Coaches Corner: Approaching the New Olympiad

With the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games fading fast in the rearview mirror, every team’s focus shifts to Milan-Cortina 2026. This spring and summer were the time to evaluate, reset and prepare a new long-range plan. Although the goals are similar, every team and coach approaches every Olympiad differently.

Norway, France and Sweden had the most success in Beijing, with fourteen, seven and four medals, respectively. We caught up with Sweden’s Johannes Lukas: Insights on a Successful Season ( while Siegfried Mazet and Stephane Bouthiaux spoke at the highly attended IBU Coach Webinar “Olympic Cycle: Milano-Cortina 2026” earlier in September.

Norway: collecting data

Norway’s shooting guru Mazet explained gave his thoughts on a four-year plan leading up to the OWG, citing the Beijing experience. “We kept the OWG in our sight for the four years leading up to Beijing, collecting data that would help us plan, knowing that Beijing was a high-altitude location with a lot of wind and the snow was dry. This gave up clues about what to work on for four years to get ready. With this in mind, we set the mid-term goals that we wished to achieve at the World Championships.”

Managing Emotions

Mazet admitting that he deals with elite athletes added, “The main thing is how they compete at the OWG and WCH; those competing for Gold medals or at least podiums. These athletes have the technical skills; their issue is missing a shot or two. The key thing we work on long-term is managing the emotions. We have seen over the years at OWG and WCH that an athlete is 15/15 after the third series, they know they must fight and they must behave (accordingly). It is not about technical stuff. They need to manage their emotions because it can be an Olympic or World Championship title. That is what I use to make a four-year program, combining it with the physical part. We cannot separate shooting from the physical part. Once we know these goals, then we set up a more precise program to achiever what I call mid-term goals.”

French Consistency and Rest

The French philosophy pertaining to Beijing and looking forward to Antholz 2026 is very consistent. “We prepared for the Olympic season like a “normal” season with the objective to be good but not in full shape at the beginning of the season. This is so the athletes would be at 100% of their capacities at the Games… With this in mind, we built our training program…We do not prepare for altitude, but acclimatize to it over the long term.” (83 days in camps before Beijing, with 33 days in the 1800-meter range and the remaining spaced out from 800-1200 meters, a balanced acclimatization.)

Bouthiaux despite being consistent in philosophy had no problem tweaking the Olympic-focused program a bit this spring. “After these last two very hard winters with Covid-19 and Beijing, we decided that the athletes needed more free time this year, starting our training camps later than usual, in the middle of June. I think everyone was happy with this situation.”

Reorganizing and optimizing

That small change came as part of the necessary post-Olympic evaluation. “It is necessary to take stock after the just completed Games, reorganize and optimize the system. Prior to Beijing, we changed the men’s A team coaches.” Similarly, France changed the women’s team coach this year, putting Cyril Burdet in charge for the next Olympiad. “The reasons for this was to bring a new voice to the team, evolve our methods while moving some of the other coaches to lower levels to motivate a new generation…Even though we have new coach, the methods stay close to the same, but the coach’s personality means it will never be exactly the same… It seems important after each Olympiad to do things like this to keep from getting in a rut with the inevitable drop in results.”

The 1994 Olympian and former French Men’s Coach confirmed the conservative French philosophy with very simple advice. “Stay calm during the Olympic year. Do not search and do extraordinary things. Be confident in your way of training. We have tried to do extraordinary things to be better and it never worked.”

Sweden “Still Hungry”

Sweden’s challenge, after taking four medals in Beijing is taking the next step to close the gap on Norway and France; maintaining the momentum and improving in 2026.”

Coach Johannes Lukas said he and his staff, after their best season ever, “had our hardest analysis ever…I also asked the athletes at our first camp this season, ‘are we satisfied, do we want more; is it easy to get more?’ Maybe it is because I am still young, but I am still hungry and everyone agreed.” Thinking about the Nations Cup, “Of course we were second but I want to win… fifth in the Men’s, we want to be in the top three. Our clear goal is to win the World Cup Total Score, men or women’s. We are a really good nation but the goal is to be the top nation…Those are big goals, but you need high goals to develop. The Total Score is a big dream for many athletes, but this season we realized that it is possible although we did not race every World Cup.”

“Need to do things better”

Standing pat and repeating successful plan is not an option for the Swedish squad. “As for the staff, it is easy to think, ‘four more years, just do more or less the same and it will be good anyway…That is not the case, there are so many details in shooting, recovery and other areas… We cannot just do the same things, but need to do things better.”

The 2026 Plan

Looking towards 2026, “Our plan will be based on altitude (with the Games in Antholz). That is always a challenge for Sweden, since out athletes do not live high. We started this year with a new altitude block (Antholz and Pass Lavazè), doing more tests to get more individual analysis and develop that for next year. Then, after two years, make a cut, see what worked and make a plan for the final two years. The final two-year plan could mean more camps or more individual camps at altitude; it just depends on what is optimal.”

We have split the two years into two blocks. For example, we raced in the SBWCH; we never did that before. We had more intensity in August; for a summer peak, then a low intensity altitude block and then much more intensity; trying some new ways. We are trying not to do everything new, but make small changes that will help the experienced athletes make small steps, which is what we need.”

Although each team’s Olympic approach is different, one theme underlies all three: the key to Olympic success is simple, attention to details.

Photos: IBU/ Christian Manzoni, Nordic Focus, Svensk Skidskytte, Skiskytterlandslaget

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