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Elena Golovina: "I don't care if they compare me with Magdalena Neuner"

Elena Golovina: "I don't care if they compare me with Magdalena Neuner"

25.02.2011 — Analysis

One of the hot topics at the Biathlon World Championships to be held in March 2011 in Khanty-Mansiysk, will be the performance of the famous Magdalena Neuner of Germany. This international biathlon star has won seven gold medals in biathlon world competitions. In the capital of Yugra, she could break the record set by Elena Golovina, the best shooting skier of the 1980's, who has herself salted away ten prestigious trophies. In an interview with "RusBusinessNews", the world record-holder spoke about her medal race with her German opponent, and shared her impressions of the current Russian national team.

- Your last world championship was in Lahti, Finland in 1991. How has the biathlon changed in the past 20 years?

- The biathlon has become much more dynamic. It's faster and the equipment has changed. The Russian national team has also become more professional - they now work with doctors and psychologists. Although I admit I don't know how effective that work is. Their rivals are more competitive, too. Before, our team was almost always the favorite. We considered the Germans and Norwegians to be our main competitors, with the Bulgarians and Italians close behind. Now there are far more contenders for the trophies.

- Magdalena Neuner is going to be aiming for your record in Khanty-Mansiysk. How important is this "golden" competition to you?

- I doubt that my victories will become less significant if my German opponent beats me. I've already staked my place in the biathlon. All the more so, since I managed to perform at a very high level for seven years. Maybe Magdalena Neuner will do more than that. I wish her luck.

- In addition, they now compete for more categories of medals in the world championship. Do you think that will give Magdalena Neuner an advantage? 

- Yes, in the late 80's there were only four categories of medals at the world championships: the individual race, sprint, relay, and team race. Now they don't have the team race anymore. But they've added pursuit, mass start, and mixed relay. I find the mixed relay to be really interesting. That idea was floating around back in the early 90's. I think at some domestic competitions we once ran those unofficially. It's really a spectacular event.

- By the way, have you ever been compared to Magdalena Neuner?

- I'm not aware that I have. Although I don't care if they do. I don't want to pass judgment on my own accomplishments - I'll let others do that. But there was one time... My friends decided to get me into the Guinness Book of World Records. They contacted the editorial staff and were sent a list of requirements. They needed copies of all the protocols, and a confirmation from the Russian Biathlon Union and the International Biathlon Union, as well as some other documents. They double-checked everything as though I were some kind of fraud. Because of all this red tape, my friends just lost interest.

- Recently, the Russian national team coaches have been saying that the Biathlon World Cup is just a preparation for the World Championships. Was it that way in your day?

- Of course, in a non-Olympic year, the World Championships were a key indicator of our readiness. So I'm not surprised that the coaching staff feels that way today. Yes, you could tell during the last World Cup that the team was thinking about Khanty-Mansiysk. So we didn't look like true competitors. But still, the Russian showing at the World Cup was cause for concern.

- So, you don't believe that Maxim Chudov will suddenly end up on the podium after being in 30th place?

- I have some doubts. When I was in the running for the World Cup, I always had consistent results. In any case, I was never one of the top six competitors and then the next day found myself not even among the top thirty. And I'm not some kind of exception. It was the same with Sergei Chepikov, Yuri Kashkarov, and Aleksandr Popov. That's why, I admit, I was surprised when, in late January at the World Cup in Antholz (Italy), Anton Shipulin suddenly took off.

- What do you think are the greatest shortcomings of Russian biathletes today?

- They don't shoot well. A biathlete can have so-so physical condition, but with hard work at the shooting range you can have an emotional surge. But when the legs aren't running, the shooting isn't sticking, and there's pressure from the press and the fans, it's hard to work calmly.

- As I understand it, you keep up with everything in the biathlon world?

- After 1992, when I retired, I followed the biathlon very closely. At one time I worked for the Russian team with an experimental team, which included Natalia Sokolova and Svetlana Ishmuratova. But in the fall of 1997, the management of the Russian Biathlon Union for some reason decided that I shouldn't be training and elected not to use my services anymore. Since then I have only followed the competitions as a fan, taking the ups and downs of the Russian team to heart. Now the new management of the Russian Biathlon Union has invited me to go to the championship at Khanty-Mansiysk. I'm not awaiting an offer from anyone, but I have some definite ideas about the biathlon.

- Your teammates Yuri Kashkarov, Vladimir Drachev, Valery Medvedtsev, and Anfisa Reztsova are household names even now. Why were you never part of this group of veterans?

- In 1992, after the Olympics, I left the sport very quietly. No one asked me any questions and somehow they quickly forgot about me. And when I tried to return to the sport some time later, it was a surprise for everyone. Maybe they were afraid of the competition - I don't know. Things didn't work out so well with my coaching career, either. Now the only contact I have with the biathlon is watching it on TV. It's difficult to start all over. Although I might be able to help someone out as a consultant.

Interviewed by Andrei Kashcha

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