Tag Archives: Youth/Junior World Biathlon Championships 2015

Felix Leitner: The Interview!

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Felix Leitner is an Austrian biathlete born in Hall in Tirol on the 31st of December 1996. He recently competed in the Youth/Junior World Championships in Cheile Gradistei where he won gold in the Individual and Sprint races and bronze in the Pursuit. These were his first races in the Junior category but he already has a gold and silver medal in the Youth category in the Pursuit and Sprint from Raubichi last season.

You won double gold in Cheile Gradistei in your first World Championships as a Junior. How did you feel? Did you expect to do well or was it a bit surprising?

I felt really great. I knew that I was in good shape in running and I also felt good at the shooting range so I expected one or maybe two medals. But, I did not expect that I would be so successful.

Can you describe the races? Did you have any plan before the start about how you wanted to race?

In the Individual I was really nervous because I did not know how I should pace my race, but I did it really well. Instead at the shooting range I had an awesome feeling, that I would shoot 0 mistakes. I was really safe.
In the Sprint competition (my favourite competition) I knew that I could also win with 1 mistake, so I was not insecure after my shooting mistake in the standing. The last loop was really hard but I gave everything I had.
The Pursuit was really hard for me. I am not used to having so many races in such a short time. But because of my shooting I could get a medal again.
In the relay I absolutely wanted to exchange as first. My running was great but I had some problems on the shooting range (+3 shots).

Did you set any goals before you went to Romania and did you achieve them?

My goals were 1-2 medals. I totally achieved it.. 🙂

You have raced on the IBU Cup this season and you were 10th in the Sprint in Nove Mesto. What was that race like? Did it help you to prepare for the Junior World Championships?

The first day in Nove Mesto was super. I like that course.
I needed some races for the YJWCH, but it also was really important for my self-confidence.

What are your plans for the rest of the season? What are your goals for next year?

Just now I don’t know what my next races are, but my next big goal for this season is the Junior European Championships in Pokljuka. I want to fight for medals again.
My goal for next season is to get better and better, and then we will see.

Why did you become a biathlete and why do you like the sport?

My brother is a ski jumper and in the same club they also had biathletes so I tried it and I still love it. I enjoy it probably because of the mix of running and shooting.

Do you combine sport with your education or are you concentrating only on biathlon at the present?

At the moment I go to school at Schigymnasium in Stams. But I am in the last class and I will be happy when I can only focus on sport.

Does your rifle have a name?

No name for my rifle no.

Describe yourself in three words.

Love my friends!

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: HOCHFILZEN
Favourite biathlete (past or present): LANDERTINGER, BJOERNDALEN, FOURCADE
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): SPRINT
Favourite/best race of your career so far? INDIVIDUAL YJWCH 2016
Favourite food: PASTA (RECHEIS)
Favourite sports team: TG FLOX
Favourite TV show: CIRCUS HALLI GALLI

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Scott Dixon: The Interview!

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In the last of my series of interviews with Junior biathletes this season I spoke to Great Britain’s Scott Dixon. Scott was born on the 9th of July 1994 and so this is his final year as a Junior. He has already competed on the IBU and the World Cup and is currently in Finland for the Senior World Championships. He achieved his best result in the Juniors this year finishing in 18th place in the Individual 15km an improvement of 5 places from last year in Presque Isle. He is now living and training in Norway. His Dad is 6 time Olympian, biathlon coach and Eurosport commentator Mike Dixon. Scott is possibly the only biathlete who is sponsored by a castle!

Scott has a Facebook page: Scott Dixon Biathlete

Why did you become a biathlete? Did your Dad make you do it or did you have a choice?!! 😉

I was very stubborn as a teenager, never committing fully to one thing at a time. I liked to play Rugby and Football and Biathlon was just the different sport that separated me from the normality of school life. I became very passionate about Biathlon when I was 16. This is when I couldn’t miss a race on T.V and if I did I would have to watch it at the next available time. I knew then that biathlon was my passion and I had to pursue it.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

This year I have been living in Norway, trying to learn the language which has been interesting! My interests are almost entirely sport based and my plan is to take a sport psychology (open university) course this year. Balancing a social life with training, I think, is not too difficult. Many top athletes may surprise you by how often they relax and socialise. I have to plan quite carefully my visits home to the UK to visit my family and girlfriend. She lives in England and my family in Scotland. So it is important to minimise travel and expenses in this case.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

My head sponsor ‘Heaver Castle & Gardens’ contributes enormously to my expenses in Norway. The basis of this sponsorship is my personal belief that I can one day compete amongst the very best in the world. I think my current location and level of motivation is perfect for making this happen. RMA sports kindly sponsor me and help me greatly with kit. Always reliable and with the best prices on so much kit. I know without the support from this company I would not be where I am now.

