Belchenko and Maier: Top Women in IBU Junior Cup
Unlike the men’s IBU Junior Cup Total Score, where the top places were filled by athletes from the strongest biathlon nations: Germany’s Dominic R, and Russia’s Kirill Streltsov and Nikita Porshnev; the women’s Total Score everything was more unpredictable. Darya Blashko from Belarus won the title, followed by Elizaveta Belchenko of Kazakhstan and Germany’s Christin Maier.
The 20-year old Belchenko, who has been competing internationally for three years, took her first podium spot only last season. She added second place in the IBU Junior Cup Total Score to her two sprint podium results during the season.
Belchenko is proud to do biathlon and happy that her parents decided to trade the musical school she visited as a child, for more dynamic type of activity, “I started to do biathlon when I was in the third grade. Back then, when I was 9, I could not even think that this sport would become my life. This sport is my passion. You do not only ski, but also shoot, and I truly love to shoot!”
No wonder that since she loves shooting most of all, Belchenko likes individual competitions. Still she does not have podium in this discipline yet, “I like the individual because at the world level you can battle for the high places. Sprint, conversely, is not a favorite race, but surprisingly it started to get better!” After all, the athlete notes that she likes to run different distances, because she likes the challenge they offer. Also, it is much easier to compete for yourself than for the team in a relay, “Here you work not only for your own result, but for your partners and any mistake can ruin everything.”
Belchenko admits she is happy about the IBU Junior Cup, so young athletes have an opportunity to have more starts and gain experience, “I really enjoyed it! You can compete with the strongest athletes, to feel the taste of a real battle, to become mentally stable and confident in yourself!” It seemed so “easy and simple”, when there was only the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships. The problem as athletes like Belchenko only had two starts before the YJWCH.
"My main goal for the next season is the YJWCH and I hope I can show good results there!"
This young athlete, who was preparing during the summer with the national team of Kazakhstan, last season was more difficult than she originally expected. “On one hand, I am satisfied, but on the other – not. Finally I got at the podium, it was a big goal for me and I am happy. But the fact that I did not do well at the JWCH and could not take any medal, is surely very bad and I can not be satisfied with such result.”
The next YJWCH, in February 2017 in Ostrov, Russia, will be the last for Belchenko. That is why it is the main highlight for the next season, “My main goal for the next season is the YJWCH and I hope I can show good results there! Also, if we compete at the IBU Junior Cup, I will sure try to battle for the first place in the Total Score. I know it will be hard to do, but will do everything I can.”
Unlike Belchenko, who did not fare well at the YJWCH or the IBU JOECH, the 20-year old Maier was on the podium three times at the JOECH in Pokljuka. That gave her three medals in addition to third place in the IBU Junior Cup Total Score.
Maier has been passionate about biathlon since she was a kid because her two older sisters were biathletes. She started cross-country skiing as soon as she could walk, and always went with the girls to training. But her sisters did not just ski, they also shot and she wanted that too. She had to wait until she turned 8 years old, “My 8th birthday was something really special, because from that time I started doing biathlon. Eight is the minimum age for biathlon in my area... I grew up with the sport”.
“You have to fight until the finish line and go over your limits because the results are so close together that one second can be decisive.”
Maier was so infatuated with shooting that she did not want to try any other sport. Yet she likes to swim, play tennis and has even started with climbing, but those are just hobbies not competition. Except for shooting, there are few more favorite things about biathlon, “Definitely the incredible tension at the final shooting stage. It can completely change the results; another nice aspect is traveling. I like going to and seeing places that you would never see otherwise.”
Over Your Limits
Shooting is her obvious strong point, but she has another. “My other strong point is that I am not too nervous before the races but I have the necessary tension. I’m really happy about that because you often see that the athletes are too nervous to perform at their best.” She chooses the sprint as a favorite competition because every second counts. “You have to fight until the finish line and go over your limits because the results are so close together that one second can be decisive.”
During the season Maier did not finish lower the 13th place, and made the podium in each competition at the JOECH; Bronze in sprint and pursuit, plus Silver in the individual, where she shot clean for the first time. “The European Championship was a highlight for me last season. I never expected that I would win 3 medals. I was definitely surprised and very happy. It was the first time that the German flag rose because of me and that was a great feeling.”
She admits that those three medals were really motivating and important; she will train hard for the upcoming season, “My primary goal is an individual medal at the Youth/Junior World Championships; I would be really happy if was on the German relay team. To compete in a relay is a special feeling and the team spirit is always very nice in the German team.” To do that, first of all, she wants to stay healthy, and improve some techniques, “I’m more focused on preventing sickness’ that was a big problem for me last summer and fall. Now I am also doing a lot of kilometers in training. I hope that will also really improve my ski technique.”