A Big Season for Russian Juniors Streltsov and Porshnev
Consistent hard work is the key to success for any athlete hoping to reach the highest level in any sport. However, not every sport provides the opportunity for young athletes to compete and gain experience against their international peers on a regular basis. Yet in biathlon, the newly created IBU Junior Cup fills this gap with a program comparable to the World Cup and IBU Cup. These competitions give the brightest stars of the future international experience at the highest level, taking them one step closer to the “big-time” World Cup and major championships. Two young Russian men Kirill Streltsov and Nikita Porshnev were among the brightest stars last season in the IBU Junior Cup.
Last season was 20-year old Russian Kirill Streltsov’s third year of international competition; he finished second in the IBU Junior Cup Total Score. During that time, the young biathlete managed to win four Junior WCH medals, including two individual; he topped that off with three podiums at the IBU Junior Cups.
Streltsov started biathlon not by chance. His mother is a former biathlete; she has put her son on skis at an early age, "I liked to stand on skis a lot, so I skied with a big pleasure. Later, I even went to the different competitions. I liked the rivalry, which you feel on the track, so I started to train more seriously." Streltsov picked up a rifle for the first time when he was around 13 years old, beginning his biathlon career. At first he did both cross-country and biathlon; later he had to make a choice and to do just one sport.
Streltsov’s mother was his first coach. "We could completely understand each other: to combine trainings, and at the same time to communicate well at home. So the fact that my mom is a coach, probably, was a positive moment. For example, I always went with her to the camps, and it helped." Of course, Streltsov and his mother had disagreements, as any coach and an athlete do, but the issues were easily discussed and resolved.
Speed was always Streltsov’s strong point; he often compensated for poor skiing with fast skiing. Last season, better shooting brought better results. "In the off-season, I was preparing with our team, trained with the head coach and shooting coach, so here’s the result. Although I improved my standing, prone was still a problem."
"I was happy at the finish, honestly never experienced such emotions. For the first time finished with the flag, and I really liked it."
At the 2015 YJWCH in Raubichi, Streltsov won Gold in the individual and relay; Silver in the pursuit, moving from eighth at the start. Last season, in Cheile Gradistei, the young biathlete missed the top 10 in every individual competition, but claimed a Relay Gold medal. Streltsov, almost two minutes ahead of the field crossed the finish line waving the Russian flag. "I was happy at the finish, honestly never experienced such emotions. For the first time finished with the flag, and I really liked it. I’ve been an anchor for a long time and got used to that; I know what I need to do, how to run, how to lay out the energy. Many are afraid of the last stage, but I'm not worried, because I am a mentally strengthened athlete. "
At the season-ending Junior Open European Championships in Pokljuka, Streltsov again could not crack the top 10. Despite three podiums at the Junior Cups, second place in the Total Score and Relay Gold at the YJWCH, he calls the season disappointing. "Yes, I won twice, but I do not have any personal medal nor from the JWCH, nor from the European Championships. So I cannot say that I spent the season in a great shape, there were only some splashes. Second place in the Total Score is certainly a good thing, but the rivalry here is not the same as at the WC or the IBU Cup, so it was easier to do." In the upcoming season, the athlete wants to become even stronger and to perform more stable, "I still have a lot of mistakes, but those are the mistakes that can be corrected. I will actively work on the power and shooting components, and hope that the results next season will be better and higher."
Streltsov’s teammate Nikita Porshnev finished third in the IBU Junior Cup Total Score, managed to win three YJWCH medals and was on the podium twice in IBU Junior Cups.
Biathlon was never Porshnev’s only sport. As a child, he tried swimming, running, cycling, and also shooting, and competed in most plus rowing. After having tried many things, including cross-country skiing, which was hard for a young Russian, he tried his hand in biathlon, "Once my swim coach invited me to the biathlon section; I tried it and realized it was mine. Apart from the fact that here are two kinds of sport, in biathlon I love the rivalry, passion, and desire to win. After all, everyone is trying to win, so here is the battle; not only physical, but also mental."
Porshnev believes that in addition to a good physical fitness, psychology is crucial to great results, "I guess I'm growing as an athlete, I try anyway. I am starting to deal with the psychology, which is also important and necessary. I also understand that now rivals are so powerful that you can not be strong only in one component, you need to shoot well and run fast. "
This tall young athlete, at 1.94 meters, considers himself a universal athlete and names sprint as a favorite race, "I like the sprint the most, because there are fewer shooting ranges! Before that I did not actually like shooting so much, because I made a lot of misses, and I liked to make it up on the track; but we have such a rivalry that you need both: to run and to shoot well. And I understand; why should I run an extra penalty loop, if I just slow down a bit and get an accurate shot."
Despite the fact that the sprint is a favorite race, Porshnev won his first YJWCH medal in the pursuit. Starting 12th, more than a minute back, he moved up to second with fast skiing and a single penalty. "I was not worried in that race, and apparently it helped. I didn’t have any thoughts about winning a medal, so I just did my work and calmly shot on the range. I saw the rivals in front of me, but I did not try to catch them, I just worked in my own rhythm. For me, even the fact that I compete with a strong contenders, who already perform at the WC level, was important. Probably I understood that would get on the podium just at the finish and was very happy. Individual medal is individual, and it gives you the confidence that you can battle and show the result."
"I understand that in order to get into the team - you need to prove yourself, and for this, of course, you have to work even harder!"
Unlike his teammate and sparring partner Streltsov, Porshnev was pleased with his season. "I'm very glad and happy that I was able to improve my shooting relative to the past years. Of course, there were some moments that I was not satisfied about; somewhere we had too much volume, somewhere something did not fit too well in the training plans... And in some situations I was the one who made mistakes; couldn’t deal with the shooting or “burn out”. This was my first year as a junior, and I got the first individual medal, so in general, of course, I am pleased with it." This year Porshnev promises to work even more actively, because very soon there will be a transition to the men category, where the rivalry in the team is very high, "Sure, it's a little scary. We have many talented juniors, but it's hard to compete with the older athletes that we have. I understand that in order to get into the team - you need to prove yourself, and for this, of course, you have to work even harder!"