What were your goals for the Junior World Championships in Raubichi? Did you achieve them? Were you happy with your overall performances?

At the end of last season (2013/14) I decided that I am capable of achieving a top 10 at this year’s Junior World Championships in Belarus. I had to improve my overall game but most specifically, my ski speed. I was training along side some of the top Norwegian Juniors as part of team ‘Statkraft Lillehammer’ and felt like I was improving dramatically on the shooting range and on the skis. Sadly, in mid October I got ‘Compartment Syndrome’ in my lower abdominal muscles by simply running gently down a mountain after a hard session. A very rare and freak occurrence that put me out of training at a crucial time for over 120 hours of planned training. I spoke with my coach Sverre T. Roiseland to discuss/manage my expectations and figure out what I could expect from myself when I got back into full training and what to expect at the Junior World Championships. My goals did not change (perhaps this was naive) but I had to be prepared for a slower ski speed than initially anticipated and therefore try not to be disappointed if I do not achieve this goal.

The Junior World Championships approached very quickly and I felt like my ski form was approaching at the right time, which was good! My shooting had taken a positive turn for the best at the British Championships where I cleared my first ever Individual 20/20 and the next day the sprint 10/10. This was a good confidence boost for Minsk. However, shooting is a cruel game. If you think about it too much everything can change.

Minsk arrived and I was delighted with many aspects of my performance. If someone told me I would hit 38/40 in the Individual and Pursuit I probably wouldn’t have believed it. So this was an enormous achievement for me. Also being able to identify why I had 4 errors in the Sprint and then act on it for the next day was a big achievement. My 18th place was emotional. It is a personal best but we had some difficulties with our skis on the day and the entire British teams form on the skis really took a beating. With one mistake I knew it is possible to make a top 10! I was gutted.

The Sprint saw me failing to stick to my routine in the range. Almost a valuable lesson worth having, even at this crucial time because I was able to rectify this for the pursuit the next day. Starting the pursuit in 49th and moving up 18 places to 31st was a fantastic experience, missing 1 target again. This is another big achievement for me. What a shame I didn’t do better in the sprint.

What did you learn from the Championships? What do you need to improve and what are your plans to do it?

I learned a great deal about discipline on the shooting range. How so many factors can influence your shooting and how you have to focus on yourself, shutting out all distractions. Knowing this and implementing it are two very different things. It will take years to master but I think I am on the right path.

The British team are on a small budget and we certainly can’t expect to compete for the best skis on the field every event. We couldn’t bring a wax man with us to the Championships. (We have a wax man on the World Cup) I need to learn to accept this until our budget increases and strive to do everything I can personally to make the best of my situation rather than acting emotionally on it. I allow this to use up far too much mental energy.

I will improve my skiing speed. I have a fantastic coach and I know that with his advice I will make big leaps in my ski speed for next year. Hopefully I will avoid injury and see a good improvement come next season.

You have already raced on the World Cup. What is it like racing against the likes of Bjoerndalen and Fourcade? Is it inspirational or a bit nerve wracking or maybe both?

I love it, however I am always gutted to miss watching these races because I enjoy them so much. I can’t complain really because I get to compete against the athletes I love watching compete. I am looking forward to the day I can begin making an impression on the World Cup circuit.

You had a bit of an unusual injury earlier in the season. Can you tell me what happened and is the problem solved now?

I had Compartment Syndrome in my lower abdominal muscles. It is normally an injury people suffer in the lower legs or forearms and is extremely rare in the abs. In the Norwegian hospital, of four Doctors (one of which was a physio for a national Ice hockey team) only one of them had seen this specific injury before in this area of the body. He must have called me a ‘Rare Bird’ a thousand times.

I was running innocently down a mountain after a pretty crazy hard 6 x 5 minute running interval session up it. I felt a slow onset of pain, like a stitch, in my abs above my groin and ignored it for quite some time. I got back to the car after the session and from there until I got back to my house, I concluded something was seriously wrong as I couldn’t lift my leg to use the clutch any more.

