May 21st, 2013
Yesterday, we updated you on what’s been going on in the world of women’s biathlon in the last six weeks. Here’s the story on the men’s World Cup field.
- Norway announced its national teams and there aren’t many surprises. Notably, though, Lars Berger was not re-named, while Henrik L’Abee-Lund was bumped up to the “A” team. He joins Ole Einar Bjorndalen, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Tarjei and Johannes Thingnes Bo, and Vetle Sjastad Christiansen.
- Not quite all of the team is together yet, though. Johannes Thingnes Bo, the many-time junior World Champion of recent years, broke his collarbone while cycling at the beginning of the month. He’ll miss about six weeks of training. “I lost control and took a real somersault over the handlebars,” he told NRK. “Luckily I was wearing a helmet, because that took the worst of it. It could have gone really badly without it.”
- The Norwegian and French national teams may train together during some part of the next year. The French team usually comes to Norway at the end of July for the Blink festival, and Norwegian head coach Espen Nordby Andersen hopes to make a more formal arrangement for the two squads to train together then, he told NRK. Doing so would put Emil Hegle Svendsen and Martin Fourcade, arguably the two biggest rivals on the World Cup, in the same place. “I think both Norway and France will come out stronger,” the coach said.
- Florian Graf, the young German unfortunately most famous for pointing his rifle at his face as he tried to clean out his sights during a race (he was later disqualified), had some fun this spring. Along with Kathrin Lang, he got to test out some fancy cars with DTM drivers – the circuit described as “German NASCAR” or “F1 with a roof.” The biathletes got to zip around in Audi’s, then teach some of the famous racecar drivers how to shoot. Graf posted some photos of the group with drivers Matthias Ekstrom and Felipe Alburquerqe.
- Not to be outdone, Austria’s Dominik Landertinger, who landed third in the World Cup total score, made the most of his Red Bull sponsorship to go to the Red Bull Ring in Zeltweg and drive a KTM X-bow, an ultralight racecar which can go from zero to sixty in less than four seconds. Landertinger called it “a crazy little car with lots of horsepower and weight, the perfect constellation on a race track.”
- Slovenia’s Jakov Fak spent some time back in his Croatian hometown of Mrkopalja this spring. A television station captured some footage of him training with his golden retriever, who wanders scarily close to the firing line! Fak also posted many photos on his facebook fan page of the small village, complete with sheep dotting the hillsides, transitioning from winter to a green, green summer.
- Germany’s Andreas Birnbacher became a father: he and his wife Anna welcomed a new son, Louis, to the family.
- On the Czech side of things, Jaroslav Soukup is also now a dad, and Ondrej Moravec got married.
- Russia’s Anton Shipulin has “one main goal in life – to become an Olympic champion. World Cup overall standings of the World Cup – is all important, I will fight, but first of all – the Olympic Games.” Unfortunately, he told ski-sport.ru, the Sochi trails are “terrible” for him, as they are very technical where he prefers flat terrain.
- Meanwhile, Ivan Tcherezov, recovered from injuries that kept him off the World Cup last season except for a single weekend in Oslo, is reportedly considering joining Wolfgang Pichler‘s breakaway women’s training group. Pichler currently has five women, including Olga Zaitseva, to work with, but says that six would be an ideal number – and Tcherezov has expressed interest in working with the German. Pichler, however, says that it is up to the women to decide.
- Be jealous of Bjorn Ferry. The Swedish Olympic champion reported on his blog that on his first day of training, he saw grouse, raven, and a golden eagle, as well as tracks from wolverines and foxes. Ah, Sweden. However, teammate Carl Johan Bergman wrote on his own blog that the late-season skiing in Sjusjoen was pretty good too. The team is now in Mallorca training.No comments
May 20th, 2013
In the many weeks since we’ve updated this blog, a lot has happened in the biathlon world! Here’s a collection of news about athletes and national team staff for the women’s World Cup field. Stay tuned tomorrow to hear about the men.
- Miriam Gossner, the young German who had a breakout season last year, crashed her mountain bike near the small Norwegian town of Skarnes. She will miss six to eight weeks of training to recover from her injuries, which were quite serious.
“Miriam fractured the end plates of three vertebrae,” German Ski Federation doctor Bernd Wolfforth told biathlonworld. “She does not need surgery and will be treated with intensive rehabilitation measures during the next weeks. Miriam can start with biathlon specific training again in probably six to eight weeks. First, it is important that the fractures can heal and that Miriam is pain free again.”
