Tag Archives: Finnish biathlon

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!

Advertisements

Mari Laukkanen: The Interview!

luakannen

Mari Laukkanen was born on the 9th of November 1987 in Eno, Finland. She got her first podium at home in Kontiolahti in 2013-14 and she has also finished in the TOP 10 another 4 times. She has competed in 2 Winter Olympic Games and 7 World Championships. After an illness towards the end of last season she is looking forward to competing again starting in Oestersund.

You can like Mari’s Facebook page: Mari Laukkanen offical
Follow her on Twitter: @mari_laukkanen
She has a website (in Finnish): http://www.marilaukkanen.fi/etusivu/

Why did you want to become a biathlete?

I started competing in cross-country skiing when I was nine years old. Afterwards I had a chance to try shooting and I loved that from the first time. I also always liked more skating than classic, the fastest way of skiing 🙂

Your personal best race was a 3rd place in Kontiolahti in 2013/14. What was it like to get on the podium at a home race?

That was great. Maybe the greatest place to make your first podium. Also the
price giving ceremony in the evening in the city was amazing !!

The World Championships didn’t go as well as you probably hoped. Was there a lot of pressure on you racing at home and have you learned anything that could help you for this year’s Championships in Oslo?

I was getting sick during the Oslo World Cup, so just before the World Championships. Afterwards we found out that this was a serious virus which I had then and even though I felt healthy after 10 days resting, my body was still fighting against it and that´s why my body got overloaded and got other problems. It was big disappointment for me that I couldn’t race at my best level there.

Last season you equaled your best finish in the Total Score of 36th. What are your goals for this season?

Definitely Top 25. I would like to run all the Mass Starts next winter.

What training have you done so far this summer and what’s the plan until the start of the season?

Now it is already October so most of the training has been done. Anyway one more important period is coming when we change to snow training. I had some problems especially at the beginning of the summer because of the virus which I talked about before. I wasn’t sick but my body was stressed and was still over working because of the damage after my sickness.

You took part in the Single Mixed Relay in Nove Mesto and finished 12th with Ahti Toivanen. Do you like the new format? Do you think Finland will be able to do well in the event?

It was interesting. But it is so much about fast shooting that maybe this is not the best race for us. Ahti is a pretty fast shooter but this is a big challenge for me. But I like this short distance, that fits for me because I think I am pretty fast.

What are your strengths as a biathlete and what are your weaknesses? Do you have anything that you specifically want to improve before next season?

I am fast. That´s my biggest strength. I can also handle high intensity and high lactate (acid) very well. I have been working for years on my endurance and it is nice to see progress. I have a lot of things to do in shooting and I have big goals for this training season. We have made big steps but I still have some problems which I want to solve before winter.

Sportspeople are famous for being superstitious. Do you have any superstitions? Do you always put your right/left ski on first or wear the same underwear on race day?!

No. I don’t believe in luck in sport.

You are a teammate of Kaisa Makarainen. What have you learned from her and do you think she can win the Overall Title this season?

She is definitely the biggest favourite to win the Overall Title next season and it will be difficult for everybody to beat her. I have learned that every day matters. She asks a lot from herself and people around her.

What hobbies do you have when you aren’t training for biathlon?

I don’t have time for hobbies. But every now and then I try to find time for something which helps me to turn my brain away from biathlon. I have seen that this is important for me.

Does your rifle have a name?

No.

Describe yourself in three words.

Empathetic, bubbly, passionate.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: All of them
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Sprint
Favourite/best race of your career so far? Kontiolahti sprint 2014 (3rd place) or Ruhpolding sprint 2015 (5th place)
Favourite food: good steak.
Favourite singer/band:too many!
Favourite sports team: Finnish ice hockey team!
Favourite TV show: maybe one of my favorites right now! Siskonpeti (YLE, Finland)

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Hiiden talent!

hiidensalo

Kimi Räikkönen, Mika Häkkinen and Valtteri Bottas are all very fast Finns. As we know however they are cheating because they have a motor to make them go quick. The real fast Finns are the ones on skis – cross country skis! The cross country scene in Finland is really strong right now with the likes of Iivo and Kerttu Niskanen, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, Krista Parmakosi, Anne Kylloenen and Sami Jauhojaervi. The biathletes are getting better too with the likes of Kaisa Mäkäräinen and Mari Laukkanen for inspiration. They also have some young talent coming through on the men’s side like today’s subject Olli Hiidensalo.

