Tag Archives: Ukranian biathlon

Pidhrushna: The second coming!

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Olena Pidhrushna is only 29! It feels like she has been around for ages! We even thought she had retired at the end of season 2013/14 but it turns out she was just on a break. She came back at the beginning of last season looking better than ever.

Pidhrusha was born in Poland on the 9th of January 1987 but obviously competes for Ukraine. Her debut season on the World Cup was back in 2008/09 where she finished 52nd in the Total Score. Last season was her best ever as she finished 7th in the Overall and won her first World Cup race taking the victory in the Sprint race in Canmore. She also finished on the podium twice with two third places in the Oestersund Individual and the Sprint.

Taking a year off where she worked for a time as Ukraine’s Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports and had a baby seems to have worked wonders for Pidhrushna. She looked to be back to the form that helped her to win a World Championship title in Nove Mesto in 2013. There she won the gold medal in the Sprint and that same season finished 8th in the Total score by claiming another four Top 4 finishes on the World Cup.

Of course she is probably best known for her part in the Ukrainian Women’s Relay team who won the gold medal at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. She took the final leg in the race and used all her experience using only 1 spare round to beat the Russian team by 26 seconds. At the start of a time of political turmoil between the two countries it had a lot of significance beyond that of just sport.

So will she be able to repeat her success next season? She is up against some very strong competition but she has the chance to move up the rankings if she continues last season’s form. Her best events seem to be those against the clock rather than head to head racing as many of her best results come in the Sprint races. This is where she has picked up most of her points, in fact she was 5th in the Sprint standing last season but dropped to 7th in the Pursuit and Mass Start rankings.

If she can improve her results in those events it will give her a good chance of getting into the Top 5 overall. She also has opportunities to add to her World Championship medal in Hochfilzen. She has a great chance of a medal in the Sprint of course and also in the Relays as Ukraine has a strong Women’s team and may also contend in the Mixed Relay. It seems that taking a year off from competing has done Pidhrushna a lot of good and she actually looks like a better biathlete in her second coming!

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Juliya Dzhyma: Uk’raining’ Talent!

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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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HO HO HOchfilzen!

hochfilzen

It’s close enough to Christmas to get away with that title,right? Well either way we got a few pre-Christmas treats from the biathletes this weekend in Hochfilzen. It all kicked off with the women in the Sprint which saw Selina Gasparin taking her and Swizerland’s first win on the World Cup with a great skiing and shooting performance. Some great shooting also saw Veronika Vitkova match her best result so far in second and Irina Starykh taking her top result finishing third. I was especially pleased about Irina Starykh as she just happened to be wearing bib 23!

It was followed by the men and Lars Berger stormed back onto the World Cup by winning the Sprint with an amazing skiing performance after starting out on the IBU Cup.He managed to beat Martin Fourcade into second and a resurgent Ole Einar Bjoerndalen into third. It’s great to see Berger doing well again for his fun personality if nothing else. I would also like someone to check Bjoerndalen’s birth certificate to make sure he really will be 40 next month.I don’t know how he does it! Whatever his parents fed him when he was young I want some of it!

On Saturday we had the first men’s and women’s relays of the season. The Ukrainian women’s team put in a stellar performance to win. All of their athletes did a great job but Julia Dzhyma stands out for her overall performance over the weekend. They were followed by Germany and France but Norway were noticeably absent from the podium. Over on the men’s side however the Norwegian men won with a dominant display and a characteristically great last leg from Svendsen. Sweden took a great second place with Bergman striking like a cobra into the stadium to fight off the Russian charge and leave them in third.

On to Sunday and the Pursuit. A great race from Solemdal gave her a second victory in Hochfilzen and made up for another difficult day on the shooting range for Tora Berger. Dzhyma took a fantastic second place thanks to some great shooting and Poland’s Palka made up 8 places to finish third. Unsurprisingly Martin Fourcade won the men’s race followed by Svendsen and Boe. Just a little tip for the Norwegians you can’t give Fourcade a 40 second lead in a Pursuit if you want a chance of winning it! Having said that both the Norwegian guys have stepped up a gear from Oestersund and it’s just a pity they won’t be competing in France this coming weekend.

For the home crowd Cristoph Sumann gave them something to cheer about getting 5th in the Sprint and 7th in the Pursuit. They got 4th in the men’s relay too but unfortunately Simon Eder couldn’t carry on his form from last week in Oestersund and Dominik Landertinger didn’t perform as well as he would have hoped at home. The large home crowd was swelled by Biathlon Fans Hungary on their first outing of the season and I am sure their blog and Facebook page will be full of great photos and interviews.

Standouts for me from Hochfilzen have to be Simon Schempp and the German team in general. Schempp finished 8th in the Sprint, 6th in the Pursuit and 6th in the relay. Daniel Boehm and Arnd Peiffer got 2 TOP 20 finishes and the women were second in the relay. Julia Dhzyma as I mentioned before had a good weekend all round finishing first in the relay, second in the Pursuit and fifth in the Sprint. The big movers in the Pursuit were Alexis Boeuf and Benjamin (Darth) Weger gaining 20 and 34 places respectively and the Semerenko twins and Gabriela Soukalova(Bib23) who started 22,23 and 24 and finished 7,8,9.

So after HO HO Hochfilzen now all thoughts turn to France and a first visit to Annecy. None of the Norwegian top guns are attending which is a big disappointment but Martin Fourcade and the French team will be there so the crowds will be happy. What awaits the biathletes in Grand Bornand? We will just have to wait and Annecy!

P.S Has anyone else noticed the interviewer in the IBU official Press Conference always asks a question with the word “surprise” in it. I can’t watch them properly because it makes me laugh everytime I hear it! Listen out for it in Annecy!

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Semerenko twins: Double trouble!

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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.

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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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