Shortage in the men's relay
The second stage in a row, the men's team of Russia pleases with personal results. After four races, Alexander Loginov and Matvey Eliseev were entrenched in the first six of the World Cup overall standings. It is not easy to immediately recall the times when two Russians were located so high in the ranking, even at the very beginning of the season. Unless, immediately after the Sochi Olympics, Anton Shipulin and Evgeny Garanichev were close to this.
In Hochfilzen Loginov won the first two personal medals of the season - silver and bronze. Thanks to this success, he instantly rose to second place in the ranking table, and second only to Johannes Boe. Such stable results as the leader of the Russian national team, really no one but the “invincible” Norwegian. Eliseev was left without a personal award, but was close to her in the sprint.
However, the successes of the two biathletes only emphasize the gap that formed between them and teammates. After the second stage, Garanichev takes 24th place, Dmitry Malyshko is 36th. Eduard Latypov and Nikita Porshnev for two races were not able to get ahead of Anton Babikov who had gone home by their scores - this is especially eloquent about their results, because the relay world champion himself was not a thunderstorm of rivals in Ostersund.
This situation has led to the fact that in one type of program the Russian team ceased to be competitive. For the second time in a row, men were left without medals in the relay, and this result became logical. The efforts of Loginov and Eliseev are not enough: in the second and third stages, there is no one to create a company at the top level.
Formally, the third number of the national team is Garanichev, but his reluctance to participate in relay races due to numerous failures in the past removes him from a potential list of candidates. Perhaps this is for the best - if the biathlete himself does not feel the strength to run in a team, then his exit to the start will certainly not bring to good. On the other hand, the meaning of Garanichev’s presence in the team is lost - he doesn’t show high personal results, at least comparable to last year, he doesn’t want to run in relay races.
Coaches are left with hopelessness to put Malyshko and Latypov in the squad, who lose much either in shooting or in speed. When the two stages are deliberately lost, the motivation of the leaders is lost - Loginov in the last relay was not eager to fight for fifth place with the Czech Republic. It is now much more important for him and Eliseev to save energy on personal races, of which the next stage in Annecy will just consist.
But for those teams in which there are no contenders for “crystal globes”, but there are enough mid-level biathletes, they manage to succeed in relay races. To such in Hochfilzen could be attributed the Germans and the French without Martin Fourcade and Simon Child.
In this regard, it is especially sad that the Russian team did not need Anton Babikov. Of course, his form also cannot be called ideal, and in Ostersund he did not stand out against the background of Malyshko, Latypov and Porshnev. But his presence in the team would add competition, which now actually is not at all, and his personal motivation to return to the previous level would be useful precisely in the relay. Until the current members of the national team make a huge leap forward or the courage returns to Garanichev, the relay race will remain the weak point of the male Russian team.
The long-awaited results of the girls
Even after the first stage of the World Cup in Ostersund, Russian fans had a timid hope for the revival of the women's team. Svetlana Mironova and Larisa Kuklina showed results that, with a slightly more successful combination of circumstances, would have brought them medals. Slightly lost to herself last year’s model, but still Ekaterina Yurlova-Perkht did not perform very badly.
With such input data, one could look at all subsequent stages with optimism, but the girls “broke through” already in Hochfilzen. Much has been said about the successes of Svetlana Mironova and the entire relay team. Against the background of those bleak years when it was considered to be success in the pursuit race, this is really a breakthrough. One can only hope that it is not a temporary surge, but will continue. Indeed, three years ago Tatyana Akimova caused the same admiration, but she did not turn into a constant contender for medals.
For the success of the relay four, Tamara Voronina’s performance was left aside. She unsuccessfully ran the sprint, taking only 60th place, and did not get into the team race. The day of rest went to the benefit of the 24-year-old biathlete - in the pursuit, Tamara looked much more worthy, having covered all 20 targets, which is an achievement for any biathlete at one single distance. Suffice it to say that the winner of the race, Tiril Eckhoff, succeeded at the World Cup for the first time, and she has much more experience.
Voronin’s asset can also be written down if we discard the starting handicaps, then she would have taken 16th place among all the athletes, and she would have lost to the best Russian by this indicator Kristina Reztsova in just one and a half seconds. If we compare with the way the men performed in the same pursuit, then Voronina clearly exceeded them.
After the stage in Hochfilzen, it would be worthwhile to pay attention to another curious fact. The Russian Biathlon Union maintains its own ranking of athletes, which takes into account the results not only at the World Cup, but also at other competitions, including national ones. And it was not Mironova and Kuklina who were leading in it, but Ekaterina Glazyrina, Irina Starykh and Anastasia Porshneva, who spoke at the IBU Cup stage.
Of course, the RRF rating is a rather arbitrary indicator, but for the main team it can be a certain signal. Those remaining without the World Cup, Glazyrin, Starykh and Porshnev will do their best to continue to try to break into the team for future stages when the roster will be updated. Neither the fans, nor the coaches, nor those whom they can replace should be forgotten about these names.