After greatly improving his hair style from his IBU Profile picture Olli has now become a biathlete worth taking notice of! He comes from Nummi-Pusula and was born on the 2nd of February 1991. He now lives in Tampere where he studies Industrial Management at the University of Technology. He includes among his hobbies fishing, hunting and orienteering (can you tell he is Finnish!) and the most important one ‘nap’.

He had quite a good Junior career where his best place was a 12th in the Individual in Kontiolahti 2012 and he came 4th in the relay back in 2010 in Torsby. Last season he finished a career high 30th in the Oestersund Individual race scoring his first ever World Cup points so we can safely conclude that he likes racing in Scandinavia. He also managed another 3 TOP 60 finishes in the season, 2 coming in Pokljuka and another in Kontiolahti.

Lucky then for a Finn who races well in Finland that the World Championships are in Kontiolahti this season! It is asking far too much of him to get an Individual medal there but a good result in the relays is not out of the question. It will be a valuable experience for him to race a Championships at home and he will receive great support from the home crowd. They can help a lot and don’t be surprised if Olli produces some of his career best results there. As for the rest of the season he needs to try and make that push into the TOP 40 on a more regular basis and score some more World Cup points.

It’s not easy for the Finns though as although they may get lumped in with their Scandinavian neighbours they are not a biathlon powerhouse like Norway and Sweden. They have issues with funding like many other biathletes and so it’s not easy for them to compete at the very top. They are lucky enough to have a venue that can host a World Cup round and World Championships so that is an advantage. With guys like Olli improving all the time hopefully the situation for the Finnish team will get better.

As for Olli himself well I hope his love of orienteering will help him ‘find his way’ into the TOP 40 more often! 😉 A home World Championship will be good motivation for him this season. He can cement his place in the Men’s Relay team and try to break into the Mixed Relay team too. So if you want to see really fast Finns stick to watching cross country and biathlon and look out for Olli because he won’t be a Hiiden talent for much longer!

Check out his website: http://ollihiidensalo.com/
Follow Olli on Twitter: @OlliHiidensalo
Like his FB page: ‘Olli Hiidensalo’


Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

FIN-spirational ladies!

kontio

I always like to see home biathletes do well in their home races. It’s not an easy thing to do as there is more pressure to do well in front of your home crowd and also your friends and family. However both Kaisa Makarainen and Mari Laukkanen managed just that in Thursday’s first Sprint race. Kaisa came home in first and Mari was third with Russia’s Olga Zaitseva separating them in second. Kaisa skied amazingly well as she missed a shot while the others were clear. Elsewhere Magdalena Gwizdon appeared in the TOP 10 where we haven’t seen her for a while finishing ninth and a double Slovak attack saw Paulina Fialkova and Jana Gerekova finish tenth and eleventh.

In the Men’s Sprint Johannes Boe claimed his third win of an extremely impressive debut season on the World Cup although skiing two legs just behind second placed Martin Fourcade surely helped his cause a little. Having said that he shot incredibly fast and clean and seems to like the tracks. One to watch out for in next year’s World Championships in Kontiolahti. In third place was Arnd Peiffer who will be rueing his 1 missed shot as a clear shoot would have seen him win comfortably. His fellow countryman Benedikt Doll looked really good finishing in ninth and Serafin Weistner scored his first World Cup points by coming 29th.

Saturdays Sprints ended up the same as Thursday with Johannes and Kaisa winning again! The rest of the podiums were different though with Alexander Loginov and Lowell Bailey on the men’s side and Tora Berger and Gabriela Soukalova on the women’s. For Loginov and Bailey it was their career best results with Loginov taking significantly less time than Bailey! I was really happy to see Lowell finally get up on the podium and now he has broken his duck I hope we will see him there again soon.

An eleventh place finish from Martin Fourcade was enough to win him the crystal globe for the Sprint. That man must have a huge mantelpiece to fit all his globes on!! Carl Johann Bergman got into the TOP 5 and Lars Helge Birkeland finished in the TOP 10. Another great race from Susan Dunklee saw her finish in eighth and Anna-Karin Stroemstedt came in 19th.