I was taken to hospital by my coaches who looked after me very well. I am lucky to be a part of such a positive team. After being treated for my injury that evening I went home to recover in England and Scotland for quite some time. I was very sad to miss out on the training camp that week.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

I am young and doing exactly what I want to do with my life. Maybe it isn’t always a smooth ride but I enjoy it. I feel that I should take advantage of my situation and continue to enjoy it while there is good progress. Some times, things that are out of your control have a massive influence on your performance. This is frustrating, especially when you work so hard for your goals.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

A tough question, I think I want to earn all my characteristics and add my own unique touch to them. I think that Andrejs Rastorgujevs is the best example of a hungry athlete. He wants to win and he is an underdog from an under funded nation like mine. Seeing people like him making it to the top reinforces my belief that I can do it.

Can you describe your routine on a race day? When do you get up, eat, warm up, what you do after the race etc.

Race days used to be so stressful, I was never organised. But now I always make a list of what I need to take to the course, what times I need to be there etc. This way I don’t get stressed! I always start my day with a 5-15minute jog to get the body and mind ready for action. I try and eat a good amount in the morning, hopefully porridge is on the menu but I settle for near enough anything with carbs. It isn’t necessary to over eat before the race, just enough not to be hungry on the start line so this depends on my start time as to what I eat that day.

Before zero starts (45 minutes before the race starts) I normally test the skis I have been given for that day to determine which are running fastest. The reason being that each ski has a different ‘grind’ in the base and therefore runs differently in different snow conditions. Once selected I am then free to Zero my weapon for the days conditions.

I then take my start time and subtract about 40 minutes from it and this is when I will start my warm up. Once complete, I am ready to unleash the beast! Which hopefully is ready to go!

Your Dad used to be your coach. How did that work in practice? Can you separate training and parenting? Does he start a lot of sentences with “Well when I was a biathlete we used to….” or “we didn’t do that in my day son” !! 😉

It was fantastic. I know his raw positivity and natural hard working attitude was a brilliant guide in my early years as a Biathlete. Something I am extremely thankful for and perhaps grateful enough for it in my early days. In my middle teenage years I was stubborn and difficult to manage like most teenagers but my Dad was always positive, supportive and understanding despite my difficult nature at times! In the last two years I really hope I have learned to appreciate the fantastic opportunity I have been given and learn from the mistakes I have made, am making and will make in the future.

When my Dad starts a sentence like that, he is normally right anyway to be honest!

Does your rifle have a name?

I’m afraid not!

Describe yourself in three words.

Motivated, Hungry (mostly for food but also for success from time to time) and Content.

Quick fire Questions:


Favourite biathlon track
: Idre – Sweden, followed closely by Raubichi, Belarus.
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Andrejs Rastorgujevs!
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): I like the Individual, it is a brain game! To spectate – the mass start!
Favourite/best race of your career so far? The 12.5km Pursuit at the Junior World Champs. I had a terrible Sprint the day before. I started the Pursuit in 49th position but managed to have one of my best races ever in the shooting range, moving me up 18 places. It was such fun going past people on the penalty loop having shot 1 – 0 – 0 – 0.
Favourite food: I love salmon, Mushrooms (creamy sauce) with rice!
Favourite singer/band: Imagine Dragons
Favourite film: I love mind twisting films, Inception is pretty great! Source code is also up there with Cloud Atlas… This list goes on.
Favourite sports team: I don’t really watch football so I guess team Sky. Based on their incredibly professional attitude.
Favourite TV show: Family Guy

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Aristide Bègue: The Interview!

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This week I was lucky enough to interview France’s Aristide Bègue. Born on the 16th of August 1994 in Beauvais he has just returned from the Junior World Championships in Raubichi where he won gold in the Individual 15km and bronze in the Junior Men’s Relay. Earlier in the season he also won gold in the Junior Individual 15km race at the Open European Championships in Otepaa as well as silver in the Mixed Relay.
Those medals are added to his already impressive collection of 2 silver medals from Presque Isle 2014 (Individual and Relay), his gold and bronze (Individual and Relay) from the Youth World Championships in Obertilliach 2013 and another 2 gold medals (Individual and Relay) from Kontiolahti 2012. It is safe to say that he is really good at the Individual and the Relay!

You can follow Aristide on Twitter: @Aribeguu
He is on Facebook: facebook.com/AristideBegue
He has his own website: http://www.aristidebegue-font-romeu.fr/

Why did you want to become a biathlete?

