Tag Archives: Khanty Mansiysk

A Light Foot across the snow!

lightfoot

“It’s cold up North!” That’s what they say about the North of England which means that it is a great place to acclimatise to winter sports! Lucky for Great Britain then that the frozen wastes of South Shields have helped their top female biathlete get to where she is now. No need to go looking for cold weather in Europe, Amanda Lightfoot can get plenty of it at home!

Amanda was born on the 30th of January 1987 and raised in South Shields which is more famous for football and running than for biathlon!(Shocking I know!). In fact biathlon is not a well-known sport at all in Great Britain so how did Amanda end up becoming a biathlete? Well like many others she discovered the sport after she joined the army. Actually she only learned to ski at age 19 and considering most biathletes can ski when they are children she has had a lot of catching up to do.

With only 3 months of biathlon training she won the novice prize in the British Championships and earned the chance to spend a year training in the Development Squad. In 2007 she was selected for the European Cup and after only 3 races qualified for the Women’s Relay team to compete on the World Cup.

After a lot of hard work and gaining valuable experience along the way she got her best ever result in the World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk in 2011. She came 34th in the Individual race which is an amazing result for someone who had only been doing biathlon for 5 years! Most biathletes have been training and competing since childhood especially in places like Norway and Russia. This led Amanda to be named British Biathlete of the Year in 2011. She is also the first GB biathlete to score World Cup points since 1992 and is only the second female biathlete from her country to compete in an Olympic Games following Emma Fowler in 2006.

Her best result on the World Cup was last year’s 46th place in the Oberhof Pursuit. That beat her previous best which was 47th in the Oberhof Sprint from the day before! Strangely enough her top results have all been achieved at World Championships. The best in Khanty and then in Ruhpolding where she came 36th in the Sprint and 43rd in the Pursuit in 2012.This bodes well of course for this season and the up coming World Championships in Finland. As someone who has served in Iraq the Kontiolahti wall will hold no fear for Amanda – just exhaustion!

Like many British biathletes she has had to base herself abroad so that she can have the use of quality training facilities and Amanda chose Lillehammer in Norway. She has even been learning the language over the summer which should be pretty easy for her because if you can speak “Geordie” then Norwegian should be a breeze!

It’s difficult to become a successful biathlete if you come from Great Britain. There are problems with funding and facilities and also snow! Amanda is a tough girl though and she needs to be to do what she does. This year she will be hoping to clinch a first Top 30 position and grab some more World Cup points. A good showing at the World Championships would also be a good confidence boost.

There are some young British ladies coming through, like Sophie Hopkins and Holly Rees-Lay, who would like to be to be professional biathletes one day. They should be inspired by Amanda and can learn a lot from her remarkable progress. So keep an eye out for Amanda this season and watch her progress carefully. British biathlon needs some good results and I am sure she is the one who can provide them. She has the skills required to be in the TOP 40 more often and coupled with her determination and motivation she will get there. She also has something the others don’t have – the gift of stealth! They don’t know she is coming because she has such a Light Foot across the Snow!

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A’Eder the pack!

eder

So if your name was Simon what would your potential nicknames be? How about Si, or Simo or maybe just plain Simple! For some reason Austria’s Simon Eder’s nickname is Sam!! It has obviously stuck as he uses it as the name of his website too: http://www.edersam.com.

Sam or as I like to call him Simon (mainly because it’s his name!) was born in Zell am See on the 23rd of February 1983. His father Alfred Eder was also a biathlete and took part in 6 Winter Olympic Games. Simon has only been to 2 so far so if my Maths is correct that makes his Dad 3 times better than him!!:-) Luckily for Simon his Dad is now also his coach.

Last season was probably his best ever. He won a race on the World Cup for the first time since he claimed his first ever victory in 2008/09. A brilliant end to the season saw him win the Oslo Pursuit to add to his win in the Mass Start in Khanty-Mansiysk from 5 years ago. He also began the season well finishing 2nd in the Oestersund Individual and he just missed out on another podium finishing 4th in the Ruhpolding Pursuit.

