Tag Archives: Winter Olymics 2014 Sochi

Elite Elisa!

egasparin

With big sister Selina taking a year off to have a baby, Elisa Gasparin really stepped up for Switzerland and enjoyed her best season so far in 2014/15. The 23-year-old got some of her top results on the World Cup as well as impressing at the World Championships in Kontiolahti.

Elisa was born on the 2nd of December 1991 in Samedan. She is the younger sister of Olympic silver medallist and World Cup winner Selina, and the older sister of Aita. In fact the sisters made history together back in 2012 at the Hochfilzen World Cup by becoming the first three siblings to take part in a Relay together.

Elisa first showed us her potential back in Sochi at the Winter Olympics in 2014 where she finished an excellent 8th in the Sprint race. She even finished ahead of her older sister in the race as Selina was 13th. That was her only TOP 10 finish to date but a great confidence boost for her.

Last season was very impressive from the young Swiss biathlete. She achieved her personal best result of 11th on the World Cup in the Sprint in Khanty Mansiysk. This, added to another seven Top 20 finishes meant that she ended the season in 23rd place in the Total Score. A remarkable improvement of 31 places from the year before.

She also had a good World Championships in Kontiolahti. She finished every race in the Top 25 coming 25th in the Mass Start, 22nd in the Individual, 13th in the Sprint and 15th in the Pursuit. Most of her good results from last season came in the Sprint races which suggests that she prefers the shorter distance and racing against the clock.

This season she will be looking forward to the return of Selina and being able to race in Relays with both her sisters once again. If she continues her good form we might see some improved results from both the Swiss Women’s and Mixed Relay teams. Her main goal for this season must be to break into the Top 10 on the World Cup and put together a string of consistent results in the TOP 20. She is capable of doing this and in the Sprint especially she could even be pushing for a place on the podium.

It must be nice for Elisa to have both her sisters racing with her and travelling together in periods away from home. The three Gasparins have also done some great things to help develop biathlon in Switerland. They have built two shooting targets near their childhood home and also established three more ranges around Switzerland.

Elisa will be excited for the start of the new season to see how much she has progressed over the summer. She is still young and has plenty of time to improve but this season is a good opportunity to take a step forward and try and make Top 10 finishes her regular result. It won’t be easy but she has more experience now and has a good chance of doing it. It won’t be too long before Elisa joins the elite!

Elisa has her own website: http://www.gasparin.ch/
You can like her Facebook Page : Elisa Gasparin (Community Page)

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Iliev: The Bullet from Bulgaria!

iliev

I love a surprise, don’t you? One of last season’s biggest surprises came from Bulgaria’s Vladimir Iliev. He enjoyed his best season ever and turned in some very impressive performances. It’s always great to see biathletes from the so-called smaller nations doing well and fighting at the top with the big boys! Vladimir was born in Troyan, Bulgaria on the 17th of March 1987 and has been competing on the international stage since 2004.

We first noticed him way back in 2007 when he won his first medal in the Junior Summer World Championships in Otepaa. He took bronze in the 10km Sprint and proved that he is very good on the roller skis by winning the bronze in the Senior Summer World Championships in Nove Mesto in 2011 in the same event. He was also part of the Bulgarian Team who won a bronze medal in the Mixed Relay at the 2011 Universiade in Erzurum.

These achievements may not have made big headlines in biathlon but are significant steps for someone who doesn’t have the money and support behind them like the big teams do. He was making quiet progress on the World Cup up until last year with his best overall finish being 44th in the Total Score. He has taken part in 6 World Championships and 2 Olympic Games which has given him a wealth of experience which is now being put to good use.

Before last season Vladimir had only finished in the Top 20 three times, a 6th place in Pokljuka in 2012/13, an 11th place in the Ruhpolding Individual in 2011/12 and a 15th place in the Antholz Pursuit in 2013/14. Now he can boast 9 Top 20 finishes in a single season and two Top 10 finishes in the World Championships which were his best results by far in that competition. All of these excellent results meant that he finished a fantastic 25th in the Total Score.