I wanted to become a biathlete because I had seen the races of biathlon when I was a child and Simon Fourcade inspired me.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

Thanks to my faculty (STAPS of Font-Romeu) I can study and train every day.
The high-level sport asks for a seriousness in our life (I do not often party with friends) but I succeed in doing things which I enjoy. Furthermore, sport is a passion so I do something I like every day.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

I have the chance to have institutions which help me in my financing (my city Font-Romeu, my region, my department). So, thanks to my good results, I have several sponsors who give me money to live and do my sport (Colas, Altiservice ..)

You have had a really great season winning medals at the Junior Open European Championships and at Junior World Championships. Explain why you are so good at the Individual please! Do you have a favourite race from this season and why?

I had the opportunity to get good results this season. During the Championships of Europe and the World, I managed to make perfect races and perfect shooting (20/20) and thanks to that I have won gold medals. I have no secret to making a success of the Individual but I know how to excel during these races because they are long and difficult and it pleases me. Furthermore, as I am not skiing fast enough to win sprints, I give everything to the Individual because it is the race which favors me because I fire well.

Did you set specific goals for the Junior World Championships in Raubichi? Did you achieve them all?

I wanted to make a success of my last championships in the Junior category and it is what I did. My objectives are filled because I progressed in skiing and I got closer to the best.

What did you learn about yourself, you technique, your shooting etc. from the Championships and what are you plans going forward to improve?

I exceeded my expectations because I learnt to fire faster and to ski faster. It confirms to me that the work I have done was good quality and that it is necessary to continue like that.

The competition in the French team is really high. How difficult do you think it will be to progress to World Cup level and do you have a long term plan on how to get into the World Cup team?

The competition is rough but it is rewarding. I am going to work on the race of the 10km sprint because it is the most important race in Seniors. I am going to work to go to the IBU Cup and perform well enough to go to the World Cup as quickly as possible.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

To be a biathlete is cool because our job is to train every day, so if you are passionate about sport like me it’s the perfect job.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

As that is not possible, I am going to work with my characteristics and work to improve my weak points while keeping my key strong points. I admit to admiring the ski speed of my friend Fabien Claude.

What’s your typical day like?

One day of training begins by waking up at 7 am, eating a sportsman’s breakfast then first training (ski and shooting) between 9 am and 11 am. Then I eat, I have a nap to be on form and go to training again between 3 pm and 5 pm. Then I can visit the physio then eat food by 7 pm and sleep at 9 pm.

Do you get the opportunity to train with Martin Fourcade and the World Cup team? Have they given you any good tips or advice? Is Martin worried that you could be better at the Individual than him? 😉

I have good feeling with the athletes of the World Cup but we don’t see each other often but when we make do train together I can ask some advice but the best advice, it is from the experienced staff. I won the Individual but it was in the Junior category so Martin Fourcade does not have to fear. He even congratulated me and I think that he is happy to see the young French biathletes winning medals.

Does your rifle have a name?

LOL! No, it’s not a person, I like using it in my sport but that’s all.

Describe yourself in three words.

Little, Determined, Attached to my family and friends.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track:Raubichi

Favourite biathlete (past or present):Martin Fourcade

Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc):The relay

Favourite/best race of your career so far? Individual race of World Junior Championships 2015 in Raubichi.

Favourite sports team:USAP (rugby team of Perpignan)

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Raubichi 2015: The Joy of Juniors!

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The Junior Men and Women had to wait a day longer than the Youths to start their competition in Raubichi and it was lucky for them as the conditions were better than the first days racing. The Women got us underway in the Individual with an early start and it was the Ukraine who came out on top. Yuliya Zhurakov shot the perfect score and took gold but only by 0.2 of a second from Poland’s Kinga Mitoraj. She also shot clear to take silver and was maybe at a disadvantage starting bib 3 so that Zhurakov could get her timings having started later and knew she had to push hard. In third was Kazakhstan’s Galina Vishnevskaya who missed 1 shot. If she had shot clean she would have won as she was only 30 second behind the winner. Two Swedish women made it into the Top 15 with Linn Persson in 12th and Hanna Öberg in 13th which is a good boost for the team.