He ended the season in fifth place in the Total Score which is his highest finish to date mainly thanks to him coming second in both the Pursuit and Individual standings. The best result of the year obviously has to be his bronze medal from the Sochi Olympics Men’s Relay which he won with Daniel Mesotitsch, Dominik Landertinger and Christoph Sumann. The same team in fact who won silver in Vancouver in 2010 in the same event. He has also finished 4th twice at the Olympics which is the worst position to finish in. He was 4th in the Vancouver Pursuit and 4th in the Individual in Sochi.

He has had quite a successful Olympic career so far but has done less well when it comes to the World Championships. He has competed in 6 but his only medal came again in the relay in Pyeongchang 2009 where Austria finished second. At the age of 31 Simon must be looking to set this right in the coming season in Kontiolahti. He has plenty of experience now and if he can carry his form over from last year he will definitely be in contention to finally grab that individual medal and another relay one too.

Excitingly for us fans Simon has one of the best websites of all the biathletes. It is in German and English and best of all he has his own shop! Yes you can buy Simon Eder goodies straight from his website! He has his own range of T-shirts for men, women and children and my favourite part – he also sells accessories! You can get a mug, a backpack, a lap top case and who in the world wouldn’t want a Simon Eder pencil case! Actually if you have a biathlon fan in the family they would make great Christmas presents. It’s also nice to see biathletes be proactive in the raising of funds and giving the fans a chance to support them and buy a pencil case! (I am obsessed with the pencil case!).

The upcoming year will be an interesting one for Simon and not just in terms of T-shirt sales! He has a real chance to challenge at the very top and to claim a few more wins on the World Cup. The World Championships have to be one of his main goals and he has the ability and the experience to take medals. Let’s hope he has a great year and can finish A’Eder the pack!

 

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Slam Dunk-lee!

dunklee

With a father and an uncle who were both Winter Olympians in cross-country skiing it’s no wonder that America’s Susan Dunklee could ski by the age of 2! It did however take her another 20 years before she learned how to shoot! Born on the 13th of February 1986 Susan Dunklee became the first female America biathlete to get on the podium since 1994. She matched the efforts of Joan Smith who also made a second place finish.

Originally an All American cross-country skier like her father and uncle before her Susan was a bit of a late comer to the world of biathlon. Whilst in her final year at Dartmouth College she received an email from the then head of biathlon development, James Upham, who invited her to a biathlon training camp. He offered her the chance to learn to shoot in return for a commitment to pursue biathlon instead of cross-country.

This proved to be a great decision on both sides. With an excellent background in skiing, her father Stan Dunklee competed in the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics following his brother and Susan’s uncle Everett Dunklee who competed in 1972, and a total immersion course in shooting Susan has gone on to become an excellent biathlete.

Last season was her best yet but she had already shown signs of what was to come. In her debut season on the World Cup she finished a mightily impressive 5th in the World Championships Individual in Ruhpolding which equalled the best ever result by an American woman. She also got a 9th and 10th place finish that season in the Pursuit and Sprint in Khanty-Mansiysk. The following year in 2012/13 she placed once in the TOP 10 in the Olympic warm up in Sochi.

Last season however exceeded expectations with a first ever podium coming in the last round in Oslo which eclipsed her 4th place in Annecy and meant a total of seven TOP 10 finishes for the year. In her first Olympics in Sochi she finished 11th in the Mass Start and was part of a good performance from the Women’s Relay team who came in 7th and the Mixed Relay team who were 8th.

This year Susan has to be in contention to take her first ever victory on the World Cup. No America woman has ever won a World Cup race and so if she gets it she will be making history for US biathlon (no pressure or anything!!!). It will be a difficult thing to achieve however considering the strength of the female competitors but it has to be one of her goals for the season.

Another will be to take a medal in Kontiolahti in the World Championships. She is capable of getting an individual medal but will also make up a pretty strong Mixed Relay team with the likes of Tim Burke, Hannah Dreissigacker and Lowell Bailey and with a great performance and some luck they have a decent chance of a medal. I hope she can make history and win a race because it will be a huge Slam Dunk-lee for the US biathlon programme who are doing a great job!

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An Ex’Sche(m)pp’tional talent!

schempp

As one who has been diagnosed with under training for many years (well actually my whole life!) it can be hard to understand how someone can over train. It is something that does occur and especially with biathletes who spend a ridiculous amount of time training anyway for such a hard sport. Recent retiree Marie-Laure Brunet had problems with this in the past and so did Simon Schempp.

