The Open European Championships got underway in Duszniki Zdroj in Poland on Wednesday with the Individual races. With a brand new stadium and good weather conditions it made it a good day to race.
The results of both races were a bit controversial however and to be fair you could see it coming. Alexander Loginov won the Men’s Individual and Irina Starykh won the women’s race. Both have just returned to the sport after serving 2 year suspensions for doping violations. According to the rules they were caught, they have served their suspensions and are free to compete again. However against the backdrop of alleged Russian state sponsored doping and the IBU biathletes threatening action if the IBU doesn’t crack down on doping it makes an uncomfortable situation for the governing body.
Whatever you feel about the outcome of the race they were the winners and performed the best on the day. They have both been doing well on the IBU Cup so it wasn’t a big surprise that they won. The silver medal for the men went to Bulgaria’s Krasimir Anev who shot 20/20 and bronze went to Alexey Slepov who also shot the perfect score.
In the Women’s Individual silver went to Russia’s Svetlana Sleptsova, who has also been involved in doping in the past, and bronze to Anastasiya Merkushyna from the Ukraine who both missed 1 target.
Both Sprint races took place on Friday and in the men’s race Bulgaria’s Vladimir Iliev won his first race and his first title despite 1 missed target. He finished 5 seconds ahead of Loginov who won silver and 16 seconds ahead of teammate Krasimir Anev who won bronze. They both shot 10/10 which makes Iliev’s performance a very good one.
In the women’s race in the afternoon Ukraine’s Yuliia Dzhima won gold by 27 seconds shooting 10/10. Silver again went to Sleptsova who also shot clean and the bronze went to Starykh with 1 miss.
On Saturday both Pursuit races were held and Irina Starykh won yet again. She shot 20/20 which means she hasn’t missed a target yet in 3 races. Silver medal went to Yuliia Dzhima who missed 2 targets, one in each standing shoot to finish 20 seconds behind. Third place went to Sleptsova who had 1 miss. It means over the 3 races only 4 women have won all 9 medals. Ingrid Tandrevold had a great race a bit further back coming from 48th shooting clean to end up 16th.
The men’s race was again dominated by the Russians. Loginov took gold again shooting 19/20 to beat compatriot Evgeniy Garanichev by 28 seconds. Garanichev had a great race starting 17th and taking the silver medal shooting 19/20. Andrejs Rastorgujevs finally made it on to the podium missing 4 shots and having to pass another Russian Volkov on the final lap to take the bronze medal. The Sprint winner Iliev missed 6 targets and finished in 11th place.
The final day of racing on Sunday was for the Relays. Unsurprisingly they were both won by the Russians. First it was the Single Mixed Relay and Garanichev and Daria Virolaynen who used 7 spare rounds finished 6.3 seconds ahead of Norway who also used 7. Tandrevold and Christiansen held on to silver in front of home favourites Krystyna and Grzegorz Guzik who finally gave the home fans something to cheer winning bronze.
The Mixed Relay gold went to the team of Starykh, Sleptsova, Volkov and Loginov. They finished 36 seconds ahead of silver medalists Norway with a team of Erdal, Huber, Bjoentegaard and Gjesbakk. Bronze medal went to the Ukrainians with a team of Merkushyna, Dzhima, Zhyrnyi, and Tkalenko despite Dzhima going on the penalty loop and Tkalenko being in second until Gjesbakk overtook him on the final downhill.
That concludes the Open European Championships which were dominated by Russia. Thankfully some others from the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Latvia and Norway got in on a bit of the action! It will be interesting to see if the likes of Loginov and Starykh get named on the World Championships team for Hochfilzen which starts on the 9th of February.
Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!