In the Men’s race France’s pocket rocket Aristide Begue won the Individual again! He loves this race! His shooting was outstanding with 20/20 and he managed to hold off the challenge from Russia’s Alexsandr Dediukhin by 3 seconds. In third was Norway’s Vemund Gurigard who also shot zero. Begue’s teammate Emilien Jacquelin was 4th missing one shot which prevented him making the podium. Great Britain’s Scott Dixon also just missed the one target finishing 18th in a high quality field. In fact the level of the biathletes in the Men’s Junior field is quite incredible. Some of the shooting in the race was fantastic not just for the accuracy but also the speed under real pressure. I thought Johannes Boe was a top shooter when it came to speed but looking at Begue, Dediukhin, Jacquelin and Gurigard I think he still has work to do!;-)

It was over to the Junior French Women on Saturday to continue their country’s success. Lena Arnaud won the Sprint race by 2.4 seconds from Galina Vishnevskaya who added silver to her bronze from the Individual. Chloe Chevalier added to France’s medals by winning bronze. The race was characterised by excellent shooting as the Top 6 all shot 10/10. It then came down to ski speed with Arnaud proving the fastest on the day. In the Men’s Sprint Alexsandr Dediukhin recovered very well from his exertions in the Individual to come home in first and claim the gold medal. Unlike in the women’s race he was the only one in the Top 20 to shoot the perfect score and so was a deserving winner. In second came France again but this time it was Fabien Claude who won silver. Taking the bronze was America’s Sean Doherty who got his first medal after moving up from the Youth category. Canada’s Aiden Miller impressed by getting his best finish of 8th and it was also good to see a Croatian biathlete doing well when Kresimir Crnkovic finished in 12th position.

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Both of the Pursuits took place on Sunday and we got our first German medal of the Championships. Marie Heinrich shot clean to win her first gold ahead of Vishnevskaya who took silver and has won a medal in every race. In bronze position was Yulila Zhuravok who added to her Individual gold. In the Men’s Pursuit Russia got back on the top step of the podium with Eduard Latypov taking gold ahead of Vemund Gurigard in silver and teammate Alexander Povarnitsyn who won bronze.

The final day of competition on Tuesday morning was for the Relays. The Junior Women were first and a very impressive French team won the gold medal. Chloe Chevalier, Julia Simon and Lena Arnaud only needed 6 spare rounds to win and finished 27 seconds ahead of second placed Russia. The Russian team of Victoria Slivko, Natalia Gerbulova and Uliana Kaisheva only used 7 spares themselves but couldn’t make up the time on the tracks. In bronze medal position were Germany whose team of Anna Weidel, Helene Terese Hendel and Marie Heinrich finished over 1 minute 30 seconds down on France who led from start to finish. The Swedish team came fourth with a penalty loop meaning they couldn’t reach the podium. The Norwegian team in 8th only used 7 spares like the teams in second and third but were over 3 minutes off the pace which must be a worry for their selectors.

The Men’s race was won by a really strong Russian team of Dediukhin, Viktor Tretiakov, Latypov and Povarnitsyn. Silver medal went to Norway who had a team of Andreas Kvam, Henrik Sagosen Smeby, Aslak Nenseter and Vemund Gurigard. They used 5 spare rounds to the Russians 4 but where still 1 minute 12 off the time of the winners. In third was France with Aristide Begue, Felix Cottet Puinel, Emilien Jacquelin and Fabien Claude. They used a total of 8 spares and finished 10 seconds behind the Norwegians.

What are the conclusions from the Junior World Championships? Firstly France are in really good shape and have an impressive Junior squad. They come away from Raubichi with 6 medals,three from the men and three from the women. Russia also have a strong squad and a star in the making in Dediukhin who is a fast skier and an excellent shot. The Norwegian men’s team look promising but the women’s side have a lot of work in front of them to match the high standards expected by their country. On the other hand it was great to see the Swedish women do well. They just missed out on the medals but after the criticism they have had in recent years it’s good to see some improvement from them. Individually it was a good Championships for Galina Vishnevskaya who won two silvers and a bronze, Lena Arnaud with 2 golds and obviously Dediukhin who won two golds and a silver.

There will be many happy biathletes leaving Raubichi having achieved their targets or even exceeded them. Equally there will be those who are disappointed and frustrated at their performances. The Junior category has an amazingly high standard of competitor this year especially in the men’s field. Some of the biathletes know just how hard it is to compete at this level and others will have gotten a massive shock at just how good the guys and girls are at Junior level. They will all be taking something away from these Championships whether it be medals or just the drive and motivation to train harder and practise more to come back stronger next year. That is the Joy of Juniors!

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Raubichi 2015: Bela-Youth!

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The 2015 Youth/Junior World Championships in Raubichi started off with an explosion of fireworks in the opening ceremony on the 17th of February. The next day competition got underway with a different kind of bang. The bang from the biathlon rifles as 170 competitors got underway in the Youth Women’s and Men’s Individual races and at 20 rounds each that is a lot of bang!

