Maija Holopainen is a Finnish biathlete who has recently become a coach. She was born in Liperi on the 22nd of February 1978. She made her World Cup debut in Oestersund in 2002 but now she has become coach of the Finnish Youth National team as well as at a high school in Vuokatti. Here she talks about what it’s like to coach biathlon.
You can follow Maija on Twitter: @MehisMaija
Why did you become a biathlete?
I was a cross country skier and was always better at freestyle because my mum didn’t know how to get my skis to work in classic. I wanted to try biathlon so I didn’t have to race in classic races anymore.
What is your best memory from your biathlon career?
There are a lot of good memories: training camps with the national team and friends, many World cup and IBU cup weeks. But maybe it’s my first two World Cup weeks in December 2002 in Östersund. It’s hard to choose, I have so many good memories with the biathlon family.
When did you become a coach and why did you want to do it?
My first season as a coach was in 2014/15 when I was still training and racing 100%, I only had some junior training camps. But in season 2015/16 I became a full time coach in Vuokatti- Ruka Urheiluakatemia (upper secondary school) and the Finnish biathlon association youth team coach.
I love biathlon and I have done almost nothing but biathlon since 1995, so it was natural for me to change from an athlete to a coach.
Who were your coaches when you were a biathlete? What did you learn from them that you now use as a coach?
I have had many coaches in my long biathlon career. I have learned most from Anatoly Khovantsev, Marko Laaksonen and Toni Roponen.
For example Marko taught me to train like a biathlete, not like a cross country skier or shooter. In Finland we have many good cross country coaches but they forget that we are biathletes.
You are coaching Juniors. Do you enjoy working with the young biathletes?
Yes, I really enjoy working daily with the juniors. It is very inspiring when they learn and progress at something. I think I can and want to help them most in growing as athletes.
How much time do you spend with the biathletes? Do you send them a programme to work through alone or do you see/speak to them every day?
I have some athletes who I help and write personal daily programmes for. I try to be with them as much as possible at training.
We have about 25 biathletes in Vuokatti who we see daily in our training and who we help daily in school time (from mid August to the first weekend in June). They all can get our training programme so we can train together and do some food biathlon training also.
In the Finnish Youth national team there are 10 athletes from our Vuokatti group, so I can see their training also in training camps.
What do you do before, during and after a race as a coach?
It depends whether I am the only coach or if we have two coaches in the races.
If I’m alone, I have to be in the range all the time. Before the race I normally test the skis with the girls and do some wax and grid testing (helping service) and zeroing with athletes, trying to get familiar with the wind. During the race I’m in the range giving some info to athletes or I’m on the skiing loop giving some intermissions or/and wind info from the range.
After the race I go through the race with the athletes, but only if they want to.
Would you like to be a coach on the World Cup one day?
Of course, I think I have similar goals to an athlete, going up step by step.
Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?
Antholz, I like the profile and altitude. It is always harder to shoot well at 1600 metres.
Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?
I have many 🙂
Ole-Einar, Liv-Grete and Frode. OEB because he is OEB, he wants to be better and better year after year. Respect.
Liv-Grete and Frode because of the skiing technique. Just so easy and fast.
Does your rifle have a name?
Describe yourself in three words.
Worlds smallest biathlon coach. Maybe the craziest also.
Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation(not your own): Germany, they know how to coach biathlon.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Italy
Favourite shooting range: Antholz
Lucky bib number: 8
Funniest coach on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: Jon Kristian Svaland,Peter Sendel and of course Andi Stitzl he is my idol! Just watch him in the races!
Nicest coach on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: So many, it’s hard to pick, I have got help from so many coaches when I was an athlete. But maybe Cristian Stebler.
Best thing about being a coach: I can still work full time in a sport that I love. And give something back to our juniors about what I have learned in my long biathlon career.
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