Tag Archives: Otepaa

Rene Zahkna: The Interview!

zahkna

Rene Zahkna is an Estonian biathlete who was born on the 2nd of October 1994 in Võru. He made his World Cup debut in 2014 and achieved his first Top 40 result last season. He had a successful junior career winning medals at the Youth Olympics in 2012, the Junior World Championships in 2013 and in the Junior European Championships in 2014 and 2015. He also loves emojis! 😉

You can like his Facebook page: Rene Zahkna (Sportsperson)

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

When I was about 8 years old and my father was the head coach of the national biathlon team, I got to shoot other biathletes’ rifles and I was instantly hooked by shooting. In my hometown I actually tried many different sports from judo to volleyball but I got the first taste of biathlon competition when I was 12 years old. I wasn’t good at shooting but I could ski fast and when I got my fifth place medal (for kids, the top 6 got medals), I told myself that this is what I’m going to be good at.

What was it like competing at home in the Summer World Championships? Were you pleased with your performances?

I was really happy that the SBWCH was in Estonia and I had no problems with motivation. But what I did have, was huge problems with my new rifle stock. I got a new French rifle stock but I just couldn’t hit the prone targets with a high pulse. Sprint 2+0, pursuit 3+3+0+1. Then I realised, there is no chance I’m going to compete with this stock in winter. So now I’m back to my old stock which is working perfectly and I even had camouflage printed on it.

You got your best finish on the World Cup in the Ruhpolding Individual last season. Can you describe the race? How did it feel getting your first points finish?

Skiing wise I got lucky because it stopped snowing at the end of the race, so the snow conditions got really good for me, most of the top athletes started at the front. To be honest, I really was planning to shoot clean and I was bit frustrated when I missed the last shot of the second shooting. 34th place with 2 penalties, I was really happy and pumped up. I continued racing well in Antholz, where I got a point from the pursuit.

How do you assess last season overall? Were you happy with your results?

Last season competition-wise went well, I wasn’t expecting points after my military service and 2 injuries. But I gained weight 😐 when in service, so I’m also working on that.

What have you already done for summer training and what is the plan until the season starts?

I have done everything our coach has planned plus extra body strengthening but health-wise, everything is not going according to plan. I’ve been sick🤒😷 in all three training camps in Obertilliach 😩

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strength is precise and fast shooting and my weakness is the other quite important thing, skiing 😅

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

I can’t tell you yet where my ultimate favourite track is because there are still places I haven’t been to but so far Antholz is very cool because of the wide and fast track, there are no huge hills where you just want to stop and die 😵

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Emil Hegle Svendsen because of his skiing style, he can glide perfectly.

Does your rifle have a name?

Does anyone have a name for a rifle? 😂 (Of course they do!)

Describe yourself in three words.

I LOVE football.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): France 2013
Favourite shooting range: Otepää
Lucky bib number: 17
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Kauri Kõiv
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Kaisa Mäkäräinen
Best thing about being a biathlete: Freedom

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Leandro Lutz: The Interview!

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Leandro Lutz was born on the 5th of January 1982 in Brazil. He is a biathlete and also a cross-county skier (well everyone makes mistakes!) He currently competes in both disciplines and in biathlon he made his debut on the IBU Cup in 2009.

Follow Leandro on Twitter: @leandrolutz
Like his Facebook page: Leandro Lutz Biathlete & Cross Country Skier

A biathlete from Brazil! How did that happen? Tell us how you discovered biathlon and why you became a biathlete?

It all started a long time ago. I was a road cyclist in Europe at the beginning of the 2000s and saw the guys training for cross-country skiing during the cycling off-season to keep fit and it caught my attention. But I kept cycling and just tried cross-country in 2008 when I was cycling training in Germany. After that I returned to Brazil (2009), contacted our Snow Sports Federation (CBDN) and started training with roller skis by myself. That year I did some tests at CBDN and since them I have been part of the Brazilian Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Teams and I started racing in our Austral Season in July/August 2009.

Why a biathlete? Because it unites two opposing sports and combines the endurance sport (which I always practiced) and the precision sport (where the mind is very important). And of course, it’s extremely challenging.


Do you get any support from any sport institutions in Brazil? How do you fund yourself?

I have some support from CBDN and the Brazilian Ministry of Sports.

Also from my great partner Team Out There (Bjorn and Kris Hanson), a sports project from a family business (outthereshop.com) in Rice Lake-Wisconsin(USA) that helps athletes from all over the world (XC, Biathlon, Ski Jump and Nordic Combined) with sponsorship, contacts, promotion, gear and other means.