The women were first to compete and the first medal was won by the Ukraine. Anna Kryvonos hit 19/20 and that extra hit was crucial to give her a 18 second margin of victory over Norway’s Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold. She missed two shots as did Russia’s Elizaveta Kaplina who was third which meant they had to settle for silver and bronze. France’s Emily Battendier was impressive in 6th place as was South Korea’s Ko Eun Jung who was 9th.

In the men’s race Russia proved the strongest by winning gold and bronze. Fast skiing by Kirill Streltsov allowed him to make up for his two shooting errors to win ahead of Denmark’s Anders Emil Schiellerup who was second shooting 20/20. He made a little bit of biathlon history by becoming the first Danish biathlete ever to win a medal at a World Championships. Igor Shetko took bronze knocking Poland’s Bartolmiej Filip and Norway’s Andreas Kjeverud Eggen off the podium after they posted the same time in fourth. Home favourite Raman Shynkevich gave the crowd something to cheer coming home in 8th.

The home crowd really got something to cheer about in the Sprint race on Friday! Darya Blashko took gold and the first medal for Belarus of these championships. It is always nice to see the home nation doing well. Behind her in second came Austria’s Julia Schwaiger and Ingrid Tandrevold grabbed her second medal with bronze to add to her Individual silver. In the men’s race Norway won their first gold of the competition with Jonas Uglem Mobakken winning the Sprint from Felix Leitner of Austria who made it two medals for his country adding to the silver of Schwaiger. In third was another Norwegian Mattis Haug.

The Pursuit races both took place on Sunday morning and Norway’s Ingrid Tandrevold finally got the gold medal that her excellent form deserved and meant she got the full collection of gold, silver and bronze from these Championships. Julia Schwaiger maintained her position from the Sprint and got her second silver and her teammate Simone Kupfner made it another medal for Austria clinching the bronze. In fact Austria’s day got even better in the Youth Men’s Pursuit when Felix Leitner converted his Sprint silver into gold. He was followed by Kirill Streltsov who won silver and Mattis Haug who stayed in third to get his second bronze medal.

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The last day of competition in the Youth category was the Relay. The Women’s Relay was first and consisted of a team of 3 who have to ski 6km each. The home nation did themselves proud and raced to another gold medal. Dzinara Alimbekava, Hanna Sola and Darya Blashko gave the crowd a lot to cheer about beating Russia into second and Norway into third. The Russian team of Elizaveta Kaplina, Natalia Ushkina and Kristina Reztsova took home silver giving Kaplina a second medal and the Norwegian team of Kristin Vaagaa Floettum, Eline Grue and Ingrid Tandrevold won bronze which meant Tandrevold took home 4 medals from Raubichi. In the Men’s 3 x 7.5km race there was no surprise when the Russia team won with Igor Shetko, Nikita Porshnev and Kirill Streltsov. In second were the Ukrainian team of Vitaliy Trush, Nazarii Tsebrynskyi and Dmytro Ivasenko and in third were the Norwegian team of Jonas Mobakken, Andreas Eggen and Mattis Haug.

So what have we learned from these World Championships? Well thankfully biathlon is in pretty good shape in the Youth category with some strong youngsters coming through. The Russians as usual have strength in depth on both the Men’s and Women’s side. In particular Kirill Streltsov is one to keep an eye on after winning two golds and a silver and it was great to see a Danish biathlete win a medal too. For the women Ingrid Tandevold took home gold, silver and two bronze medals and she looks like an exciting talent and is consistent too. The Ukraine seem to have a good Youth programme going as do the Austrians. Belarus are producing some good young talent too and it seems to help you win gold if you are called Darya!

For the other biathletes who maybe weren’t as successful as they had hoped it’s good to remember that World Championships are a big learning curve and if you came away from Raubichi having learned something from the experience whether it was good or bad you will be a better biathlete for it and so really everyone’s a winner! What we have all learned is that from Raubichi 2015 there is definitely some Bela-Youth!

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Raubichi: Give Youth a Chance!

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For this year’s Youth/Junior World Championships all eyes will be turning to Belarus. The home of Darya Domracheva will be hosting this year’s Championships in Raubichi, a purpose built winter sports complex just 20km North East of Minsk. The Junior WC was first held in 1997 in Forni Avoltri Italy followed by the Youth WC in 2002 in Ridnaun also in Italy. You might recognise some of the former winners. If you are good enough to get a medal here you are joining some illustrious company.