- Behind Gossner and veteran Andrea Henkel, who won silver in this year’s World Championships, the German “Ia” training group will include Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, who shot into the top ten in her first season of biathlon; double World Junior champ Laura Dahlmeier, who collected six World Cup top tens after her late-season debut; and Franziska Preuss, who had two bronze medals at World Juniors. The selection of Dahlmeier and Preuss skips over slightly older athletes Tina Bachmann, Fanziska Hildebrand, Nadine Horchler, and Kathrin Lang, all of whom saw World Cup action as well; Horcher, for instance, had her best season ever with six top-20′s including two fifth-place finishes. Those four women have been funded on the development level according to DSV’s roster.
- The Russian women’s team, home of much controversy in the past, seemed to have a pretty good 2013 – no World Championship medals as fans had sure hoped for, but plenty of strong performances throughout the season. That came after the move of Wolfgang Pichler from Sweden to Russia, in what everyone hoped would be a stabilizing approach for the team. However, with the Olympics looming, more changes are coming: the women’s team has split into two different training groups. According to ski-nordique.net, Olga Zaitzeva, Ekaterina Glazyrina, Svetlana Sleptsova, Yana Romanova, and Ekaterina Shumilova voluntarily decided to stick with Pichler, while the rest of the women, most notably Olga Vilukhina, will go back to working solely with Russian coaches.
Ski-sport.ru has reported that the Pichler group began training in Tyumen, where they are holding an open training day for fans to come watch and interact with the athletes. From there, the group will travel to Andalusia in southern Spain for sunny dryland training until the end of May.
- The other group, led by Vladimir Korolkevich and Sergey Efimov, started training in Belokurikha and will continue in Novosiberk – no trips to Spain for them. Korolkevich, actually, was until recently the coach of Ukraine; he broke his contract to take the job back at home. “As you know, we had a verbal agreement on the preparation of the team up to the Olympic Games in Sochi, but, unfortunately, the expert is not kept his word, leaving the team on the eve of the Olympic season,” a frustrated Vladimir Bryznak, head of the Ukrainian Biathlon Federation, said in a press interview. He hypothesized that the new head of the Russian federation had actively lured Korolkevich away, behavior that he called unprofessional.
- In other rough news from Ukraine, the training center in Ternopil, home to newly-minted World Champion Olena Pidhrushna, seems to have been the victim of politics and is now headed towards becoming a real estate development.
- After jetting from zero women’s World Championhips medals to two when Krystyna Palka took silver in the Nove Mesto pursuit and Monika Hojnisz bronze in the mass start, Poland has named twelve women to their national team. In a press conference, the federation also discussed upgrading the venue at Szklarska Poreba to be able to hold international competitions.
- Tora Berger of Norway was the best-paid biathlete of the season, man or woman, in terms of prize money last year. She raked in 277,800 Euros, beating out Martin Fourcade of France, who earned 272,000 Euros.
- Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen, the 2011 World Cup champion, has agreed to mentor eleven young athletes for the next three years. “I can provide training and life management tips,” she told YLE. “The portrait of a young athlete’s life can look like chaos… young athletes are under a lot of pressure as to what is their number one priority. I believe that I have survived a lot of things and would like to tell young people some alternatives to how they manage their lives like this.”
- Here’s a video of Czech star Gabriela Soukalova going indoor skydiving with some of her teammates.
- After being told that she was severely overtrained and had to take a three-month break from biathlon, Marie-Laure Brunet of France, who had a disastrous season before stopping in mid-February, is back at it again. “I abused my motor for the last two years, but that seems to be in the past now and I have learned from my mistakes,” she wrote on her blog.
- Finally, in sad news, French biathlete Emanuelle “Manue” Claret, a World Champion in 1996, has died from leukemia at the age of 44. Ski-nordique.net has a slide show commemorating her career.No comments
March 21st, 2013
The 2013 Canadian Biathlon Championships concluded Thursday with the 3×6 k mixed relay event at Whistler Olympic Park in British Columbia.
Alberta 1 led the way with Kurtis Wenzel, Rosanna Crawford and Nathan Smith winning in 52:49.4. Quebec 1 with Vincent Blais, Audrey Vaillancourt, and Marc-André Bédard took second place, 1 minute and 16 seconds back. British Columbia 1 rounded out the podium in third (+4:22) with Matt Neumann, Megan Heinicke and Jasper McKenzie.
Quebec led through the first exchange with Blais tagging off nearly six seconds ahead of Quebec 2′s David Gregoire. Wenzel came through in third, 10.7 seconds after Blais. In the second leg, Heinicke brought British Columbia from fifth to first, and Crawford tagged Alberta’s anchor, Smith, in second just 5.9 seconds back. Smith ran away with the victory, 32.5 seconds faster than Bédard.
Vaillancourt, who tagged Bédard in fourth, dominated the week, winning all three individual events. Smith, who won two events and came second in the pursuit after a starting penalty, had the fastest relay leg to put a shine on a great week.