I am getting slightly bored of writing this but on Sunday in the Pursuits Johannes Boe and Kaisa Makarainen won again! To be fair young Johannes tried his best to worry us by missing 4 targets in the final shoot but he had enough time in hand and mistakes from others meant that victory would be his. These two have been far and away the best biathletes in Kontiolahti and thoroughly deserve their massive points haul.

Second was sufficient for Martin Fourcade to take the Overall title for the third year in a row which is quite outstanding. Bjorn Ferry was third and must be wondering why he is retiring at the end of the year. All other biathletes take note-announce you are retiring at the end of next season and you will win lots of races! Look what it did for Bjoerndalen. Now he isn’t retiring his results are getting worse.(Although that could also be a tough season and he is no spring chicken!)

The women’s podium was completed by Darya Domracheva and Olga Zaitseva. Domracheva came from 20th to second but looked too tired to try and outski Kaisa. Other performances of note in the Pursuits came from Anais Chevalier 30th to 8th, Marte Olsbu 43rd to 11th, Magdalena Gwizdon 36th to 12th and Yana Romanova 33rd to 13th. For the men it was Andrejs Rastorgujevs 41st to 6th, Christoph Sumann 45th to 11th, Freddie Lindstrom 29th to 13th, Benedikt Doll 22nd to 7th and Simon Schempp 21st to 9th.

Now we are going to Norway for the last three races of the season 😦 The men’s titles are pretty well wrapped up but the women’s are all to play for. The races in Kontiolahti were great and well attended, a good sign for the World Champs next year and hopefully we will see more home glory there for the FIN-spirational ladies!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter!
Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Kaisa:So close to the Finnish!

kaisa

Will they ever let Kaisa Mäkäräinen retire from biathlon? She has been trying but with the Winter Olympics tantalisingly close and the World Championships in Finland next time round she is being tempted to continue again and again.

Born January 11, 1983 in Ristijärvi, Finland Kaisa-Leena Mäkäräinen has been competing internationally since 2005. She was a cross-country skier up until the age of 20 when she changed disciplines to biathlon. She has won 3 World Championship medals; gold and silver in 2011 and a bronze in 2012. In fact the 2010/11 season has been Kaisa’s best so far as she also won the Overall World Cup and Pursuit Chrystal Globes. This success led to her being named Finnish athlete of the year in 2011.

She currently has 5 World Cup wins to her name and as 3 of them came in the Pursuit it’s no wonder that she considers this her favourite event along with the Mass Start. With 8 years of experience competing at the top level Kaisa has to one of the favourites to medal in Sochi and after an unsuccessful Olympics in Vancouver ( her best result was 45th in the Pursuit) she will be more determined than ever to make this a reality.

Unusually for biathletes these days Kaisa can normally be found training alone rather than with her teammates. This summer she spent her time training between Italy, Austria and her home in Joensuu, Finland. However this doesn’t seem to have bothered her one bit as she has been training like this for many years and it has done her no harm. In fact it has resulted in her becoming one of Finland’s best ever biathletes and this summer she has already won the race up the Lysebotn Opp and the Mass Start event at the Blinkfestival in Norway.

Kaisa has always had a pretty good shooting record and her ski speed is also up there with the other top female biathletes. She finished inside the Top Ten in both events in this year’s World Cup round in Sochi and has generally performed well on her other visits to Russia in Khanty- Mansisk. Hopefully Kaisa can maintain her form throughout the coming season and the next and take home some medals from the Winter Olympics and the World Championships in Finland and go happily in to her retirement now that she is so close to the Finnish!

We will miss you when you go! Good luck Kaisa!

Kaisa’s website : http://www.kaisaleena.com/main/

Watch Kaisa at the Blinkfestival : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAeoNCOEmZI

Update: This year Kaisa has said she will take each year as it comes and will retire when she is ready. Maybe she is not so close to the Finnish afterall!:-)

As of April 2015 Kaisa has decided to compete for 1 more season at least! Hurrah!

Mass Start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2azqxvxSCE

Don’t forget you can like biathlon23 on Facebook!