Tag Archives: Sprint

Kuzmina: A fast Slo Russian?

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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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Sochi so far: Biathlon Royalty!

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Phew! A rest day for biathlon today and just in time for me to calm down a bit from my ridiculous over excitement and keep you up to date with what’s been happening. We have had 4 races so far – 2 Sprints and 2 Pursuits. Unless you have been on a trip to the moon or deep under the ocean you will have heard by now that the King of Biathlon Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won the Men’s Sprint race on Saturday. His highness claimed his 12th Olympic medal and equalled the record of his fellow countryman Bjorn Daehlie. The Women’s Sprint was won by Queen Kuzmina who successfully defended her Olympic title from Vancouver.

The Prince and Princess of Pursuit were Martin Fourcade and Darya Domracheva who both showed amazing ski speed and backed it up with highly accurate marksmanship to take their first ever gold medals. The other medallists so far have been Dominik Landertinger and Jaroslav Soukup who took silver and bronze in the Sprint. Soukup’s achievement was all the more amazing after recovering from an arm injury that doctor’s thought might mean he would never ski competitively again. Well he showed them!

In the Women’s Sprint silver and bronze went to Olga Vilukhina, who pleased the home crowd, and Vita Semerenko. The other Pursuit medals went to Ondrej Moravec and Jean Guilliame Beatrix and for the women Tora Berger and Teja Gregorin who won Slovenia’s first ever medal in Olympic biathlon.

The Czech Republic are having a great games so far with 2 medals for the men in 2 races and are looking very good to win more in the relays. Gabriela Soukalova looks back on form in the Pursuit coming from 29th to finish 4th. France have also done well again with 2 medals from 2 races and a very good Pursuit performance from young Simon Destheiux who went from 46th to 21st. They will be difficult to beat in the Men’s Relay.

On the other hand Norway’s Crown Princes, Svendsen and the Boe brothers, have been a little bit off the pace. They haven’t raced competitively since Ruhpolding but will no doubt come in to form for the latter races. The German team haven’t performed very well either with the exception of Schempp but will still be in with a chance especially in the relays.

The Olympics can bring out the best in people. Even thought they might not win a medal for it some of the biathletes have been performing really well. JP Le Guellec finished 5th in the Sprint an improvement on 6th place in Vancouver and he was leading the Pursuit race up until his unfortunate fall on that treacherous corner. Tobias Arwidson of Sweden outperformed his much more experienced countrymen Ferry and Bergman by being one of only two men to shoot clear in the Pursuit – the other being silver medallist Moravec. You also have to feel for Anton Shipulin who came so close to a medal in the Sprint at his home games. Hopefully he will get something from the remaining races.

For the women Karin Oberhofer and Dorothea Weirer of Italy did exceptionally well in the Sprint finishing 4th and 6th. Anais Bescond had a great race finishing in 5th and Switzerland’s Elisa Gasparin finished 8th beating her big sister Selina. In the Pursuit Ann Kristin Flatland made up a lot of places finishing 9th from a start bib of 24 and Olga Zaitseva showed some encouraging form coming from 28th to finish 11th. Sunsan Dunklee has also been breaking all kinds of US records finishing 14th in the Sprint and 18th in the Pursuit.

Tomorrow is the Men’s Individual and then it’s the Women’s turn on Friday. I am not even going to try and predict any medallists as it’s a difficult one to call with the 1 minute penalty per missed target. The gold medals in Sochi so far have been dominated by biathlon’s royalty but can anyone beat them in the next races? You will just have to watch and see!

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Selina: On a “Swiss roll”!

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Switzerland’s Selina Gasparin has had the best season of her career so far. She has claimed the first ever victory for her country and followed it up with the second just for good measure.Both of these victories came in the Sprint event, the first historic win in Hochfilzen and hot on it’s heels the second win in Annecy just one week later.

Selina was born in Samedan, Switzerland on the third of April 1984. She is the eldest of the Gasparin sisters who all compete together in the relay team. She is also part of the Swiss Border Police. Coming from an alpine county she lists her hobbies as mountaineering and the slightly less dangerous knitting. Useful if you need a jumper to keep you warm on the mountain! She speaks 5 languages, German, English, Italian, Romansh as you would expect but also Norwegian! Now the last time I looked Norwegian isn’t an official language of Switzerland!

There is a very good reason for this however. Switzerland is much more famous for alpine skiing than other winter sports and so there coaching and facilities are not as developed as in countries. For this reason Selina decided to move to Norway where she immersed herself in the world of biathlon and cross country skiing. She then returned home with this knowledge to pass on to her fellow athletes. It was a great move for her but also a brave one as it’s not easy to leave your country and family to go to a foreign place and it shows what a strong character she has.

