Tag Archives: Nerys Jones

SMR: The reaction is Mixed!

smr

Last season saw the first ever Single Mixed Relay on the World Cup. The format has been tested before and we have the World Team Challenge in Germany between Christmas and New Year but this was the first time that it was an official World Cup event and worth points to the competing nations. In this article I wanted to review just how that went by exploring the purpose of the event and how successful it was.

Firstly though we need to understand exactly what the Single Mixed Relay is. Two biathletes from each country, one male and one female, form a team to take part in the relay. It is raced over a distance of 6km for the women and 7.5km for the men. It is very similar to the Mixed Relay where the biathletes each shoot in the prone and standing position before handing over to their partner. The penalty loop is shorter in this race at only 75 metres. The race is started by the women and finished by the men. The women will do 4 laps in the race and the men 5 as they must complete a whole lap after the final shoot.

So what is the purpose of this new race? It is the first new event to be added to the World Cup since the Mixed Relay was introduced in 2003. There are several different reasons why it has now been included as an event. The first is simply that it adds something new for the spectators and is a short and exciting race. The World Team Challenge has always been very entertaining to watch and now we can enjoy that excitement on the World Cup too. The second reason was, to quote IBU Race Director for the World Cup Borut Nunar, “to present one more team event where nations with only one good male and female athlete could have a strong chance for top rankings”. In other words to give some of the smaller teams a chance to get more Nation’s Cup points.

The first event was held in Nove Mesto and was won by Russia with a team of Volkov and Romanova. Second was Norway with Olsbu and L’Abee Lund and in third came the Ukraine with Dzhyma and Tyshchenko. The smaller teams had mixed fortunes. Japan did really well finishing 10th but Lithuania were 19th and Great Britain were 20th. Estonia didn’t enter a team, neither did Italy or The Netherlands.

Why was this? Well mainly because the event was scheduled on the same day as the Mixed Relay! The small teams don’t have enough biathletes to compete in both relays on the same day and in fact Nerys Jones and Kevin Kane of Great Britain and Fuyuko Suzuki of Japan were forced to compete in both events. So instead of being an event to help the smaller nations it actually became a hindrance! The teams prioritised the Mixed Relay and so couldn’t use the opportunity to gain any extra ranking points.

In the end it seemed to be more of a useful event for the top nations. It gave their biathletes that couldn’t get into the Mixed Relay team the chance to have a race and get even more ranking points for the Nation’s Cup. As we saw Russia won and Norway who were second went on to win the Mixed Relay later in the day. The problem lies in the scheduling of the event. If you can’t have it on the same day as the other relays though, when can you have it?

Well it wouldn’t be possible on the same day as the Sprint or the Individual as nearly all of the biathletes compete in these. That leaves the same day as a Pursuit or a Mass Start where just the TOP 60 or 30 biathletes take part. That would seem to be a better solution but then you have the issue of the tracks. That would mean 3 races in one day on the tracks and as we have seen in the last couple of years the venues are having difficulty providing good tracks because of the lack of snow and 3 races in a short space of time wouldn’t help the skiing conditions. Ideally the Single Mixed Relay would take place on a day with no other races but then it doesn’t last as long as the other relays and so might not be value for money for the spectators.

Overall the Single Mixed Relay serves the first purpose very well. It is new and exciting and something a bit different for fans and biathletes. The second purpose of helping countries gain more ranking points has yet to be seen. We have 2 Single Mixed Relays on the calendar this season in Oestersund and Canmore which are both scheduled on the same day as the Mixed Relays again. The strength of the big teams and scheduling problems mean that it won’t help the smaller teams much to improve their ranking. It is the same with all sports though. The bigger, richer teams will always have more money and be more successful than the smaller ones. Having said all of this we have only had one official race so far!! There is plenty of time to see just how well the event progresses over the next few seasons. We like new things in biathlon but in regards to this relay the reaction is Mixed!