Cross Country takes over the venue on Saturday with the opening team sprint.No comments
March 17th, 2013
The Sea To Sky Nordic Festival kicked off today with the Canadian Biathlon Nationals at Whistler Olympic Park.
Nathan Smith (Alberta) took the first title in the mens 10km Sprint, winning in 25:53.7 after missing two standing shots. Kurtis Wenzel (Alberta) took second in 26:53.4, shooting clean. BIll Bowler (Independent) grabbed the final podium spot, missing one shot in standing to finish in 27:11.7.
Raleigh Goessling (Maine Winter Sports Center) led the American contingent, taking 7th in 27:53.2, missing one shot in each style.
Audrey Vaillancourt (Quebec) took the women’s 7.5km sprint title by shooting clean, finishing in 21:35.5. Megan Heinicke (Biathlon BC) finished in second, missing three standing shots to come home in 23:07.1. Corrine Malcolm (USBA) led the American contingent in third place, missing one of each to finish in 23:42.2.
Leysan Valiullina was the only Russian racer, finishing sixth in 25:55.2 after missing two prone and one standing.
Biathlon is the centre of attention for the opening week of the festival, with races on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Cross country will take over on Saturday the 23rd, overlapping with the Jumping and Nordic Combined, which begin on March 28th.1 comment
March 16th, 2013
After placing ninth and 11th in the 10 k sprint in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, American biathletes Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey set about matching those performances in Saturday’s 12.5 k pursuit. The second-to-last competition of the World Cup season, the pursuit proved to be a challenge, with fresh snow, wind, and a surprise win from Chrisoph Sumann of Austria.
Bailey had a strong race from the start, cleaning his first stage before picking up one penalty in the second. Skiing in 15th place, he then cleaned both standing stages and climbed his way up to tenth place, his third top-10 of the season.
Burke collected a penalty in the first stage and then two in the third and one more in the last, for four total. It was more missed shots than he needed to stay in the top ten, but with the fifth-fastest ski time of the day he managed to hold onto 15th place.
Leif Nordgren jumped from 53rd all the way up to 35th place, while Russell Currier dropped from 43rd to 55th.
Canada’s lone starter, Scott Gow, edged him by one spot after missing a single shot in each of his four stages.
Here’s what Bailey had to say about the day’s competition:
FasterSkier: Did you have any higher confidence going into today’s race knowing that you had done well in the sprint and that the course was good for you?
Lowell Bailey:I wasn’t sure what to expect today as I walked into the venue in a snowstorm. I just told myself to focus, no matter what distractions arose – and there were a lot of distractions today!
FS: It was quite snowy and windy; what was the skiing like? Besides the fresh snow, was the wind an issue on the trails?
LB: It was definitely an advantage to draft today. The course got really deep and the snow was heavy throughout the race.
LB: It was definitely a tricky day on the range. There was not much wind, but there was a lot of snow and this made things really difficult. My rifle jammed a bunch of times and my sites clogged with snow during every shooting stage. I just tried to focus on each individual shot and not worry about the time I was spending in the range. I think everyone had problems with the snow today.
LB: I’m happy with the shooting, especially after a bit of a dip in the shooting percentage after World Champs. I’m psyched for one last race!No comments
March 15th, 2013
France’s Martin Fourcade collected yet another victory on Friday in the 10 k sprint in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia. This time the winning margin was a gaping 39.6 seconds; Lukas Hover (ITA) took second and Andreas Birnbacher (GER) finished third (+43.8). All three podium finishers had perfect shooting in prone and standing positions on a windless day on the range.
Americans Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey finished ninth and 11th, respectively. Burke missed a lone prone target to finish 1:03.7 behind Fourcade and Bailey shot cleanly in both stages to finish 1:05.7 back. Russell Currier finished 43rd with clean shooting and Leif Nordgren was 53rd with three errors.
Scott Gow led the Canadians in 55th (two errors, +2:33.7). Scott Perras was 83rd (four errors, +3:48.9) and Jean Philippe LeGuellec finished 90th (four errors, +4:15.9).No comments
March 14th, 2013
Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic tried to contain her excitement, and laughter, after winning Thursday’s 7.5-kilometer sprint at the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.
It was freezing in Siberia, in fact well below it with temperatures around -11 Celsius (12 Fahrenheit), yet Soukalova had just notched her second victory of the season and her career beating two Germans for the World Cup gold. Topping Andrea Henkel by 17.2 seconds and Miriam Gössner by 23.6 seconds and shooting clean to win in 21:25.6 wasn’t exactly funny, but the reindeer-victory lap afterward was.