So what has brought about this change in Iliev? Well he has always been a consistently good shot. He might not be the fastest shooter but he doesn’t miss a lot of targets. The thing that has improved however is his ski speed. He is now skiing faster and that coupled with his shooting skills has meant that he has propelled himself into the Top 20 biathletes more often and is scoring good points. He isn’t the only one however as his teammate Krasimir Anev also had a successful season. When Bulgarian biathlon legend Vladimir Velickov says “The boys in Bulgarian biathlon are very good” then you know they are doing something right!

The highlight of Iliev’s season was probably winning a medal in the European Championships in Oteppaa the scene of his first Junior medal. Again it was bronze but this time came in the 20km Individual race and is a big step in his career. Next season will be a crucial one for Iliev. He must continue his progress and not slip backwards which can happen very easily. He has to be aiming for the Top 5 and a podium is not out of the question. An improvement on 25th in the Total Score would be a success and a good showing in the World Championships in Oslo must also be on his agenda. Whatever happens in the coming season he is doing a fantastic job representing his country and making people sit up and take notice of Bulgarian biathlon. If he manages to improve his ski speed and shooting even more it will be a good season for the Bullet from Bulgaria!

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Season Review 2013/14: Men

globe1

Before starting to write this I thought I would take a look back at my season preview and maybe just remove the “P” and so save myself a lot of time writing another! Alas it is not so as somewhat surprisingly not all of my predictions were right! 😉

Well it didn’t take a genius to predict Martin Fourcade being at the sharp end again and he duly delivered winning 4 out of the 5 Crystal Globes including the Overall title for the third year in a row. He was only prevented from another clean sweep by Emil Hegle Svendsen who won the globe for the Individual 20km. He also took 3 medals at the Olympics in Sochi. He won gold in the Pursuit and Individual and silver in the Mass Start once again being denied by, you guessed it, that pesky Emil Svendsen!

The other big winner in Sochi was of course Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who became the greatest ever Winter Olympian by winning the Sprint title and the Mixed Relay. Obviously enough to change his mind about retiring and in the process ruin my post about his last ever season! Thanks Ole Einar! The Russian men’s team brought the Olympics to a fine end winning the relay in their home Games.

Back on the World Cup tour a young and confident(slight understatement there!) Johannes Thingnes Boe was winning 5 World Cup races. He won 2 in Annecy and then all 3 in Kontiolahti.
Simon Schempp and Lukas Hofer shared their first ever wins in Antholz and Jakov Fak kept us waiting to the end to grab his win in Holmenkollen. Way back in November Martin Fourcade won both races in Oestersund recovering from his first day breakdown on the range in the Mixed Relay. Lars Berger came from nowhere in Hochfilzen to win the Sprint but Fourcade was again victorious in the Pursuit. Svendsen took 2 wins in Oberhof and in Ruhpolding. Bjorn Ferry surprised everyone after the Olympics by winning twice in Pokljuka and Anton Shipulin took his only victory of the season there too. In the last 2 races the spoils went to Simon Eder finally winning another race and Martin Fourcade who I think likes to win the first and last race of the season!

The year also saw some great improvement from a lot of men. Lowell Bailey achieved his first ever podium in Kontiolahti. Andrejs Rastorgujevs has been threatening the podium for most of the season but his shooting keeps letting him down. Canadians Nathan Smith and Brendan Green have being showing that life after Jean-Philippe Le Guellec won’t be so bad with their excellent performances. France’s Jean-Guilliame Beatrix has really stepped up his game winning Olympic bronze and Simon Desthieux looks a real talent making up for disappointing seasons for Simon Fourcade and Alexis Beouf. The Czech guys have been amazing this year with Jaroslav Soukup and Ondrej Moravec both winning multiple Olympic medals. Dominik Landertinger for Austria had a successful if quiet season. He won silver and bronze in Sochi and was solid on the World Cup without really setting the world on fire.