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The Biathlon23 Awards 2014/15!!!

awards

It’s back! That’s right the Biathlon23 awards are now in their second year! It has now taken over from the Oscars as the best awards around! As usual they are not your typical awards and there are a few new categories too. Obviously the same rigorous system was used to ensure fairness in the nominations and winners – I pick them and it’s totally biased! Read, enjoy and feel free to disagree!

Most hits on the blog (so most popular):
Who says the Americans don’t know what biathlon is?! A lot of them read the winning interview. There was strong competition from fellow American Susan Dunklee and Great Britain’s Scott Dixon but there is only one winner this year. We just can’t get Phaneuf!
Winner: Maddie Phaneuf

Strangest search on the blog:
I love people! I love them because they are strange! Here is a selection of some of the strangest searches on the blog this season! I get a lot about gossip, boyfriends/girlfriends of biathletes and people looking for nude pictures! Sorry wrong blog for all that but there is always some gold in between! For example:
Why does Vita Semerenko like biathlon?” ..erm I don’t know ask her!
Martin Olsbu” – sorry about that MARTE!
Emil Svendsen prince” – news to King Harald!
biathlon Musgrave” – we live in hope!
Julia Soukalova” – maybe Gabriela’s sister?!!!
feet Darya Domracheva” – I can confirm that yes she has them, 2 in fact!
Jakov Fak beard” It’s lovely but what do you need to know about it?!
Winner: “What does Tiril Eckhoff mean?” Good question!

Best Facial hair:
A hotly contested award this year. We had season long beards from the likes of Jakov Fak, Klemen Bauer and Daniel Mesotitsch and the part time beard appearance from last year’s winner Simon Fourcade. However in Oestersund we had 2 normally clean shaven contenders, in full beard Lowell Bailey and Zorro/Don Juan style from Tobias Arwidson. Just for the concept, growing and sculpting efforts and more importantly making me laugh out loud!
Winner: Tobias Arwidson.

Best earrings:
Again there were many contenders in this category. Veronika Vitkova brought the pink earrings, Gabriela Soukalova had some pretty heart shaped ones too but the winner has to be snowflakes for snowsports!
Winner: Darya Domracheva.

Nicest person in biathlon:
There are many reason why this person wins. He helps out biathlonworld.tv with all their songs and appears in almost every video (taking advantage of his kind nature obviously!), he helps the French team win relay medals, he eats Cheerios for breakfast. Most of all though he didn’t even try to punch Anton Shipulin in the face when he ruined his chances of a first win in Pokljuka! He was philosophical with a “shit happens” response! Well done!
Winner: Jean Guillaume Beatrix

Best Team Performance:

There were some great team performances this year. The amazing shooting from the Ukrainians and the fantastic Czech Women’s relay team were in contention. However after the World Championships there can only be one winner with both the Men’s and Women’s Relay teams winning gold. That is true teamwork!
Winner: Germany

Biggest improver:
His previous best result was an 8th place last year but this year he has been in the TOP 10 on six occasions and saved his best for the World Championships where he won a silver medal on his first ever trip to the podium. He then went on to Khanty Mansiysk where he won his first ever World Cup race in the Pursuit. We knew he could shoot but it turns out he can also ski as well. Obviously he has put a lot of effort into improving his skiing and it’s paid off with this award!!!
Winner: Nathan Smith

Best fall:
We don’t like to see biathletes fall. That’s a total lie we love it as long as they don’t get hurt! This guy did get hurt but thankfully not too badly. He had concussion and scrapped much of his handsome face off but made a full recovery to take part in his home World Championships.For the fall on the downhill in Pokljuka the award has to go to the greatest face plant in biathlon history.
Winner: Olli Hiidensalo

Best quote in a press conference:
Erik Lesser was asked after winning the Pursuit in the World Championships what he would do with the special lock he was awarded. He couldn’t think of an answer but someone else kindly obliged saying “Erik has seen 50 Shades of Grey, he knows exactly what to do with the lock!” Ha, ha it was brilliant! Thanks.
Winner: Tarjei Boe

