Fresh Start in Obertilliach for Estonians and New Coach Indrek Tobreluts
After a long hot summer spent in the cozy confines of their home stadium in Otepää, the Estonian Biathlon team opened September with a two-week camp in mostly sunny and cool Obertilliach. This was the team’s first venture out of home base this year with their former teammate and new Head Coach Indrek Tobreluts.
Flying and a Long Drive
The athletes spent the better part of a day flying to Germany and then driving to the Austrian village, arriving tired but energized. While the team was flying, the rookie coach added to his learning curve with a 2,034 km, 24 hour drive in the team bus loaded with equipment. He arrived equally energized and a bit more tired, but excited to take another step in his training plan that is simply a fresh start for a team filled with promise.
Many first year head coaches spend years “in the trenches” at the regional, junior, or IBU Cup level, but this 20-year World Cup veteran got the call to be a head coach just three years after his retirement from competition. He commented, “I hoped to be an assistant coach for a few years, but sometimes things happen unplanned…I had the choice of taking this job or watching on television; no middle ground.. It was an easy decision to make…This is a big responsibility but exciting for me, especially as I see the athletes trust me and I see them develop in the past three months. The summer has gone well; it gives me a good feeling.”
Jumping into a head coach position that no one had held for more than a year recently has challenges. “The men’s team has the biggest challenge, especially in the relay. We have good juniors, but they take 2-3 years to develop. The women’s team has a good rivalry among the seven of them; they are talented and maybe a little more advanced as a group.”
Focus on Power and Intensity
The Obertilliach camp represented the typical fall transitional training. “Our focus here is a little increase in intensity and more power training. This is a good place for both; with the mountains and a good stadium with hard roller loops. We will make some long easy runs and hikes of 3-4 hours, roller ski trainings like 5 times five minutes uphill and some intensity training with shooting at the stadium. This is nothing new; except that we are in the mountains and not at home where do not have these conditions.”
Before the heart of the hard work started, the first couple days after the long trip were simple acclimation. “We will just do some easy training to start the camp…One of the biggest jobs as a coach is to know how the athletes feel. You must know that if someone does not feel good, you must adjust the training.” Accordingly, with cloudless blue skies and mild temperatures, an easy morning run kicked off the camp.
Eager to Start; Missed Obertilliach
The team was eager to get underway. Grete Gaim and Meril Beilmann, both with big smiles on their faces explained in virtually the same words, “We have not been here for a couple of years and we really missed this place and the mountains. It is such a great place to train.”
1.5 Hours of Rollerskiing
That afternoon, the rollerskis were unpacked and one-by-one the dozen athletes slipped out of the village, down the hill to the Biathlonzentrum Osttirol. At four in the afternoon, they had the roller tracks to themselves. The new coach chatted with the group and few individuals before they settled into the rhythm of 1.5 hours of classic rollerskiing. Some preferred to enjoy the pine-shaded tracks in solitude, while a few pairs chatted their way around the multiple loops.
Goals and Motivation
The coach’s eyes followed each athlete as they passed through the stadium every 8-10 minutes, looking at technique. A few stop for a drink and a quick comment from the coach. “Each day I learn something new…My goal is to help each athlete achieve their personal goals. I do not set the goals for them; they are all motivated…Athletes like Regina Oja and Grete Gaim are focused only on their sport and they are easy to work with, so motivation is not a problem.”
Still, Tobreluts envisions the team’s potential. “I would hope that Kalev Ermits and Rene Zahkna can have some top 20 results and maybe Ermits can be in the top 10. For the women, I look at the relay as a good chance to improve. We are past the stage of getting lapped and now would like to move closer to the top 10; this is very hard. But I see the girls are good and we have the opportunity to be in the top 10.”
Season Ever Closer
A couple of weeks in the mountains and another step towards those goals; that is how summer training progresses as the new BMW IBU World Cup season gets ever closer.