On the other had it was a season to forget for the likes of Tarjei Boe who never really got going and Andi Birnbacher who finished early due to his lack of form. Fredrik Lindstroem stared well in Oestersund with a second place but couldn’t better it during the rest of the season. The Russian team have been in and around the Top 10 but have only taken one win on the World Cup, although young Alexander Loginov looks like he could help them improve that statistic next season.

So that’s it for another season and next year will hopefully see some more new faces on the podium and more first time winners. It should be intriguing to see if Fourcade can make it 4 in a row or if the likes of Johannes Boe can give him a real run for his money. Whatever happens I hope that the Globes and titles can get spread out a little more. Don’t get me wrong I am a great admirer of Martin Fourcade but it can get a bit boring having to write his name all the time!!!(I can type it in my sleep!) Help me out guys! We want to see an epic battle for the Overall next season now that there are no Olympic Games to distract everyone. Enjoy your (short!)rest, put in a great Spring/Summer training and we will see you in November!

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Going for Gold!

,men olympics

The heat is on, the time is right,
It’s time for you for you to play your game,
’cause, people are coming, everyone’s trying,
trying to be the best that they can,
when they’re going for going for gold!

I know what you are thinking – what an amazing poem about the Olympics! You would be right it’s just that I didn’t write it, I stole it from popular 90’s British game show “Going for Gold”! Either way it’s still works when talking about the Olympic Games which begin on Friday with the Opening Ceremony. We are getting very close to the end of the “Road to Sochi” and all the hard training and preparation is almost finished. It’s down to pure competition athlete vs. athlete to see who is the strongest both mentally and physically.

As regular readers of my blog may have noticed I end all my articles by wishing that those I have written about win some colour of medal in Sochi. Unfortunately that is not possible as there are only 12 individual medals on offer and another 9 for the relays. So here I want to take a closer look at the favourites for gold and also some outside chances who may surprise us come crunch time. (These are merely my views and have no basis in statistical fact or indeed any expert knowledge of any kind and should under no circumstances be used to bet on the races!!!)

This article will deal with the men’s prospects and the women will be in Part 2. I don’t think I am going out on a limb by saying that Norway have the best chance of winning the men’s relay. They have the strength in depth just now that no other country has and all of the relay team are capable of winning a gold medal in the individual events and you can’t say that about any of the other countries. Only some bad shooting can stop them winning. There are others who will run them close of course. France has a decent squad and with Martin Fourcade on the last leg anything is possible. Russia also have a good team but the pressure of a home Olympics will be hard to deal with. The Germans are returning to form and will be in with a shout for a medal.Others with a shot at the podium include Austria, Sweden,Slovenia and maybe Canada too.

Moving on to the individual events which are the Sprint,Pursuit,Mass Start and Individual. These are much harder to predict but again there are the favourites which have to be Martin Fourcade and Emil Hegle Svendsen. They shared most of the medals in last season’s World Championships and barring any major disasters will probably do so again. However it won’t be easy with a resurgent Ole Einar Bjoerndalen desperate to get more medals in his final Olympics and Tarjei Boe looking to add to his relay gold from Vancouver the competition is strong.

Others in contention for medals are of course the Russian team and I think Anton Shipulin is probably their best shot at getting them. He can perform under pressure and the pressure will be immense in Sochi. Simon Schempp is going into Sochi in great form after 2 wins in Antholz and could be a contender especially in the Sprint.If Jakov Fak has recovered fully from his illness he is also a candidate for a medal as he usually turns up on the big occasions. Please don’t be foolish enough to write off the young guys because of their age. Johannes Boe, Simon Desthieux and Alexander Loginov could all get on the podium too.

There is a good chance that the Sprint and Pursuit medals will go to the same people but the Individual is the best chance to spring a surprise. Guys to watch out for here are the likes of Dominik Landertinger, Michal Slesingr, Tim Burke,Fredrik Lindstrom,Lukas Hofer and the rest of the Russian team. Andrejs Rastorgujevs has been having a great season has the possibility of winning a medal to add to his recent European Championship gold in the Individual.