And of course my family helps me a lot. Here in Brazil I’m a lawyer and I worked really hard planning and saving money for my journey to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Now I’m a full time athlete thanks to the hard work that I did some time ago.

Can you tell me about last season, what races did you take part in and what results did you get?

My last season was really good with some personal bests and good times on snow. I did the first 3 IBU Cups (Idre, Ridnaun and Obertilliach) and after that I focused on cross-country training and races (my main goal for the 2018 Winter Olympics).


What are your plans for summer training?

I’m looking to spending more time in Europe training with top athletes and enjoying more time on snow. Also, I hope to go to the IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships in Otepää.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths: My endurance and focus.

Weaknesses: My technique and efficiency (it was not easy to start alone).

What are your goals for this season?

For biathlon I probably will race IBU Cups 4, 5 and 6 and the European Championships, hoping for below 200 points.

For cross-country my goals are qualifying for the 2017 XC World Championships and “B” Olympic Criteria with lots of personal bests.

Who has been the biggest inspiration or supporter of your biathlon career and why?

My family for all their support and my 2nd family Bjorn and Kristin Hanson for their vision and love of sport.

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

Obertilliach. It used to be our base in Europe and it was my first track in Europe, I think I know every inch of it!

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Bjoerndalen, he is the King!

Does your rifle have a name?

I just call it “my Izhmash” and it’s left handed.

Describe yourself in three words.

Focused, hard worker and determined.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own):
Italy
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Germany
Favourite shooting range: Obertilliach
Lucky bib number: 22 (23-1) 😉
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Karoly “Charlie” Gombos
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Christofer Eriksson,Pietro Dutto and Tobias Arwidson.
Best thing about being a biathlete:The challenge, the atmosphere and the big biathlon family.

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Some Scheduling Suggestions!

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Some of my readers and I have been wondering lately why biathlon has a World Championships every year? We have the Olympic Games every four years and in the three years between there is always a World Championships in biathlon. I had not really considered it much before last season but with the IBU deciding to have two races in North America followed by the World Championships in Norway it got me thinking.

As you will know some biathletes chose to skip one or both of the World Cups in Canmore and Presque Isle to concentrate on the chances of doing well in Oslo at the World Championships. This wasn’t very good for the hosts of these World Cups as you want as many of the best biathletes competing to give the sport more coverage and a boost in popularity in other countries. It also wasn’t good for the biathletes whose minds would no doubt wander to thoughts of gold medals elsewhere and worry that all the long haul travel might affect their preparations.

So what could be done to resolve this? Well just in case I am ever in charge of the IBU (it could happen!) I thought about what I would do. Firstly I would make the World Championships every 2 years. For example for the next cycle you would have the Olympics in 2018, the World Champs in 2019, a break in 2020, a World Champs in 2021 and then the Olympics again in 2022. Not only that I would also change the World Cup schedule itself – that’s right I would be a sweeping reformer!!

Currently we start the season in Oestersund then go to Hochfilzen and Pokljuka before Christmas. Recent years have seen a lack of snow at the start of the season so I would start in Russia. Either Tyumen or Khanty Mansiysk could host the opening round as they are more likely to have snow. It also gets the longest journey out of the way when the biathletes are freshest. The second round can go to Antholz and the third remain in Pokljuka.

After Christmas we normally go to Oberhof and then Ruhpolding followed by Antholz. Sorry Germans I know biathlon is massive there but it is growing in many other places now so you would get one World Cup rotated between Oberhof one year and Ruhpolding the next. Round 5 would go to Nove Mesto which has to become a permanent fixture on the World Cup due to its huge popularity and amazing World Cup from the season before last. Round 6 switches to Hochfilzen. All three countries border each other therefore minimising travel time and costs.

The final three rounds would be a tour of Scandinavia with Round 7 in Kontiolahti, round 8 in Oestersund and the final round in Oslo. Again all counties that border each other. I know what you are thinking. What about Canmore, Presque Isle, Annecy and the other countries that can host biathlon like Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Poland to name a few? Fear not I have a cunning plan for that!

The year that there would be no World Championships in my schedule would be the year where we could boldly go where no biathlete has gone before, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations! Oh no, wait a minute, that’s the opening to Star Trek but Captain Kirk had the right idea!