Best Tweeter:
There are a few candidates for this award. Tobias Arwidson is a regular tweeter of funny stuff but lately has become far too obsessed with food!;-) Martin Fourcade tweets a lot of pictures of himself and I mean A LOT! Nerys Jones likes to show everyone just how much she loves coffee. Chardine Sloof and Amanda Lightfoot often appear in each others photos on Twitter. The winner though keeps us up to date on everything. Training, eating, her sponsors, her van and sometimes even biathlon! And just about anything else you can think of!
Winner: Victoria Padial

Best Facebooker:
So again Martin Fourcade is great at keeping us up to date with everything on social media with posts almost everyday but here at Biathlon23 we think he has won enough already this year!!! The award goes to one of his fellow countrymen however. Not only do we get updates from this guy but also a short video recap complete with awesome soundtrack! I don’t know where he finds the tunes but they are always good ones!
Winner: Antonin Guigonnat

Best rifle design:
So most rifles go for the design on the stock. There are a range of fancy colours and stickers and things but one lady has taken it further. In an audacious move she has decorated the barrel with white to get a nice black and white design. We like your style!
Winner: Eva Puskarčíková

Most ridiculous rifle colour:
There are some very odd choices of rifle colour but none more so than a kind of “pea” green.
Winner: Nicole Gontier

Best ski suit:
A few options here. The Norwegians followed my advice and added a splash of colour to their suit. Great Britain had another good one. I liked the look of Finland’s too. I like that Slovenia have put some blue and white in to counteract the neon yellow. For design and colour combination which is similar in style to Slovenia but with more blue and less yellow.
Winner: Estonia

Worst ski suit:
Well France and Sweden didn’t seem to change theirs at all! Italy went from blue to red but they are all still good designs. For the colour alone which is a horribly suspicious shade of yellow.
Winner: Lithuania

Rising star:
I had to give this one to a youngster who has made a huge breakthrough this year. She broke her foot in the summer and started the season late but still got her first 2 wins on the World Cup as well as grabbing 4 podiums in a row! She also helped her relay team to World Championship gold and won Pursuit silver for herself. She is one of the best shots on the whole tour and at only 21 there is a lot more to come from her.
Winner: Laura Dahlmeier

Best vocal performance:
Well this category was won last year by Bjorn Ferry with his retirement tune “Breaking the Law”. As there seems to have been no raucous singing caught on camera this year it has to be a straight battle between Lowell Bailey and Gabriela Soukalova. Or does it? I suddenly remembered the Christmas video when they were joined by Lukas Hofer and Darya Domracheva singing some Christmas songs. For awkward hand placement as well as his lovely singing voice there is only one victor!
Winner: Lukas Hofer

Biggest disappointment:
Well unfortunately it’s the same as last year!
Winner: More doping scandals.

Best biathlete blog:
There is one reason and one reason only why this blog is the winner. The section known as Pepp-talk! It’s a Swedish blog but when you translate it into English the title changes to Pepper-talc and totally ruins the awesome play on words. Biathlon 23 loves nothing better than a good play on words!
Winner: Peppe Femling – femling.se

Best biathlete website:
A clear winner here for 2 reasons. The first is the picture of the cowboy leaning against the biathlon targets. Cool! Secondly there is a shop and regular readers will know of my obsession with the pencil case!!Check it out yourself! http://www.edersam.com
Winner: Simon Eder

Biathlon23’s performance of the season:
This was a hard one to choose. There were many outstanding performances this year. I had to choose one and so I went for probably the biggest surprise and against the odds win. After not even making her country’s team for the Sprint at the World Championships she was drawn in bib 93 for the Individual and was given no chance of winning. No one told her that of course and she produced the performance of her life shooting 20/20 and skiing well to take the gold medal.
Winner: Ekaterina Yurlova

IPC biathlete of the Year:
America’s Andy Soule (sitting)was a contender for this with 2 silver medals in the IPC World Championship at home in Cable. The Russian pair of Nikolay Polukhin and Andrey Tokarev (visually impaired) won 3 gold medals at the World Championships but the worthy winner also winning 3 golds in biathlon and 3 golds in cross country is Ukraine’s remarkable athlete in the standing category.
Winner: Oleksandra Kononova

