Mistakes at altitude: why our biathletes performed poorly at the World Cup

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The Russian national biathlon team disappointed with its performance at the World Championships in Pokljuka… Yes, the bronze in the men’s relay added a little positive to the fans (they managed to avoid the second World Cup in five years without medals), but the failure of our girls in a similar race (11th place), as well as failures at personal starts, make us think about the strategy of the new leadership of the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU)… Some experts believe that head coach Valery Polkhovsky did not guess the location of the training camp before the championship, others – that the team needs to rejuvenate the composition.

Khalili’s chance

Perhaps, only two athletes of our team can add this World Cup to their assets. The first is Eduard Latypov… The representative of Bashkiria has made obvious progress this season. He gave several outstanding races at the World Cup stages, showed himself to be a cool finisher in the relay (he bypassed such biathletes as Benedict Doll, Sturla Lagrade and Philip Horn at the last stage) and did not disappoint at the World Cup. He finished in the top 10 twice (10th in the sprint and 7th in the pursuit), and was again the best in the relay.

Yes, it seemed that Edward could compete for silver with the Swede Sebastian SamuelssonBut the fact that he managed to defend the third place in the fight against three-time world champion Emilien Jacquelin and three-time Olympic medalist Dominique Windisch is worth a lot. Latypov himself admitted that there was only one thought in his head – to reach the finish line, and he hardly remembers the last 300 meters.

Karim Khalili

Photo: Global Look Press / Kalle Parkkinen / Newspix24

The second athlete is Karim Khalili… In the individual race, the 22-year-old biathlete finished sixth – the highest among all Russians at the World Cup in individual starts, and also showed that he can be very useful in relay races. For the first stage, Khalili earned only positive reviews.

I would like to believe that Karim is our future, – two-time Olympic medalist, coach Alexander Privalov told Izvestia… – Even last year, everyone called him the new Shipulin, but so far he gets a limited number of chances from the coaches. At the World Cup, they began to trust him for the first time and he did not let the team down. In the relay and in personal races he looked decent. I hope that after such a World Cup he will gain a foothold in the team, will not reduce his demands on himself and will reveal his full potential. We now really need the support of young people.

But the long-term leader of our team – Alexander Loginov – not impressed… A native of Saratov won a medal at the fourth World Cup (he was in the relay four), but they expected much more from him. In personal races, Loginov has only one hit in the top 10 (mass start).

Is Loginov’s time running out? I don’t think so, ”Anna Bogaliy, two-time Olympic champion, told Izvestia. – Anything can happen in biathlon if you shoot flawlessly… At the World Cup in Pokljuka, Sasha did not fail in speed. There are only complaints about the rifle uniform, it is necessary to approach this more seriously. He missed that point a bit in the offseason. Anyway, we saw a great race in his performance at the World Cup in Antholz. In order to always show this form, you need to work harder.

If we talk about other members of the Russian men’s team, then in addition to Latypov, Loginov and Khalili, Matvey Eliseev was also selected for the mass start (top 30) (last year we had only two participants in this race, after Loginov was removed). But Matvey frankly did not please. Last year, he was considered the unconditional second number of the team, fought for medals at the World Cup stages. Things went wrong this season from the start. Matvey was in the top 20 in three of the four races of the 2021 World Cup, but for his talent this is not the best consolation

Pavlova and Polkhovsky

Alas, but our girls performed even worse than the guys. It all started with two penalties by Svetlana Mironova in the mixed relay, which did not even allow our team to get into the “flowers” (9th place). Then there was a failure in the sprint and pursuit (the best result was shown both times by 23-year-old Irina Kazakevich – 19th and 23rd places) and 11th place in the single mixed (Evgenia Pavlova – Eduard Latypov), after which there was a mini-scandal

Pavlova gave an interview in which she stated: the coaches made a mistake in preparing athletes for the World Cup in Pokljuka. She complained that the biathletes spent too much time in the mountains, since the collection on the eve of the World Cup they also held in Pokljuka. Eugene answered head coach Valeriy Polkhovsky, who said that the athlete was simply looking for the reason for her weak performance

After that Pavlova was put on the baton – she had a good stage, shot to zero and was 38 seconds behind the leader. And then the crash began. Tatyana Akimova entered the penalty loop, and Svetlana Mironova and Ulyana Kaisheva could not pull the team even into the top ten… 11th place is a repetition of the worst result of the women’s team at the World Cup. After the finish, Evgenia again said that she did not have the strength to run races, like other athletes, and to be at a height for so long is deadly.

Note that biathletes of other national teams trained at an altitude in Anterselva, then descended to Bled (a small town in Slovenia near Pokljuka) and climbed directly to the World Cup races

– It is necessary to fully analyze the mountain preparation, the number of days, – continued Anna Bogaliy. – I think that after the World Cup, the coaches will find the strength to give an explanation of what happened

The only thing that the women’s team can boast of is the fifth place of Svetlana Mironova in the individual race. If there were one less miss – there would be a medal

The resource that we have in the women’s team is limited, – said the former head coach of the Russian national team Anatoly Khovantsev in an interview with Izvestia. – The youth that I would like to see in the main team – first of all, [Анастасия] Goreeva and [Анастасия] Shevchenko… Let’s see how they will perform at the junior world championship, but we need new people. The main problem is that we do not have a training system that the Norwegians have. We need to help the regions in youth biathlon, to put on these teams coaches who would work for the future, to build a strategic line of training from young men to the main team. Yes, this takes time, but without it we cannot get out of the situation in which we are now.

Anna Bogaliy sees no point in artificially rejuvenating the composition.

– I advocate that the composition includes athletes who show results– she concluded. – In Antholz, the team was combat-ready, it could fight. Something broke at the World Cup. You need to look at what was done in the summer. Study the training process – intensity, volume and heart rate data. Each athlete must be worked individually, one size fits all. If you approach the matter more elaborately, you will get the result.

The main hero of the World Cup was the Norwegian Sturla Holm Lagrade, who became the first athlete in history to win two golds at his debut World Cup. Norway won the medal standings (7 gold – 3 silver – 4 bronze). France is in second place (2-2-3), Sweden is in third (1-3-2). Russia shared the seventh-ninth place with Belarus and Ukraine.