IBU Cup Big Crystal Globes to Volkov and Virolaynen
Usually, the IBU Cup sees Russian team dominate all competitions, with their athletes taking most of the Crystal Globes every year. This season was no exception, just one small Globe in the women’s IBU Cup Individual Score went to Germany’s Karolin Horchler. The rest of the Crystal headed to Russia, with Alexey Volkov and Daria Virolaynen taking the main trophies for the IBU Cup Total Score.
Goals Always Motivate
For 29-year-old Olympic and World Champion Volkov, last season was his busiest in recent years; he participated in 28 competitions compared to 16 in 2015-16 and 2014-15. In previous seasons the Russian was moving from the World Cup to the IBU Cup and back all the time, this year he was mainly focused on the IBU Cup. Volkov admitted that it was a better option than to move back and forth; he also noted it was very important to have a goal for the season to motivate him. In the beginning of the year, he and his coach decided to battle for the IBU Cup Total Score, plus to compete in the individual 20K and men’s relay at the World Championships in Hochfilzen. And… Volkov successfully achieved the goals he set.
Of 20 individual competitions at the IBU Cup, including the Open European Championships in Duszniki Zdrój, Volkov competed in 19, skipping just the last sprint, when his wins in the Total and Sprint Scores were already secured. He started the season at the IBU Cup 1 in Beitostolen with 15th and 11th places in sprints. The next Cup in Ridnaun brought him podium in every competition; second in single mixed relay, sprint and pursuit. By the third IBU Cup in Obertilliach and the Christmas break, Volkov left in second position in the Total Score with 205 points to Antonin Guigonnat’s 207.
Second Place in Men's Relay
Despite the fact that New Year did not start well for Volkov, with a 9th place in Martell, he was called to the World Cup in Ruhpolding to strengthen the men’s relay team. With no spares, Volkov helped the Russian squad to stand on the second step of the podium. After the WC and before the OECH, he went back to the IBU Cup in Arber, where the usually great shot finished only 7th in 20K with five penalties!
7 Time European Champion
Before the first competitions in Duszniki Zdrój, Volkov noted the importance of good results, “If from the next season the winner of the IBU Cup Total Score will have extra spot for the World Cup, it would be a good motivation for me to win the Overall, so I want to increase my advantage over my rivals.”
And he did! Even though the Russian athlete did not win an individual medal, finishing 5th, 5th and 4th, he strengthened his lead in the overall. The only contender close to Volkov was his teammate Alexander Loginov; the point total was now 450 to Loginov’s 440, the gap to the others was almost 100. Still, Volkov did not leave the OECH without podium; with the win in the mixed relay, he became the only 7 time European Champion.
At the IBU Cup 6 in Brezno Osrblie, despite fatigue after the OECH, Volkov took his first individual season win in sprint, which definitely gave him more confidence before the WCH. As he was aiming, in Hochfilzen the Russian competed in 20K, where with one penalty he finished 11th; in men’s relay, in which his team won Gold medal. With two IBU Cups to go, Volkov now was 113 points ahead of Loginov, who skipped the competitions in Osrblie. Kontiolahti brought Volkov one more podium; with clean shooting he finished second behind Ondrej Moravec in the 20K. Fifth place in pursuit gave him a win in the IBU Cup Pursuit Score.
At the last Cup in Otepaa, he finished second in first men’s sprint, securing first place in the Total and Sprint Scores. With total five individual podiums, including one win, and nine results in top 10, Volkov earned 713 points to Loginov’s 705 and Guigonnat‘s 475. He finished 2016-17 season at the World Cup in Holmenkollen with 30th place in sprint and 19th in pursuit. Recently the Russian was named to the National team for the next season. As in previous years, Volkov will train with Anton Shipulin outside of the squad under the guidance of Andrei Kryuchkov and Andrei Gerbulov.
Dominating Daria Virolaynen
Last season 28-year-old Virolaynen mostly competed at the IBU Cup level, which she started in Ridnaun with 7th place in the sprint and 6th in the pursuit. In Obertilliach she finished third in the15K and won the sprint, moving her to fifth position in the Total Score with 182 points to Nadine Horchler’s 243 in the lead. After the Christmas break, Virolaynen returned on the track with three podiums in a row. In Martell, she was second in the sprint, winning the pursuit the next day; in Arber the Russian was second in 15K. Due to those solid results, she moved to first place in the Overall and with confidence headed to the OECH.
No Individual Medals
Despite the fact that she went to Duszniki in good shape, like Volkov she did not win any individual medal, taking a victory only in the single mixed relay. With three missed competitions from the beginning of the season, Virolaynen now had 452 points with a gap of 79 on Anna Nikulina in second. At the next Cup in Osrblie, right after the OECH, the Russian finished second in the sprint, but won the pursuit, strengthening her position in the Total Score. Kontiolahti saw Virolaynen’s worst IBU Cup result: 17th place in 15K; because of that slip she lost the small Globe in Individual Score.
After the finish she admitted, “Sure, I am upset because I lost it only by 2 points. But the Total Score is very important for me; I really hope it will be mine!” With a smile on her face, she added, “What can you do… Someone else has to win as well, not only me!”
Forgetting about the five penalties in 15K, Virolaynen started the next competition from a scratch, with a fresh mind. She finished first in the women’s sprint, taking her fourth individual win of the season. The Russian’s 8th place in the next day’s pursuit gave her enough points to confirm an early win in the Total Score, with no one in a position to overtake her. Virolaynen, with a big lead, was also awarded the small Globe for the women’s IBU Cup Pursuit Score. Due to those strong results Virolaynen stayed in Kontiolahti for the World Cup, skipping the IBU Cup final in Otepää.
Fourth at World Cup
With total five missed competitions, eight individual podiums and rest of her results in top 9 (except the 17th place), Virolaynen finished 93 points ahead of her teammate Nikulina, who participated in all 20 competitions, 684 to 591. She finished the season competing at the two World Cup stages and taking fourth place in the Kontiolahti sprint. These strong results, Like Volkov put her on the National Team for the next season.