In a season without a World Championships we could probably squeeze in 3 more World Cup rounds. So you could potentially have 3 World Cups across Canada and America or even further afield in Asia possibly Korea, Japan and China. You could also mix and match the established World Cup rounds with others in for example Annecy, Otepaa, Cheile Gradistei, Bansko or Brezno-Orsblie.

You could point out that usually there are only 3 or 4 people who are capable of winning the Overall biathlon title so if there is no World Championships what incentive is there for the other biathletes. Well there is also the possibility in the free year of having a “Tour de Biathlon”-I came up with that name and idea myself, I have not copied it from anywhere!!! 😉

You could take three or four venues that are not too far apart and hold a series of races across them with a nice cash incentive for the winners of each event and the overall tour. You could even throw in some classic ski races like in olden times biathlon and also some pure shooting knockout competitions as well as team events. These are just suggestions there could be many ways of doing it.

So there you have it, an alternative biathlon season. Obviously there are probably many reasons of money, sponsorships deals and logistics that might not make such ideas feasible but as I still don’t work for the IBU (but it really could happen!) they are not my problem!! If anyone from the IBU is reading this you can copy it if you like although you will have to use the name “The Tour de Biathlon23!!”

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Johanna Talihärm: The Interview!

Talihärm

Johanna Talihärm is an Estonian biathlete who was born on the 27th of June 1993 in Tallinn. She is a part of the Estonian Women’s Relay Team and last season she broke into the TOP 40 on the World Cup. She has a brother who is also a biathlete. Next season she will be trying to get into that TOP 40 more often and score some more points if she can sort out her prone shooting!

Blog:http://www.johannablogi.blogspot.co.uk/
Twitter: @johannataliharm
Facebook: Estonian Fantastic Four in the biathlon world

How popular is biathlon in Estonia?

Biathlon used to be in the shadow of cross county skiing which is “the national sport” in Estonia, but we are gaining popularity now.
You can help too by following Estonian fantastic four on Facebook!

You achieved your best career result last season at the World Championships in Kontiolahti coming 39th in the Sprint in difficult conditions. How good did that feel and how much confidence has it given you for next season?

I had a rough start for the 2014/15 season. Then I started to feel better, gained energy and confidence during the season and was finally prepared to give my best in the World Championships. After 3 penalties in prone I thought the race is over, but I got myself together again and pushed as hard as I could and cleaned the standing. I never thought I had a chance for points with 3(!!!) penalties, I was super happy that I finally reached the top 40 goal I had had for so long. It showed me how much more is possible with clean shooting.

The Estonian Women’s Team seem to be very good friends. How nice is it to travel and compete in such a good atmosphere?

I don’t even want to imagine how hard and boring it would be if we didn’t get along so well. I feel so lucky to be able to call my teammates my best friends. It is great to share the emotions, no matter if they are good or bad with them immediately. To explore the world with them! And of course to race in the same relay team!

What are your plans for summer training?

We have a new team coach with whom I personally have worked since last August. We’re mostly training in Otepää, where we have an amazing center with a 6km rollerski track with two shooting ranges.

What are your goals for next season?

To improve technique and balance, to hit more targets and shoot faster.

Describe your typical race day. What time do you get up? What do you eat? etc.

It depends on what time the race starts. Usually our races are in the afternoon so I like to sleep longer, have breakfast, then go for a run and have an light lunch and get ready to go to the stadium. I eat “normal food” but avoid milk products because they don’t suit my stomach.

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 quite a slow shooter, and also much worse in prone than standing. Ski wise I want to improve balance and technique.

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?!

I usually wear my favorite pieces of clothing, but just because they are the most comfortable. Also I have a routine of warm up exercises, which I do every time before the start.

How difficult is it to keep up with the WADA rules for doping? Is it hard to keep track of all your food, supplements and medicines etc?

It comes with time, and now we have a database made by the Estonian anti-doping where we can search for all the medicines sold in Estonia to see if they are allowed or not.

I don’t want to criticize but you are Johanna and your brother is called Johan which shows a lack of imagination by your parents!!!;-) Does this ever cause any confusion because your names are so similar?

You are not the first one to ask this question. Both Johan and Johanna are very common names in Estonia and Scandinavia so usually there is no problem. Our parents just wanted them to be similar for both siblings and international.

Does your rifle have a name?

I usually call it “rifle” or “gun” 🙂

Describe yourself in three words.

Smiling, independent, lively.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Oslo
Favourite biathlete (past or present):The whole biathlon family is super friendly and fun, it would be a shame to pick just one.
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): pursuit and relay
Favourite/best race of your career so far? First ever clean shooting at the Sochi Olympics
Favourite food: chocolate
Favourite singer/band: can change daily
Favourite film: 1+1 (The Intouchables)
Favourite TV show: news or any other show that is not read in some language that I can’t understand.