Prior to this season her best result was a fourth place in the Individual race in Oestersund in 2012. To make the jump onto the podium is not as easy as you might think and Selina has proved what a great biathlete she is by doing it. Especially considering the competition around in female biathlon with the likes of Berger, Domracheva,Soukalova and Makarainen and a host of others to compete with. By backing it up with another win straight away she proved it was no fluke. Where she might be disappointed is with her subsequent performances in the Pursuits. Unused to the pressure of being chased down in the lead was probably an explanation for this but she can only improve by using these experiences to learn and grow as a biathlete.

She has also helped the Women’s Relay team qualify to compete in Sochi which is a huge achievement both for Swiss biathlon and the Gasparin family. As it makes up 75% of the team Mr and Mrs. Gasparin must be so proud of Selina along with her sisters Aita and Elisa. Their chances of a medal in the games are slim with extremely strong competition at the front but you never know. A Top 6 finish I think would be like a medal for them(ok maybe not exactly like a medal but you know what I mean!!). Individually however Selina has a great chance of getting a medal especially in the Sprint event which seems to be her best. Being in great form going into the Olympics is always a good thing and she is certainly on a Swiss roll!

Good luck Selina!

You can follow Selina on Facebook and Twitter and she has her own website:
http://www.selinagasparin.ch/

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Kazakhs-Yan Savitskiy!

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Cleverly disguised as the German team last year (the ski suits were hard to distinguish) the Kazakhstan biathlon team enjoyed a pretty good season. One biathlete in particular achieved some of his best results ever. Yan Savitskiy was born in Ridder, Kazakhstan on April the 29th 1987 and achieved a career best result in the World Championships in Nove Mesto finishing 11th in the Individual.

Last season also saw him produce his best result on the World Cup finishing 16th in the Sprint in Anholtz. He followed that up with 3 further TOP 20 finishes and 2 in the TOP 30. He finished the season in 52nd place in the Total Score up 18 places from the previous year. He was 22nd overall in the Individual event which was his highest placing from all the different disciplines.

Yan is one of few biathletes who has already won a gold medal at a major games. He won relay gold in his home Asian Games in Almaty in 2011. Having already competed at the 2010 Vancouver Games this gives him some much needed experience in preparing for and competing in Sochi in February.Almaty is also bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and so they will be looking to all their winter sports stars to try and raise the profile of Kazakhstan as an Olympic venue. Any success their athletes provide is sure to help them in their campaign.

So what does this season hold for Yan? Well his results so far in the first third of the season have been nothing to write home about.He got a 30 second penalty in the Pursuit in Hochfilzen for starting outwith the 3 second interval but still recorded his top results so far finishing 51st in both the Sprint and Pursuit. Hopefully he is saving his best form for after the Christmas break! His best event from past results would seem to be the Individual and that is probably his best chance of achieving a TOP 10 result both on the World Cup and at the Olympics. It would be an amazing result for Kazakh biathlon and Yan himself if he could do it. It would also be a boost for Asian biathlon in general.

If anyone can pull this major achievement off it has to be Kazakhs-Yan Savitsky!

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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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Targeting success! Season Preview: Men

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It’s that time of year again folks! After an eternity (well just summer and autumn really) biathlon is back! The season kicks off on Sunday in Oestersund with the mixed relay followed by the Individual,the Sprint and finally the Pursuit. So the boys will be back on track with all guns blazing-literally! It’s a big season for everyone with the Olympics starting in a mere 3 months so what can we expect form the men’s side this year?

Well as you might have guessed the big favourite has to be Martin Fourcade. Five Chrystal globes last season and a handful of medals from the World Championships makes him the guy they will all be gunning for. Unfortunately for the others like a French wine he seems to be getting better with age.

What about his main competition this season. Well the top two on his tail have to be the Russian ladies favourites from Norway Emil Hegle Svendsen and Tarjei Bø. These boys will be very hard to beat as illness hit seasons for both of them last year were still better than most others full seasons.

Beyond these three who else is left to challenge. There is a whole team from Russia who can do well but with their main aim the home Olympics in Sochi I can’t see them putting too much effort into winning a Chrystal Globe. Elsewhere we have the Germans. A poor season last year by their own high standards should see a highly motivated Peiffer, Birnbacher and co. launch a major attack on the podiums this year.

We should also see continually improving athletes like Jakov Fak and Dominik Landertinger being a challenge to Fourcade’s dominance and closer to home he will have to watch out for his French teammates and of course his own brother. Have I forgotten someone? Oh yes – young Ole Einar Bjørndalen! You can never count him out for a race win but a Globe will be much more difficult.

What I like best though about the opening round of the IBU World Cup is that no one really knows what shape they are going to be in at the start and it can throw up some unexpected results. Take the first Sprint podium last year which saw JP Le Guellec win his first race and Alexis Boeuf and Cristoph Sumann take second and third.

So who is going to win the prizes this time round? Well looking into my Chrystal Globe I can see victory for……now that would be telling!!! All I know for sure is that it’s going to be one hell a season with so many male biathletes at the top of their game and all competing for the few Olympic medals on offer. My advice – just sit back and enjoy the show and whoever wins the Globes and medals will thoroughly deserve them all!

Good luck guys!

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