A.Tikhonov: "After biathlon broadcasts, authoritative people are calling me and yelling at the top of their voice"
20.12.2010 — Analysis
The Russian biathlon team failed the December stage of the World Cup in Swedish Östersund, Austrian Hochfilzen and Pokljuka (Slovenia). The male and female teams jointly managed to win only two prizes in seventeen races. Never before had our shooting skiers started the season with such poor results. The "RusBusinessNews" reporter Andrei Kascha, failure after failure, put off conversation with Alexander Tikhonov, the former president of the Russian Biathlon Union - hoping that the bad dream would soon be over. However, after Pokljuka he had no doubts - he must call the four-time Olympic champion.
- Alexander Ivanovich, can we say that the Russians' performance during the December World Cup events was a failure?
- Of course! And all the present management of the Russian Biathlon Union (SBR) is responsible for that. As the famous Russian writer Vasily Aksenov once said, in our country everybody does somebody else's business. It is exactly what is going on in SBR. Talking about coaches, the team does not have a single person who would be able to understand each athlete. I have been outside the Russian Biathlon Union for the last half year; therefore, I do not know plans of the coaching staff. But my experience suggests that there are no plans at all.
- How can it be? What about the World Championship-2011 in Khanty-Mansiysk in Russia?
- Not only Russian biathlon athletes, but also all the other biathlon skiers are getting ready for it. To say that we think about the World Championship during the present competitions is nothing but horse-feathers. The competitions are scheduled for the first half of March. There is plenty of time to gain the adequate training, to get tired, to restore and move further.
- What is going on then? Last season everything was alright - prize winner titles at the World Cup, medals of the Olympic Games...
- I did not trust Vladimir Alikin and Andrei Gerbulov, the then coaches of the Russian male team. I think that they just took an advantage of the athletes who had been trained by youth team coachers Alexander Kurakin, Nikolay Savinov, and Alexander Suslov for a few years. I am sure that if I had failed to persuade the coaches to reduce training load before the Olympic Games, there would be no awards that our athletes succeeded to win.
- At present, the team has other coaches: Yuri Preobrazhentsev, Valery Medvedtsev, Mikhail Tkachenko, Sergei Konovalov, Anatoly Khovantsev, Sergei Yefimov...
- Among the coaching staff there is not a single person who would know the theory of shooting and functional training at the professional level. When such experts are absent, you cannot expect any successful performance. 17 races at the World Cup - two medals. It is unprecedented! After the races, authoritative people are calling me and yelling at the top of their voice. You should hear what they say about the present-day SBR president Mikhail Prokhorov and the executive director Sergei Kuschenko! M. Prokhorov and S. Kuschenko hired managers who are incompetent in biathlon, though entrusted with responsible positions in the national team. They say that some additions are expected in the youth team too. In my opinion, there must be no outsiders in the team. Today's management is too far from sports and does not understand this.
- You mean that today's situation in the national team has a negative impact on biathlon skiers?
- There is no team per se. Athletes call me and describe the situation in the team. The national team has been split into two camps: some stand for Prokhorov, while the others support Tikhonov. What can we say here? If "Tikhonov's people" had left biathlon, the team would have failed long time ago.
- You have outlined quite an apocalyptic picture.
- Everything will work out well - our former resources will help. After the New Year, Zhenya Ustyugov will demonstrate good performance. By the way, he has already been improving, showing better performance from stage to stage. I still cannot understand failures of Ivan Cherezov. His experience allows him to make his own training programs. Against all the odds, Olga Zaitseva makes a good showing in the female team. She has been among the eight best skiers several times, and she even won a bronze medal in the sprinter race at the third stage of the World Cup in Slovenian Pokljuka.
- You have said nothing about another two promising leaders of the team: Maxim Chudov and Svetlana Sleptsova.
- I think it would be useful if both of them were temporarily expelled from the team and were made to take part in the Championship of the International Biathlon Union (IBU). M. Chudov should have done that long time ago. Unfortunately, within the last years he has been some kind of a deterrent in the team; he has not respect to other people's opinion. S. Sleptsova should learn to follow the rules. Then the team will be able to work alright.
- Putting aside all the politics, what exactly prevented the Russian biathlon skiers from showing better performance in December?
- The Russian national team is functionally not prepared. This immediately affects shooting. There are many mistakes, which are attributed either to a wind or to snow. However, everybody face the same conditions. Norwegian, French and Swedish athletes demonstrate much better performance. Besides, they have young skiers who are able to spot for the leaders. We have a talented skier, Lyosha Volkov, but he is actually torn apart. The same situation is with Olga Vilukhina. The guys have no opportunity to get ready, get trained and participate in competitions.
- Is it possible to change anything within two week before the January competitions?
- I should repeat: I do not see any person in the team who would have respect and authority. Only changes in the team can result in qualitative improvement. In any case, there will be medals. Though in Sochi we cannot count on the resources that we had in Vancouver.
The interview was prepared by Andrei Kashcha
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