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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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Aristide Bègue: The Interview!

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This week I was lucky enough to interview France’s Aristide Bègue. Born on the 16th of August 1994 in Beauvais he has just returned from the Junior World Championships in Raubichi where he won gold in the Individual 15km and bronze in the Junior Men’s Relay. Earlier in the season he also won gold in the Junior Individual 15km race at the Open European Championships in Otepaa as well as silver in the Mixed Relay.
Those medals are added to his already impressive collection of 2 silver medals from Presque Isle 2014 (Individual and Relay), his gold and bronze (Individual and Relay) from the Youth World Championships in Obertilliach 2013 and another 2 gold medals (Individual and Relay) from Kontiolahti 2012. It is safe to say that he is really good at the Individual and the Relay!

You can follow Aristide on Twitter: @Aribeguu
He is on Facebook: facebook.com/AristideBegue
He has his own website: http://www.aristidebegue-font-romeu.fr/

Why did you want to become a biathlete?

I wanted to become a biathlete because I had seen the races of biathlon when I was a child and Simon Fourcade inspired me.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

Thanks to my faculty (STAPS of Font-Romeu) I can study and train every day.
The high-level sport asks for a seriousness in our life (I do not often party with friends) but I succeed in doing things which I enjoy. Furthermore, sport is a passion so I do something I like every day.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

I have the chance to have institutions which help me in my financing (my city Font-Romeu, my region, my department). So, thanks to my good results, I have several sponsors who give me money to live and do my sport (Colas, Altiservice ..)

You have had a really great season winning medals at the Junior Open European Championships and at Junior World Championships. Explain why you are so good at the Individual please! Do you have a favourite race from this season and why?

I had the opportunity to get good results this season. During the Championships of Europe and the World, I managed to make perfect races and perfect shooting (20/20) and thanks to that I have won gold medals. I have no secret to making a success of the Individual but I know how to excel during these races because they are long and difficult and it pleases me. Furthermore, as I am not skiing fast enough to win sprints, I give everything to the Individual because it is the race which favors me because I fire well.

Did you set specific goals for the Junior World Championships in Raubichi? Did you achieve them all?

I wanted to make a success of my last championships in the Junior category and it is what I did. My objectives are filled because I progressed in skiing and I got closer to the best.

What did you learn about yourself, you technique, your shooting etc. from the Championships and what are you plans going forward to improve?

I exceeded my expectations because I learnt to fire faster and to ski faster. It confirms to me that the work I have done was good quality and that it is necessary to continue like that.

The competition in the French team is really high. How difficult do you think it will be to progress to World Cup level and do you have a long term plan on how to get into the World Cup team?

The competition is rough but it is rewarding. I am going to work on the race of the 10km sprint because it is the most important race in Seniors. I am going to work to go to the IBU Cup and perform well enough to go to the World Cup as quickly as possible.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

To be a biathlete is cool because our job is to train every day, so if you are passionate about sport like me it’s the perfect job.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

As that is not possible, I am going to work with my characteristics and work to improve my weak points while keeping my key strong points. I admit to admiring the ski speed of my friend Fabien Claude.

What’s your typical day like?

One day of training begins by waking up at 7 am, eating a sportsman’s breakfast then first training (ski and shooting) between 9 am and 11 am. Then I eat, I have a nap to be on form and go to training again between 3 pm and 5 pm. Then I can visit the physio then eat food by 7 pm and sleep at 9 pm.

Do you get the opportunity to train with Martin Fourcade and the World Cup team? Have they given you any good tips or advice? Is Martin worried that you could be better at the Individual than him? 😉

I have good feeling with the athletes of the World Cup but we don’t see each other often but when we make do train together I can ask some advice but the best advice, it is from the experienced staff. I won the Individual but it was in the Junior category so Martin Fourcade does not have to fear. He even congratulated me and I think that he is happy to see the young French biathletes winning medals.

Does your rifle have a name?

LOL! No, it’s not a person, I like using it in my sport but that’s all.

Describe yourself in three words.

Little, Determined, Attached to my family and friends.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track:Raubichi

Favourite biathlete (past or present):Martin Fourcade

Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc):The relay

Favourite/best race of your career so far? Individual race of World Junior Championships 2015 in Raubichi.

Favourite sports team:USAP (rugby team of Perpignan)

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