Tag Archives: Ukraine

Juliya Dzhyma: Uk’raining’ Talent!

dzyhma

Do you remember when you were young and your father made you do biathlon and it made you cry? No? Well that’s why you are not an Olympic gold medallist and Juliya Dzyhma is! In fact both her parents were biathletes and her father, Valentin Dzyhma, competed briefly on the World Cup for the USSR so she had the correct genes for it but she did need some encouragement to take up the sport. After a few days of tears she eventually liked biathlon!

She was also sent to try many different activities when she was a child. At dance lessons her teacher told her she danced like bear! She wasn’t good at singing or gymnastics either but a pottery class led her on to her other passion away from biathlon which is painting. In fact Juliya has even won some national competitions in her home country of Ukraine!

Her father won though as she decided to concentrate on biathlon and although she was a talented shot from early on she did have more trouble learning to ski. However that is all in the past. Nowadays Juliya is a top biathlete. Born in Kiev on the 19th of September 1990 she has been competing on the World Cup since season 2011/12 but really made her mark in 2013.

Early that season in Hochfilzen she achieved her best result to date with a second place finish in the Pursuit race after finishing 5th in the Sprint. She followed that up with another 4 TOP 10 finishes. Obviously her biggest success came at the end of the season in Sochi at the Olympic Games. She was part of the Ukrainian Women’s Team along with Vita and Valj Semerenko and Olena Pidhrushna who won the gold medal in the Relay. It was a great team performance and a thoroughly deserved win. Juliya actually has quite a few medals from Relay competitions. She won silver in the World Championships in 2013, 3 golds and a bronze from the European Championships in 2011,2012, 2013 and 2015. Her only individual medal to date was a silver in the Sprint at the European Championships in Bansko 2013.

Last season she made a little bit of history too by being on the podium in the first ever Single Mixed Relay in Nove Mesto. She finished third alongside teammate Artem Tyshchenko. That was her only podium but she did finish in the TOP 10 another 3 times and ended the total score in 24th place. She didn’t have a good World Championships however just racing in 2 events.

On the other hand she is the only biathlete to have worn bib23 on 4 separate occasions and has gained many points for biathlete23!! Better than Olympic gold? Maybe not but it has to be a close second! She says that her hero is Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and that when she first met him she got his autograph and had a photo taken with him. If you are going to choose a role model in biathlon he is a good one to pick! Could she perhaps emulate some of his success?

Statistically she is one of the best shots on the Women’s tour. Her ski speed is not as good as the very best women but it is around the TOP 20. This means that if she can shoot well when others don’t she can get more podiums and also win races. The best chance of a maiden victory for her could come in the Individual race. Her shooting skill gives her a great chance of winning if the other fast skiers miss targets.

This season she will face some stiff competition from her own teammates. With Vita Semerenko back from injury and Olena Pidrushna coming out of retirement she will have to fight for her place in the Relay team with them and also the good young biathletes coming through like Iryna Varvynets and Yuliya Zhuravok. Hopefully Juliya can find some consistency in her performances for the coming season and she will be aiming to get into the TOP 10 on a more regular basis. She will be trying hard to get some more podiums and to take her first World Cup victory as well as looking to do well in Oslo in the World Championships. Dzhyma is lucky to be part of such a strong team where she can get experience from the older members as well as being an integral part of the team herfelf in a country that is Uk’raining’ talent!

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Semerenko twins: Double trouble!

vita

Unsurprisingly born on the same day, the 18th of January 1986, Ukrainian twins Valentyna Oleksandrivna Semerenko and Viktoriya Oleksandrivna Semerenko have been on the World Cup for over 8 years. Better known as Valj and Vita the ladies from Sumy have confused many of us over the years. Sometimes they have different coloured hair but dressed in the Ukrainian biathlon suits and hats it’s hard to tell them apart.