Youth/Junior Biathlete of the Year:
A really difficult decision this one as we had some stellar performances from the Juniors this year. Aristide Begue dominated the Individual races, Galina Vishnevskaya had a great year, Alexsandr Dediukhin really impressed as did Lena Arnaud. The Youth category was also really strong with Kirill Streltsov, Darya Blashko, Julia Schwaiger and Felix Leitner all having great World Championships. However I am awarding it to a young lady from Norway who won 4 medals in 4 races in Raubichi in the Youth category, a gold, silver and 2 bronze.
Winner: Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold.

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Funding Biathlon: Not so Great, Britain!

British-Olympic-Association

Biathlon is not exactly Britain’s most popular sport. Actually if you asked the average Briton they probably couldn’t tell you what it is. However this does mean that it doesn’t have any biathletes, it just means that they don’t give them any help. The best known of these are Lee Jackson, Kevin Kane and Amanda Lightfoot. They are not the only ones though. Amongst the ranks of the British Biathlon Union, the national governing body for biathlon in the U.K, are Scott Dixon, Marcel Laponder, Adele Walker and Nerys Jones to name but a few.

The BBU is funded by sponsors, the IBU, the Army Winter Sports Association and by the athletes themselves. It is run on voluntary basis and the paid staff consists of a Secretary General and a wax technician. They have no performance director or any support staff who are paid. There is no support for biathlon from any of Britain’s main sports bodies or any National Lottery funding.

Why is this? Well for all the talk of a lasting legacy in sport after the London Olympics this only seems to apply to sports that have “podium potential”. So basically if you get a medal you can have some more money. As far as I am concerned this is completely the wrong way round and leaves a lot of Winter Sports stuck in a vicious circle. If you have won a medal it seems to me that you are doing pretty well as it is with the funding you have.

Surely it would be better to give sports like biathlon more money to give them a chance to catch up with the likes of curling and skeleton. How are you supposed to improve if you are not funded? All you end up with is a couple of sports who might provide a medal and a lot that end up struggling. You would think that money could be given to sports like biathlon to give them a chance to see what they could do even on a trial basis or on a sliding scale depending on each year’s results on the IBU Cup and World Cup instead of basing everything on Olympic performances.

Another thing that could be improved is the amount of races that the British Biathletes, and those from other countries with the same issues, have to compete in. On the IBU World Cup you have to finish in the Top 60 to qualify to compete in the Pursuit race, and you must be ranked in the Top 30 to take part in the Mass Start. So if you have a World Cup round where there is a Sprint, Pursuit and Mass Start if you don’t make it into the Top 60 and you are not ranked in the Top 30 overall you could find yourself travelling to places like Khanty- Mansiysk or Kontiolahti to take part in one race. This can be expensive if you are not well funded and is hardly going to give you valuable experience on the World Cup especially if you are a young athlete.

Maybe they could think about introducing a B race for the Pursuit where the Top 5 or 10 finishers are guaranteed to take part in the next Pursuit A race to give them an incentive to race for. Or maybe they could re-introduce the Team race for the lower ranked countries and reward them with some funding rather than points. I imagine these suggestions might be difficult to put on the schedule and cause logistical difficulties but I am sure the fans wouldn’t complain as you would get more races to see each day.

As it stands at the moment the BBU and the athletes themselves have done a remarkable job to have achieved what they have done so far. However the lack of funding, assistance and interest in biathlon from the Sports funding bodies especially after a successful summer Olympic campaign means that you are not so Great, Britain!

For more information on British Biathlon:
http://www.britishbiathlon.com/
For information on the biathletes:
http://britishbiathlon.blogspot.co.uk/
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Update as of January 2014: Good news on the funding. The BBU has a new sponsor, Aspen Healthcare Solutions, for the next 4 years securing funds until the Winter Olympics in 2018!