Coaching Carousel Part 2: Moves in Austria, Switzerland, France and Russia
As the days in May tick off the calendar, more coaching and management changes have been confirmed for several nations including Austria, Switzerland, France and Russia. Additionally, although not a coaching change, the Russian Biathlon Union elected four-time World Champion and double Olympic Relay medalist Vladimir Drachev as its new President.
Ricco Gross to Austria
After several years as the Men’s Head Coach for Russia, Ricco Gross returned to central Europe as the new Men’s Head Coach in Austria. Gross takes charge of a team with veteran stars including Dominik Landertinger, Julian Eberhard and Simon Eder, as well as young IBU OECH Gold medalist Felix Leitner. The Austrians hope to move back into the top 5 in the Nations Cup standings, where they have finished in 3 of the last five years, but finished sixth last season.
Gross, a four-time Olympic Relay Gold medalist and nine-tine IBU World Champion was known for his shooting skills and work ethic as an athlete. Prior to coaching in Russia, he honed his coaching skills with the German women’s and IBU Cup teams. His style and skill set should be a perfect match for the fast-shooting Austrian squad. OESV Biathlon Manager Markus Gandler said, “For our flagship, the men's team, Ricco is of course a great asset. He has been incredibly successful as an athlete and has done a great job as a coach in recent years.”
The Ruhpolding resident and new coach who led Russia to the 2017 World Cup Relay Crystal Globe, commented on his goals. “I'm really looking forward to this task as the Austrian team has lost some ground recently; it's about fully exploiting the potential of the very experienced team and bringing young athletes such as Felix Leitner to the top of the world. One of our goals is, of course, to recapture the sixth World Cup starting position.”
Gapp Leads Women’s Training Group
In an additional move, Walter Gapp took over the Women’s Training Group 1 that includes Lisa Theresa Hauser and IBU YJWCH Silver and Bronze Medalist Julia Schwaiger. Like the men, the women’s team hopes to move up in the Nations Cup where they finished 16th last season.
Sandra Flunger in Switzerland
With the departure of Armin Auchentaller to the US Women’s Team, former Austrian Women’s Coach Sandra Flunger moved across the border as the new Women’s Head Coach for Switzerland. Flunger, the Austrian Coach from 2013-16 and a protégé of her uncle Alfred Eder is the long-time personal coach for Hauser, the most successful Austrian female biathlete ever. Now as Swiss Coach, Flunger will be guiding the Gasparin sister, Lena Haecki and Co. The Swiss women finished 9th in the Nations Cup last season.
Young Team with Potential
The new coach commented to Swiss Ski on her new team. "It is a young team with a lot of development potential in all directions. Above all, the hit rates in combination with the shooting speed must improve in the short term. But also the work volume must evolve, which is essential to keep up with the world's best.” Flunger and her team finished their first camp of the season last week.
Patrick Favre: New French Shooting Coach
Long speculated, the Italian shooting specialist Patrick Favre has now been officially announced as the shooting coach for the revamped French men’s team. Favre will be working with new Head Coach Vincent Vittozzi, giving the World Cup staff a completely new look next season after the retirement of Stephane Bouthiaux and Franck Badiou stepping down as shooting coach. According to Favre, he will work alongside Badiou through “at least the summer,” as he gets to know his new team. The Italian will now get the chance to work with his brother Christian, a French Wax technician.
Success in Italy
Favre, a two-time World Cup winner and two-time WCH medalist for Italy has been the man behind the scope for the Italian team in recent years. He has been an important part of the Olympic Mixed relay medals, the women’s relay success and the shooting successes and medals of Dorothea Wierer, Dominik Windisch, Lisa Vittozzi and Lukas Hofer.
Opportunity to Great to Refuse
Signed to a four-year contract, Favre will now be working with the biggest name in biathlon, the seven-time IBU World Cup Total Score winner, Martin Fourcade. That prospect was an opportunity not to be missed, as he commented to La Stampa. “Working with one of the best teams in the world and an athlete like Martin Fourcade, is an opportunity too great to refuse.”
Changes in Russia: Khovantsev and Drachev
The first changes in the Russian team structure have just been decided in recent days with more to come concerning the coaching staff for the coming season. The management of the Russian Biathlon Union is now in the hands of Vladimir Drachev who was elected to a four year term as RBU president last weekend. Drachev is a 15-time World Cup winner and 11-time WCH medalist who was known as one of the fastest shots in biathlon during his career. He now heads the RBU board which is in the process of sorting the coaches for the coming season.
Head Coach Anatoly Khovantsev
However, Anatoly Khovantsev has been announced as the new Head Coach for men and women. Khovantsev is a well respected veteran who coached the Russian women several years ago. Since that time, he has been based in Kontiolahti as the coach for the Kontiolahti Sports Club. The specific men’s and women’s coaches are expected to be announced later this week.
Photos: IBU, OESV, RBU, Swiss Ski, Social Media