IBU OECH Sprint Title to Vladimir Iliev
* Vladimir Iliev of Bulgaria, with one standing penalty, won his first IBU OECH title, taking the Gold medal in the men’s sprint this morning in 24:26.9. This career best was two spots better than his Bronze medal in the mass start last year in Tyumen. The Silver medal went to the 20K individual gold medalist Alexander Loginov of Russia, shooting clean, but 4.9 seconds back. Iliev’s teammate Krasimir Anev won the Bronze medal, also shooting clean, 16.7 seconds back.*
Fourth went to Andrejs Rastorgujevs of Latvia, with two penalties, 17.3 seconds back. Alexey Volkov of Russia finished fifth, also shooting clean, 28.1 seconds back while clean-shooting Tomas Krupcik of Czech Republic was sixth, 28.8 seconds back.
Good Prone Shooting
Cold, clear, sunny and windless; if there was ever a day to shoot clean in a sprint, this was it. Yet surprisingly, only 10 men managed to avoid the penalty loop.
The prone stages went as expected with more than 40 of the 125-man field dropping all five targets. This resulted in a log jam of zeros after that stage. The fast-skiing Rastorgujevs led the parade, followed by Iliev, France’s Aristide Begue all within 6.9 seconds. Loginov was well off the pace, clean but back 15 seconds, while Anev was a couple of seconds later. Loginov commented on his slow start. “That was not the plan. After that loop, I knew I had to push hard and shoot clean to make it back to the podium against strong competitors like Vladimir and Krasimir.” As the competition progressed, none of the later starters challenged this group.
Despite Iliev’s Penalty, a Victory
As usual, everything changed in standing. Even with the long downhill approach, the recovery is limited. The shooting range approaches quickly, so pulses seemed to remain high in standing. The Latvian was first in and picked up two penalties that seemed to put him well out of podium contention. First Anev cleaned, then less than minute later, Loginov matched. Loginov, after a fairly slow first loop, was now in the lead and pulling away from the Bulgarian. They crossed the finish line with Loginov almost 15 seconds up on his rival. These two had set the bar high and seemed headed for Gold and Silver. Shortly after they finished, Iliev, with a single penalty, left in second, four seconds behind the Russian. By the 9K mark, Iliev was pulling time back and had a seven second lead. He slowed a bit in the final kilometer, but moved into first place.
After that, no one else challenged for the podium.
Long Wait for Iliev
Iliev cracked a smile as he commented on his long wait for this medal. Iliev, “It was a long way to this medal and this win. I was ready for a high result for many years, but many things have happened, so I’m really happy to get a victory today.”
Anev after his Silver medal in the 20K was not feeling well today, “I did not expect anything in this race, because yesterday I had health problems that even my coach advised me not to start. So went into competition without any expectations.”