarian Biathlon Federation, and also Irina Nikulchina who won bronze in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

So what are Bulgaria’s expectations for Anev this year? He needs to push on from the success he has had in European Championships and be more consistent on the World Cup. A first podium in the World Cup is not out of the question for him especially in the Individual event. I imagine they will be hoping for another Olympic medal to add to the Bulgarian collection but it will be a very difficult task for Anev considering the competition. However if he continues to improve and gain experience you never know what he could produce in the Individual event in Sochi. It has been 16 years since Bulgaria won an Olympic Gold in the Individual so could 2014 be a golden ANEV-ersary? It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

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