However as results show they are not exactly the same in terms of biathlon. They have the same results in the relay competition (obviously!) where they compete together but what about their individual performances? Vita has three bronze medals in individual events to Valj’s one. She has also finished second on the podium three times whereas her sister has only managed third place as her best result. Having said that it was Valj who won an individual bronze in last year’s World Championships in Nove Mesto in the 15km.

valj

It must be a bit strange racing against your own twin. There are many examples of siblings who compete against each other in biathlon but twins have a different kind of bond. Normally you want to give all the support you can to your family members but then you have to turn around and hope that you beat them. That’s not so easy for a twin. They may have different personalities but I imagine physically they are very similar so out skiing each other could be a problem. Looking at the shooting results Vita seems to have the edge which may explain her slightly greater success. However I am sure they enjoy having each other around for support and training.

The Olympics are close to home for the girls and so I am sure they will enjoy great support there. There is no reason why they should not perform well in Sochi and come away with a few medals. The relay is probably their best shot at gold having finished second so many times but the Norwegian and Russian teams will be particularly difficult to beat. They are both capable of collecting some medals in the individual events too.

Of course what they should have done at the beginning of their career was not to tell anyone they were twins and one could do the Sprint event and next day the other could have done the Pursuit. Or they could have swapped over half way through the race when there are fewer cameras out on the forest tracks! Only I have such an unscrupulous mind however so the other biathletes will have to watch out for double trouble this season!

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Of Para-mount Importance.

zaripov

Everyone is talking about the Sochi Winter Olympics. Who will take home the gold? Svendsen or Fourcade? Berger or Zaitseva? Whoever wins it’s going to be exciting stuff, but please don’t forget that there are 2 Olympic Games in Sochi next year. From the 7th to the 16th of March the Paralympic Games is also taking place.

Biathlon has been a Paralympic sport since 1988 when it was introduced in the Innsbruck Games for athletes with physical impairment. Since 1992 athletes with visual impairment have also been able to compete.

The program consists of 12 events, 6 for men and 6 for women. The athletes are divided into 3 categories which are standing,for those who are able to use the same equipment as able-bodied skiers, sitting and visually impaired. Athletes in the sitting category use a sit-ski or mono-ski to compete. It consists of a fitted chair over a single ski and makes use of a suspension device to help minimize wear and tear on the athlete’s body.

Athletes who are visually impaired use an electronic rifle which allows them to aim by hearing. The increasingly louder acoustic signals emitted as the rifle is pointed towards the centre of the target mean that the athletes aim by sound instead of sight. They are also accompanied by a sighted guide and are recognised as a team by the awarding of duel medals.

The men and women compete in the Pursuit and Individual races. They also compete over the same distances, around 3km in the Pursuit and 12.5km in the Individual, apart from the women’s sitting individual which is slightly shorter at 10km.

The growth of biathlon since 1988 has been very promising. In the first year there were only 3 medal events and no female competitors. In the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver there were 12 medal events competed for by 18 different countries made up of 61 male and 34 female biathletes. The competitors come from the usual biathlon countries like Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Norway and also Canada and The U.S. amongst others.

So who should you look out for in the games next year? Well as it’s in Russia here are a couple of medal contenders for the home country. Irek Zaripov(pictured above) was born on March 27, 1983, in Sterlitamak. He lost both legs in a motorcycle accident at aged 17. He has taken part in 2 Paralympic games in Turin and Vancouver, the latter being much more successful as he won 4 gold medals and 1 silver in biathlon and cross-country skiing sitting events. He received the Order of Merit from the Russian President and he is an ambassador for the Sochi Games. In 2011 he won another 6 medals this time in the IPC Biathlon and Cross Country Skiing World Championships in Russia and therefore is one of the favourites to medal in March.

For the ladies there is fellow Russian Mikhailina Lysova. Competing in the visually impaired section she works with her guide Alexey Ivanov. Now that her nemesis Germany’s Vernea Bentele has retired Lysova has a great chance winning in Sochi. She finished 3rd in both the Pursuit and Individual in Vancouver behind Bentele but in the 2011 World Championships she won gold in both biathlon events and also silver in the relay. Her main competition will come from fellow Russian Elena Remizova so the home country can look forward to a lot of potential medals.

So please remember after you have finished cheering for your countrymen and favourites in February don’t forget to watch the Paralympic Games in March. It’s of para-mount importance!

For information about the Paralympic Games see: http://www.paralympic.org/Events/Sochi2014

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