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3 Dec, 2008 08:43

Russia’s biathletes prepare for Olympics

Wednesday sees the start of the Biathlon World Cup – with the opening leg being held in the Swedish town of Ostersund. For team Russia, this season will be used as a vital preparation for next year's Winter Olympics.

Vice president of the Russian Biathlon Union, Aleksandr Tikhonov – himself a four-time Olympic champion – feels excited about the sport's future.

“We performed pretty well last season, so everybody in Russia expects us to do incredibly well further on. But the competition is extremely tough, in biathlon at present,” he said. “Norway, Finland, Italy, Sweden – they are all very strong teams. Not leaving out the Germans, of course, as biathlon is nearly as popular as football there at the moment!”

Having been officially named the best biathlete of the twentieth century, Tikhonov definitely knows big wins don't come easily. And the secret is to use one's strength sparingly on the road to success.

“We don't set up any superior tasks for the upcoming season as it's pre-Olympic. The most important task for us is to let the team prepare and reach its peak, right by Vancouver-2010,” he said. “We have 6-7 leaders in the team who can win medals at any competitions. And it's been discussed with them. We are not going to get them exhausted within the season- we need them fully fit for the Olympics!”

As biathlon is an individual sport, Tikhonov named Russia's main hopes for the next few years.

“Maxim Chudov, Ivan Cherezov and Dmitry Yaroshenko are the ones I most count on in our men's team. And last but not least, we have the world’s best junior in the team – Anton Shipulin. He's won both the World and European championships this year. I think, he can do very well in Vancouver,” he said. “As for the women Albina Akhatova, Ekaterina Yurieva and Svetlana Sleptsovaare are to be mentioned first. Though anyone in our team can shine.”

Related links

Russia close-up: How the Olympic bid changed Sochi