In Oberhof, Germany, at the fifth stage of the Biathlon World Cup, the mixed relay race ended. The Russian national team confidently passed two “men’s” stages, but then lost its place among the leaders. MK-Sport tells the details.
The current composition of the Russian national team for the mixed relay in Oberhof a month ago would have seemed strange (and this is still a soft definition). Maxim Tsvetkov, Alexander Povarnitsyn , Irina Kazakevich and Valeria Vasnetsova – if at least someone could predict such a combination, then it is time for such a visionary to go to work at the stock exchange or in the meteorological center.
Our current squad looks especially strange if we remember last year’s victory in the mixed relay in the same Oberhof – the one that interrupted the terrible anti-record series of 43 races without medals. Then the Russian national team consisted of Alexander Loginov, Eduard Latypov, Ulyana Nigmatullina and Svetlana Mironova – in general, the strongest composition of all possible. And now two starting stages were given to those who showed the worst results the day before (in the sprint Povarnitsyn and Tsvetkov were 40th and 52nd), and Kazakevich and Vasnetsova are considered “weak links” this season.
But there was logic in the coaching decision. The Russian national team at the next stages of the World Cup must solve not only local problems in the fight for the podiums, but also the main one in the season – to earn the maximum quotas in each discipline for the Olympic Games. So, according to the current formula for calculating these very quotas of the Russian national team in the mixed relay, nothing was needed:
only the best result in 12 months is taken into account, and our team already has a victory at the stage, and it is impossible to improve the result. But in the single mixed doubles the maximum quota has not yet been reached – and it was there that the team’s coaches sent the leaders – Anton Babikov and Kristina Reztsova .
However, to say that the Russians did not need anything in the mixed relay is not entirely accurate. It is important to finish higher than the German team so that the Germans cannot improve their ranking. Well, for all the participants in the relay, this is also an important opportunity to show the coaches that it is too early to send them to ballast, that in relay races (at least) they can also be useful.
And if you look at the race from this point of view, then the men coped with their task for sure. Maxim Tsvetkov grabbed the Norwegian Tairei Be right from the start , came to the first firing line together and, although he spent two spare rounds, closed the target, and did not let the Norwegian go far. And in the second shooting, he was accurate at all, he went to the track with the Norwegian, and more importantly, he finished with Be! They passed the baton at the same time: Tyrei launched his brother Johannes , and Maxim – Alexander Povarnitsyn.
And it was impressive: we had not seen Tsvetkov in a serious matter for a very long time, and the fact that he did not yield in anything to Tyrei Be was a huge and wonderful surprise.
Povarnitsyn also began cheerfully. At the first stage, he used only one cartridge more than Johannes Be, at the second he worked without a single miss. It didn’t work out only with the move: on the last lap, Alexander’s speed suddenly disappeared somewhere, he braked sharply and dropped to third place – 49 seconds from the Norwegian and 20 from the Belarusian. Later he said that his leg was bridged, and he had to finish the stage on almost one leg.
Next was Irina Kazakevich’s turn. And if no one expected a victory at the stage from her, then I really wanted to see how she copes with the pressure. Irina was criticized a lot and harshly, talkative veterans demanded to exclude her from the national team, offended regional federations complained that the coaches were dragging an obviously weak athlete into the team – not everyone can stand this.
At first it seemed that Kazakevich was holding on. She always had a great move, but this time she also made me happy in the first shooting: she worked cleanly and even slightly reduced the gap from the Belarusian Alimbekova . The three leading girls came to the last line at intervals of half a minute – first a Norwegian, then a Belarusian, then Kazakevich, and half a minute away from her – a German Voigt and an Italian Wierer .
And this was the last moment in the relay, when the Russian national team still claimed medals. Kazakevich spent two spare cartridges, and most importantly, she did not work very quickly. She returned to the ski track after the German and Italian.
Vasnetsova fought at her stage, but shooting today was not her strong point. One spare round on the first line, two on the second, and another 30 seconds spent to catch her breath and take aim – and Valeria was no longer fighting for third place, but for fourth. And she even lost it: the Swede Elvira Eberg made an incredible leap in the last kilometer and bypassed Valeria at the finish line.
But on the other hand, the German national team was bypassed, so that the minimum command task was completed. Well, the spare showed that it was too early to write them off. The national team has a reserve, just not enough medals.