Men’s Individual: IBU OECH Gold to Alexander Loginov
*Russia’s Alexander Loginov came back from a one-minute deficit after the first prone this morning to win the IBU OECH Gold medal in the men’s 20K individual in 49:54.2. Loginov’s 19-for-20 shooting gave his fourth straight victory, including IBU Cup wins at Arber and Martell this month. Krasimir Anev of Bulgaria shot clean to win the Silver medal, 11.4 seconds back. The Bronze medal went to clean-shooting Alexey Slepov of Russia, 53.6 seconds back.
Yury Shopin of Russia finished fourth, with one penalty, 1:02.3 back. Fifth went to Alexey Volkov of Russia, with one penalty, 1;35.6 back, while his teammate Dmitry Malyshko was sixth, also with one penalty, 1:48.5 back. This gave the Russian team five men in the top six finishers.
Good Day for Shooting
A windless, cloudy morning, with the thermometer reading minus 6C meant perfect conditions; a great opportunity for the 117 men in the field to get a 20-for-20 shooting day. Although the conditions were favorable, getting through 20 shots unscathed was a big task; only seven men shot clean.
Good Start for Shopin and Volkov
The day initially looked like it could be a Russian 1-2 with early starters 14 and 16, Shopin and Volkov easily cleaning the first two stages. However, the big threat Anev at number 20 was on the tracks, just a couple of minutes behind them and matching with every shot. In the second prone, Shopin missed a shot and fell out of the top three; Anev took control with another clean stage. Now it looked like a battle between the Bulgarian and Volkov.
Loginov Moves Up
While this group seemed to be battling for the top spot, Loginov was quietly trying to make up time after a first prone penalty pushed him a minute behind the leaders. After the prone penalty, he cleaned the firs standing, closing the gap by 21 seconds. The second prone proved more to his liking, as he carefully dropped the five targets.
Four-way Battle until Slepov Surprises
Heading to the last standing stage, it was now turning into a four-way battle for the medals. The last standing stage would decide the medals. Shopin cleaned first and took the lead, while Volkov missed his first shot, going into second place. Anev came to the range next and quickly cleaned to move into the top spot, almost minute up on Shopin.
Now it was up to Loginov, who was less than 10 seconds back before the last standing. He cleaned and left 8.6 seconds behind Anev. With 1300 meters to go, Loginov was in the lead by 1.2 seconds; he continued to add seconds and crossed the finish line with the victory. Late starter Alexey Slepov proved to be the spoiler for his teammate Shopin. Slepov at number 99, skied steadily while shooting clean stage-after-stage to jump into third place in the closing moments of the competition.
Of the three men on the podium, Slepov was possibly the happiest. “I was in bed sick for two weeks sick, only watching television, then two weeks of very little training and now today, I have a Bronze medal…It has been five years since I shot clean. My teammates are better shots, but I shot clean, so I am the best sniper on the team now!”
Loginov Not Discouraged by Penalty
Loginov admitted that shooting was critical to his victory. “The weather conditions were really good today, so everyone understood that the shooting was decisive for the podium places. After the first miss I just tried to do my work and was not discouraged by this mistake. On the final loop I have the info that I had a gap by 8 seconds, so I was working on maximum on every part of the track.”
Anev was the only non-Russian on the podium. “I am really happy to get this medal, it is very important for me to win it. You saw how Russian guys are good; five of them are in top 6, so I am very glad to be among the strongest.”