Medalists from the YJWC’s include Andrea Henkel, Olga Vilhukina, Darya Domracheva, Magdalena Neuner and Dorothea Wierer. Some former male champions include Simon Fourcade, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Anton Shipulin, Lukas Hofer, Simon Eder and Jean Guillaume Beatrix to name but a few! This year’s races start with the Youth Men and Women’s Individual on the 18th of February and end on the 24th with the Men’s and Women’s Junior Relays.

The Youth section of the championships is open to athletes who are under 18. To qualify as a Junior you must be between the ages of 19 and 21 by the 31st of December which is the cut-off date for the age ranges. Each country has their own selection criteria by which they select the eligible athletes. Last year’s competition took place in Presque Isle, USA and showcased some great young talent that is coming through in biathlon.

The two biathletes who stood out in the Youth category were American Sean Doherty and Italian Lisa Vittozzi. Curiously they both achieved exactly the same results with both winning gold in the Sprint and Pursuit and silver in the Individual. Other impressive performers were Julia Schwaiger of Austria who won the Individual and Germany’s Anna Weidel who was second in the Sprint and Pursuit behind Vittozzi. France sent a strong team and reaped the rewards with two individual medals, one each for Julia Simon (bronze in the Sprint) and Estelle Mougel (bronze in the Pursuit) and team gold in the Youth Relay. Stand outs among the young men were Germany’s Marco Gross and Russia’s Dmitrii Shamaev who were 2nd and 3rd respectively in both the Sprint and Pursuit. Another young Russian, Yaroslav Kostyukov, won the Individual and Russia also won the relay ahead of Canada and Finland.

vittozzi

There were equally good performances from people just outside the medals who will be pushing to get on the podium this time around. America’s Maddie Phaneuf, Estonia’s Tuuli Tomingas and Russian pair Liliya Davletshina and Maria Ivanova will all be hoping to medal in the Women’s competition although some will be making the move to Junior level. The young Canadian guys will be looking for some individual medals to add to a very impressive Relay silver as will the young Finns who were third.

Last year’s Junior competitions were a little more evenly spread in terms of medalists. On the Womens side a Russian, Evgeniya Pavlova, won the Sprint, a Kazakh Galina Vishnevskaya won the Pursuit and Luise Kummer a German won the Individual. Austria and Canada also had success with Lisa Hauser and Sarah Beaudry. As for the junior men Russia’s Alexander Povarnitsyn won Sprint gold and Pursuit silver. The French team won gold with Fabien Claude in the Pursuit and silver and bronze in the Individual from Aristide Begue and Dany Chavoutier. Norway also turned up at this point with Tore Leren taking Individual gold and Sprint silver with Jarle Midthjell Gjoerven adding Pursuit bronze. The Junior Relays were dominated by the German Team who won both the men’s and women’s races.

Some of these biathletes will be competing again in Raubichi and some are now too old and will be hoping to move to the IBU Cup and hopefully the World Cup for their respective countries. One thing is for sure there is a lot of good young talent in biathlon at the moment and there will surely be new names that come to the fore in Raubichi especially in the Youth Category.

What is important to remember though is that it’s not all about medals and success. For the majority of the biathletes that take part it is great experience for them and hopefully a stepping stone to greater things. You don’t have to win at this level to be a great biathlete just ask Martin Fourcade. For many of the youngsters taking part it is not only a challenge to be selected but just to be able to get to the venue. Many are partly funded or not funded at all and have to raise their own money just to pay for flights, accomodation and food. They all deserve your support and so keep an eye out for all the results not just the TOP 3. So if you don’t normally pay much attention to the Youth and Junior biathletes now is your chance. You never know you could be watching future World and Olympic champions in the making. What are you waiting for – Give Youth a Chance!

I have to say a huge thank you and good luck to Maddie Phaneuf, Robert Sircus, Martin Femsteinivik, Brian Halligan and Mateusz Janik who were all kind enough to do interviews for me in the build up to these Championships! I know you will all do your best and I will be behind you all the way! Tom Lahaye-Goffart and Jarl Hengstmengel won’t make it but better luck for next time!

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Tom Lahaye-Goffart: The Interview!

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We are off to Belgium for this week’s young biathlete interview. Tom Lahaye-Goffart was born on the 4th of April 1996 in Liège. He has already competed in 2 Youth/Junior World Championships in Presque Isle and Obertilliach and achieved his best result of 16th in the Pursuit race last year. He currently lives in France.