Athletes have to put their bodies under stress to increase their physical capabilities. Where the stress loads are appropriate then the athlete’s performance will improve but if the stress loads are inappropriate then over-training or burnout can occur. In Simon’s case he did burnout in the 2010/11 season and he suffered fatigue and a loss of form which cut short that season for him.

Thankfully that is all in the past now and last season was Simon’s best ever on the World Cup. Born in Mutlangen on the 14th of November 1988 Schempp came up through the biathlon ranks at the same time as the likes of Tarjei Boe and Lukas Hofer. Fitting then that his first ever win was a shared victory with Hofer in Antholz in the Sprint race. He followed it up by a superbly calm and collected performance to win the Pursuit and went into the Winter Olympics in Sochi with a lot of confidence.

His great form coupled with this confidence meant that he came away with a silver medal in the Men’s Relay and a 6th place finish in the Pursuit. In fact all of Simon’s medals so far have come in relay events. He won gold in the Mixed Relay in the 2010 World Championships in Khanty Mansiysk and 2 bronze medals in the Men’s Relay in Ruhpolding 2012 and Nove Mesto 2013.

Like a lot of biathletes Simon started out in another Winter Sport. He was an alpine skier until the age of 13 when he sensibly decided that biathlon was much better and changed disciplines. A good decision that was borne out by last season’s good results. Apart from his two victories he had a pretty consistent season finishing 10th in the Total Score with 6th in the Pursuit standing being his best individual event. He was also an important member of the German Relay team and he is really good in this format as his medal haul shows.

The German biathletes are under a lot of pressure as biathlon is a big and very well supported sport in Germany (well done Germans!). After the recent retirement of the likes of Michael Greis and now Andrea Henkel they have a younger and less experienced team than in the past. However that doesn’t mean they are not super talented. After a few lean years the German fans will be looking to Simon to provide them with a bit more to cheer.

If he maintains last year’s great form and pushes on a bit more without overdoing it he can be a real threat to the main contenders in men’s biathlon. He might not be able to beat Martin Fourcade over the whole season but he can beat him in individual races. If he can do this in Kontiolahti at the World Champs it will bring him the individual medals that are missing from his CV. I am sure he will win many more races on the World Cup and prove to everyone that he is an Ex’Sche(m)pp’tional talent!

 

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Soukalová: Sing when you’re winning!

soukalova

Singing sensation and biathlete, Gabriela Soukalová proved what a great competitor she is and the excellent progress she is making in her career by winning all 3 events on the final stop of the World Cup last season. Taking top spot in the Sprint, Pursuit and Mass Start in Khanty-Mansiysk really put Soukalová in the spotlight for next year’s World Cup and Olympic Games.

Her results earlier in the season were an indicator of what was to come. Three podiums in Pokljuka, a win in the Sprint, 2nd in the Pursuit and a 3rd in the Mass Start, mean that when she is on form there is no stopping her. It also means these must be her 3 favourite events!

Gabriela Soukalová was born on the 1st of November 1989 in Jablonec in the Czech Republic. She started to compete in biathlon in 2005. She topped of a great season last year by helping the home nation to a mixed relay bronze medal in Nove Mesto at the World Championships. Having recovered from illness last summer and again around Christmas it is not surprising that her best form came towards the end of the season.

She is becoming increasingly known for her singing as well as biathlon. She provided the soundtrack for biathlonworld TV’s ‘The Spy Who Loved Biathlon’ with her version of ‘For Your Eyes Only’. She has also sung at press conferences –‘summertime’ being one example from last year. She also performed at the Closing Ceremony in Nove Mesto with her version of No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak’. A video also exists of her wandering through a forest singing ‘Scarborough Fair’.

A beautiful girl with a beautiful voice but what can we expect of her on the World Cup this season and for the Sochi Games? If she can produce the same form she showed in Pokljuka and Khanty she is a serious contender for a medal in one or more of the individual events. As football fans often say ‘you only sing when you’re winning’ I get the feeling we will be hearing many more songs from Gabriela both next year and well into the future.

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