Even though I would like all these guys to do well what I really want is for whoever is wearing bib 23 to get gold! It has been great just supporting the man in 23 this year!Whatever happens I know that whoever wins will definitely deserve it and I want to wish all of them good luck! The Olympics only comes round every 4 years so make the most of it and remember to be the best that you can when you are going for,GOING FOR GOLD!

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Doping is for dopes!

doping

Isn’t it funny how the word “dope” has two meanings that go together really well. One meaning is a drug and the other is an idiot. They complement each other perfectly in the case of sport. You have to be pretty stupid to take performance enhancing drugs and think you can get away with it these days.

Unfortunately it occurs in biathlon but it doesn’t seem to be as big a problem as it has been in sports like cycling and athletics. The recent discovery of 3 positive tests before the Olympics has again brought the issue of doping into sharp focus. It isn’t the first time biathletes have been caught doping and I am sorry to say it won’t be the last. However I believe it is grossly unfair to name the accused before their B samples have been tested and especially when no official statements have been released naming them.Even though names have been released on the internet and one athlete has confirmed it they are innocent until proven guilty by the IBU Anti-Doping Panel. I firmly believe that the vast majority of the biathletes are clean but when you hear about these cases it always makes you wonder a little bit.

It does surprise me that biathletes who cheat think it will do them any good. I mean it might make you stronger, faster and give you more stamina but if you can’t shoot all the ski speed in the world won’t help you. Drugs are never going to turn you into the best athlete ever. They may benefit you in small increments but if you are considering taking them you probably aren’t good enough to be at the top anyway. At best you could qualify for the World Cup races or your national team or maybe push youself up 10-20 places from where you are. If however it does take you to the top you will be under intense scrutiny from WADA (The World Anti-Doping Agency) as they always test the winners, for example Emil Hegle Svendsen revealed that he has been tested 7 times in 2 weeks,and you are highly likely to get found out. Then your career is over and you will always be under suspicion if you return from a ban. All the hard work you have put in (because the drugs alone don’t make you win) will be a waste of time.

However playing devil’s advocate you can see why people can be tempted into it. For example if you have worked really hard and can only attain a certain level drug free the desperation to improve and do well can be all consuming. Athletes are a breed apart and basically give their whole lives up to their sport. Not succeeding can be crushing and if you are not mentally able to handle that the temptation is there to cheat. If like now the Olympics are coming up it makes people more obsessed with qualifying for them. Recent high profile examples in other sports prove that even people you might not expect can be so desperate that they will do anything to win. There is no excuse however and I think the majority of biathletes give their everything and if it’s not good enough they just accept it and do the very best they can cleanly.

It is a pity that sport is blighted by the curse of doping but as long as chemicals exist that can enhance your performance there will be those who give into weakness and take them. All we can do is continue to test and expose those who do so and educate and encourage all athletes not to do it. The risks athletes take in general can cause a lot of harm to their bodies. Elite athletes are damaging themselves by pushing their bodies to the limit on a daily basis and so adding to that by doping is very dangerous. Your sports career is very short in relation to your entire life and so taking health risks can ruin the rest of it. By their very nature these drugs are illegal and so you don’t know what the long term affects are because they are not rigorously tested like medicines.

It is always sad when a sport is damaged by athletes who dope and it generally reflects badly on the reputation of the sport and it’s athletes. However you must remember that it is a small minority who dope and generally they get caught if not straight away then in the fullness of time they will be discovered. WADA seems to be doing a good job keeping on top of the biathletes with rigourous testing and by catching those who do take drugs. Just remember anything you win or gain by cheating is not real and certainly undeserved. However tempting success maybe be in the end you will suffer the most because doping is for dopes!

For more info on WADA see their website:
http://www.wada-ama.org/‎
For updates on the doping scandal check the IBU website:
http://www.biathlonworld.com

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