Find Tom on Twitter: @TomLahaye
Like his Facebook Page: ‘Tom Lahaye-Goffart Biathlon’
Have a look at his website (in French): http://tomlahayegoffart.jimdo.com/

How does a Belgian become a biathlete? It’s not a very popular sport in Belgium. How did you discover it and why did you want to be a biathlete?

My father introduced biathlon in Belgium in 1999 so when I was a baby I travelled a lot with him because he went to lot of World Cups. So I have been in the “biathlon family” for many years. I have been on skis since I was 2 years old, I skied a lot when I lived in Belgium and when we went to France I had the opportunity to try biathlon, I really liked to shoot so I decided to do biathlon. Of course it’s not a famous sport in Belgium but never mind, it’s not so important!

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

First of all you have to know that I’m in a special school in France, there is a mix between Sport and Studies, we do our baccalaureat (The french final exam) in 4 years when a normal student does it in 3 years, in return we have free weeks to train during the winter (Approximately 15 weeks) so we aren’t often at school during winter. Moreover, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we have the afternoon free for training.

It’s quite hard to have a social life outside of biathlon because we don’t have the same life as others guys, some of them don’t understand why we make so many sacrifices just to be at the Olympics Games or on a podium.. But we have a social life in biathlon, I have some friends in Norway, Netherlands, Russia etc…

Of course we would like to party sometimes but we can’t because of training but it’s a choice, a way of life. Nobody forces us to do that but we know that if we party we can’t be strong on skis.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

I don’t receive any funding but I’m searching for that, I need financial help because now, with international races, it’s very expensive, of course the Belgian federation pays for travelling for International races but at national level I have to pay my club affiliation, training, munitions and lot of other things.. So if anyone is interested in helping a young Belgian athlete, contact me!

Will you be competing in Raubichi in the World Youth/Junior Championships? What is the selection criteria for your country?

Yes of course, I’ll take part in the Youth World Championships in Raubichi, actually it’s my main goal of the season, I focused my training to be the best there.

I don’t have any criteria to be selected for the races, that’s one of the advantages to being Belgian. I see my French teammates who must be very good in selection races and have to be focused on 2 goals (selections and championships) when I just have to be focused on Championships, that’s a chance for me!

Unfortunately for Tom after this interview took place he suffered an injury. He has compartment syndrome in his leg and his season is over so he won’t be competing in Raubichi. 😦

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

Hmmmm that’s hard to answer.. I think that I want the mental strength of Emil Svendsen. He has the ability to improve his level during important races, that’s amazing!

What would you like to change about biathlon? (the rules, equipment, schedule etc).

One of my wishes is to avoid rifle weight control, I don’t like the 3.5 kgs rule, I don’t know why they made this rule. I think it’s an obstacle to development..

Who is your role model? (in biathlon or in general)

I have really liked Ole Einar Bjoerndalen since I was young, his longevity, his skiing style, he is very charismatic and it’s a very good example for young athletes!

What is your typical day like?

I have 2 types of days, the first is the school day: We have courses from 8h to 13h and we have training during the afternoon, we come back at 17h, then we eat at 18h40, and finally we must study 1h before going to sleep.

The second example is the training day: I wake up at 8h, I eat, and I go to the stadium near my home at 9h, I do biathlon training. I come back home, I eat and I have a little sleep to recover. Near 15h30 I go to the second training, it’s often a low pace training, like classic skiing or running. Then I come back home, eat and sleep.

Michael Roesch has recently become Belgian! How big a difference does this make to the sport in Belgium and how do you think it will help you?

Yeah it’s a very good thing for us, he came with some sponsors (One Way, Fischer,…) and a new lifestyle, more professional. He has lot of experience and it’s really good for us, I often text with him and I like his way of thinking. I hope that he will take part in the Olympics Games because he made lot of sacrifices to be back in World Cup, it shows his love for biathlon and he’s a good example for us! So I hope the best for him!

Does your rifle have a name?

Ahaha good question! No, my rifle doesn’t have a name yet, maybe later..

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: I didn’t race on lot of tracks but I liked Presque Isle’s track

Favourite biathlete (past or present): Ole Einar Bjoerndalen

Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Mass Start

Favourite/best race of your career so far? Pursuit in Presque Isle, and City Biathlon in Püttlingen

Favourite film: Shutter island, Inception, Limitless

Favourite sports team: Oméga Pharma Quick-Step Cycling Team

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