Soukalova smiled as she soaked it all up, crossing the line in first in the individual sprint, the flower ceremony, the sleigh ride, it was all good. Henkel also shot clean and Gössner had a single penalty on the second stage. Russia’s Olga Vilukhina missed out on the reindeer ride in fourth (1+0), and Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina placed fifth (1+1).
Early leaders Kaisa Makarainen of Finland (0+2) and Norwegian Tora Berger (0+1) finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
Susan Dunklee led the U.S. in 29th (2+0), Annelies Cook was 35th (0+2) and Sara Studebaker placed 66th (1+1). No Canadians competed.No comments
March 13th, 2013
In a rare move, the IBU’s recent “Biathlon Buzz” video took aim at a group that the federation usually works with and, to some degree, protects from criticism: race organizers. All week in Sochi athletes had been complaining about the regulations which required them to leave their rifles locked up at the venue, meaning that any cleaning or maintenance had to be performed there and athletes could not practice dry-firing in their cabins. There had also been delays at the airport when they arrived, since staff were apparently unprepared to check firearms through the border. (Read some of the comments from U.S. athletes in our article describing the venue.)
After the last race on Sunday, athletes were once again complaining, this time saying that packing up and checking out their rifles from the storage room at the venue took until well past midnight.
“Most disorganized place in the world,” Canada’s Zina Kocher wrote on her facebook wall on Sunday night.
The IBU video crew was there, not only documenting the confusion and delays – athletes and coaches alike can be seen sitting around, just waiting for paperwork hurdles to be cleared – and interviewing high-ranking team staff about the situation, which was highly unusual and disruptive to their schedules.
Take a look here.No comments
March 12th, 2013
As the season wraps up, some yearlong rankings are beginning to be finalized and American Tim Burke has landed in the top three in one of them. After a silver medal in the 20 k individual at World Championships and placing fifth in the same event in Sochi on Thursday, he won a close battle on the podium: although he was only two points behind Andi Birnbacher of Germany, he was also only two ahead of Dominik Landertinger of Austria and three more ahead of Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic. Burke told FasterSkier after the race in Sochi that it takes a lot of experience and confidence to do consistently well in individual races, and at this point in his career he finally has it.
Only the individual, relay, and mixed relay scores are final; sprint, pursuit, mass start, and Nation’s Cup standings will be announced after this weekend.
The IBU also announced the team quotas for next year’s Olympics. Team sizes are based off performances at the previous two World Championships. Both the U.S. and Canada will have the full complement of four racers for both men and women; for Canada this is a huge relief, as in Vancouver they only qualified to have one man, Jean Philippe Le Guellec, compete on home turf.
The quotas were posted last week on the Real Biathlon blog.No comments
March 9th, 2013
33-year-old Magdalena Gwizdon of Poland has had a good year – she’s currently ranked 14th in the overall World Cup standings – but it was still something of a surprise to see her atop the podium in Saturday’s 7.5 k sprint in Sochi, Russia.
Well, a surprise to some. Not to Gwizdon.
“The victory today didn’t come as a surprise for me, because I prepared very well for this race,” Gwidzon said through a translator at the press conference. “The shooting went very well today and in general everything went really well today.”
Gwizdon was also fifth in the 15 k individual race on Thursday. She last won a World Cup race in 2006, but in total 2013 has been surely one of the best years for Poland in recent memory: at World Championships Krystyna Palka won the country’s first medal in a women’s race, then Monica Hojnisz followed it up with another. Now, it was Gwizdon’s turn.
“We have a very good group of girls,” Gwizdon said. “We have prepared very well, and our success is the result of this work.”
2010 Olympic sprint champion Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia was second, and is preparing to defend her title when this time rolls around next year.
“Sprint competitions are my favorite,” she said.
Kuzmina finished ten seconds behind Gwizdon and three ahead of Tora Berger of Norway, who took third.
But perhaps the most unexpected face in the top ten belonged to Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle of Germany, an Olympic gold medalist in cross country skiing who has only been training as a biathlete for one year. Dissatisfied with her progress in skiing, Sachenbacher-Stehle switched to biathlon, saying that she wanted to win a medal in Sochi.
It seems possible – and the German didn’t even use her ski speed to cheat around the edges, impressively shooting clean to achieve sixth place, 31 seconds behind Gwizdon, who also shot clean. (Sachenbacher-Stehle’s range times were among the slowest in the field.)
“I’m very, very happy,” she told the IBU News service at the finish. “I didn’t expect that I could make such a result in my first year. It was my first clean shooting in a race, so I’m very, very happy!”
She also said that she enjoyed this preview of next year’s Olympic venue.
“I like it a lot because I like the harder tracks,” she said. “And this is a very hard track. I like the long and steep uphills. I hope I can make one more step next year.”