Tag Archives: Slovakia

Kuzmina: A fast Slo Russian?

kuzmina

Confused? You should be! Anastasiya Vladimirovna Kuzmina is a complicated lady. She was born in and competed for Russia. She is Anton Shipulin’s big sister. She is married to an Israeli cross country skier. She now lives in and competes for Slovakia. Have you got all that? Good! I would never say that Kuzmina is lazy but she does like a short race! She is double Olympic gold medallist in the Sprint event. She produced a remarkable defence of her title in Sochi and to do it in what was her home games, even though she doesn’t compete for Russia anymore, must have been an amazing feeling for her.

It was pretty amazing for us too as she hadn’t really shown much form on the World Cup leading up to the games but like the wily competitor that she is, she timed her form beautifully. However she couldn’t repeat her double medal winning performance from Vancouver where she followed up Sprint gold with Pursuit silver. She finished 6th in the Sochi Pursuit but she was up against Darya Domracheva who went on to win the 3 remaining golds.

Anastasiya was born on the 28th of August 1984 in Tyumen, Russia. She originally competed for Russia and had a pretty successful Junior career in the team. She won 7 medals in the Junior World Championships, 2 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze. After getting married and having a son she changed allegiance to compete for Slovakia in 2008 so that her son could go to training camps with her. As her husband is also her skiing coach it made sense for them to be together as a family and meant she could continue to compete.

It proved a good decision for her as she has made history for her new country. She was the first ever woman representing Slovakia to win an Olympic gold medal. This led to her rightly winning the 2010 Slovak Athlete of the Year and for the last 5 years she has been named Queen of the Slovak Biathlon Track! A rhyming award is always the best one to win!

Kuzmina turns 30 this summer and so is now one of the most experienced athletes on the World Cup after the retirements of the likes of Henkel and Berger. She will be looking to improve on her World Cup results from last season and get back on the podium on a more regular basis. In Kontiolahti she will surely want to add to her 2 World Championship medals. Don’t bet against her winning the Sprint again as she is a fast, Slo Russian!

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Kazar: The Crack Slovak!

kazar

Matej Kazár is one of Slovakia’s top biathletes. He was born on the 10th of May 1983 in Košice. He made his first appearance for Slovakia on the World Cup in 2002 as a member of the relay team and has been a regular since 2005. He scored his first points in 2008 in Ruhpolding by finishing 23rd(good number!) in the Pursuit.

He enjoyed a successful junior career winning gold and silver in the European Championships. However his best results have come in the Summer biathlon competitions. In 2010 he had a stellar year winning gold, silver and bronze in the Pursuit, Sprint and Mixed Relay respectively in the Summer Biathlon World Championships in Duszniki Zdrój in Poland. Not only that but he also won 2 gold medals and a bronze in the European Summer Biathlon Championships in the same year in Osrblie, at home in Slovakia, in the same events. Anyone would think he doesn’t like snow!

In fact his best results on snow have been a 17th place in last year’s Individual in Oestersund and another 17th place in the Pursuit in Kontiolahti in 2011/12.He also has another ten TOP30 finishes to his name, five of which came last year. Actually last year was probably his best season so far. He finished 48th in the Total Score by coming 45th in the Individual standings,52nd in the Sprint,44th in the Pursuit and helping Slovakia to a 12th place finish in the Nations Cup.

This season his best result so far came in the Sprint race in Annecy. He finished 26th but didn’t do so well in the Pursuit coming 39th because of 4 missed targets. Matej needs to become more consistent and try and achieve TOP 20 and 30 results on a more regular basis. This however is easier said than done as there are so many great male biathletes competing just now and more good up and coming ones to try and beat. Matej can’t afford to worry about them though, he just needs to concentrate on himself. Some TOP 20 finishes in Sochi would be a massive confidence boost and with a teammate like Anastasiya Kuzmina you never know what could happen in the mixed relay. Maybe he needs to pretend he is on rollerskis to get some good results and we will all see what The Crack Slovak is capable of!

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The Swede Smell of Success!

oestersund

Well that’s Oestersund over for another year. A disrupted calendar due to high winds but pretty interesting all the same. It began what feels like about 10 years ago with the mixed relay. The Czech Republic won with a very solid performance from all 4 athletes and with a little help from Martin Fourcade who proved he is in fact human and not just a lean, mean, biathlon machine.

He soon put all that behind him though by winning the Individual by over 2 minutes with an “in your face doubters” kind of display. What’s most remarkable about this guy is that after a disaster in the relay and 4 days to sit and dwell on it he comes out and shoots clear. His mental strength is unbelievable and you can’t help but be impressed by the way he handled the situation. We know his physical ability but to have that mental toughness is why he will be so hard to beat this season. Many people would have crumbled after the relay but he comes out even stronger and wins the Sprint too just for good measure. Four-midable!

On the women’s side Tora Berger didn’t get off to a great start either. She also had a bit of a shocker in the relay. Like Fourcade she worked her way back on to the podium finishing 3rd in the Sprint.Elsewhere Gabriela Soukalova started where she finished last season with an impressive performance in the Individual and Ann Kristin Flatland had a great race to win the Sprint. It was great to see Marie-Laure Brunet get the podium that her amazing shooting deserves and Olga Zaitseva making it in there too after a rocky start for Team Russia. Slovakia also earned a podium through Kuzmina.

Special mentions have to go to the French men’s team especially Jean-Guillame Beatrix for his 4th place in the Sprint and Baptiste Jouty for an amazing 13th place in the same race.In fact the French men had 5 finishers in the TOP 40. Also to Fredrik Lindstrom for restoring some home pride in a tough meet for the Swedes. What might have been if he hadn’t fallen we will never know but I like to think he would have won. Tim Burke also hit some early season form in the Sprint and his fellow North American JP Le Guellec proved that he must really like Oestersund by getting a 4th place in the Individual to follow his Sprint win last year. The Austrian men also performed very well in the Individual with Eder in second, and Mesotitsch in third after competing in Idre in the IBU Cup.

The Italians also had some great results from both the men and women. Oberhofer and Weirer both finished in the TOP 10 -a first for Italy and Hofer and De Lorenzi repeated the feat for the men. Kadri Lehtla was the only woman to shoot clear in the Individual and earned her a career best 15th place. Andorra’s Laurie Soulie was also having the race of her life in that event right up until the final shoot.If she hadn’t missed 3 targets she could have made the TOP 5.

On the other hand it was a bit of a disappointing weekend for the big guns from Norway and Russia especially on the men’s side with no podiums for either team.If you are a fan of theirs though you shouldn’t worry too much. I think they both have a master plan that involves peaking in time for the Olympics and if last season’s World Championships are anything to go by the Norwegians at least will be bang on form for Sochi.

It was unfortunate that both the Pursuits were cancelled. It seems my powers of weather forecasting are brilliant as I did predict a hurricane in my last post! Not to worry though the fun starts again in Hochfilzen on Friday. Fourcade, Soukalova, Flatland and the Czech relay team leave Oestersund with the Swede smell of success but can they repeat it in Austria? You’ll have to wait and see!

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