It’s All New at the IBU Open European Championships in Duszniki Zdrój
The 2017 IBU Open European Championships open tomorrow in the very new Duszniki Arena at Duszniki Zdrój, Poland. Although this venue has been used for years, including the 2010 IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships, the shooting range and tracks being used this week are all new. Most of the construction has taken place in the last five months; the shooting range officially opened just yesterday!
New Stadium; Big Investment
This small, compact stadium in the spa town of 5,000 in Lower Silesia, just across the Czech Republic border will get a good test in the next five days with individual, sprint, pursuit and mixed relay competitions. This project that includes the shooting range, permanent stadium buildings and tribune, snow-making and storage, and improving the track system cost around 18 million złoty (4.5 million Euros) . The funding came from Poland’s Ministry of Sports, regional and local governments. The new 30-point shooting range is set into a pine-covered hillside, facing a new modernistic stadium building and tribunes. The wax cabins and team are set just to the right side, 25 meters from the tracks; access to the tracks and stadium are via a new tunnel.
Good Wide Tracks
Besides the newly-installed Kurvinen target system on the shooting range, the tracks have been completely redone. According to Felix Bitterling, IBU Race Director “The really nice thing about these tracks is that they are very wide. They are completely covered with manmade snow. There was about 5 weeks of very cold weather and the organizers made a lot of snow in the stadium, on the tracks and down by the lake. They filled their depot and the tracks.” The track profile is not too hard, with the biggest climb on each course between 30-40 meters. Italy’s Pietro Dutto commented, “It is nice, rolling and not very technical. The shooting range approach is quite easy with a long downhill for recovery.”
Although the tracks are covered with manmade snow, there is no shortage of the white stuff, with about 80 cm of natural snow on the ground. It definitely looks and feels like winter; the temperatures should stay well below freezing all week, with maybe some ground fog tomorrow but otherwise, generally good conditions should prevail.
The Home Team Plus World Cup and Olympic Medalists
There will be no shortage of interesting competitions this week, with strong fields of 131 men and 101 women from 34 nations vying for medals. The home team Poland is represented by seven men and seven women with Grzegorz and Krystyna Guzik, Magdalena Gwizdon, and Monika Hojnisz on the list. Germany, Norway and Russia also have maximum number of athletes that will surely be among the favorites. In addition to Olympic Gold medalist and defending champion in sprint Evgeny Garanichev, the Russian squad will be also strengthened by the current IBU Cup Total Score Leader Alexey Volkov and Alexander Loginov. Past World Cup winner and Olympic Relay gold medalist Dmitry Malyshko is also on the Russian squad. Besides the Russian team, there are additional medal contenders including 2016 mass start Champion Florian Graf and Michael Willeitner of Germany; Norway’s Vetle Sjastad Christiansen and Vegard Gjermundshaug who have been on the IBU podium this season. World Cup regulars trying to win medals hers include Vladimir Iliev and Krasimir Anev of Bulgaria, Jaroslav Soukup of Czech Republic, Latvia’s Andrejs Rastorgujevs, Slovakia’s Martin Otcenas.
*First Time for Volkov
*Volkov commented the importance of good results here, “If from the next season the winner of the IBU Cup Total Score will have extra quota for the World Cup, it would be a good motivation for me to win the overall, so I want to increase my advantage over the rivals.” Regarding the upcoming competitions and his mood, with a big smile he added, “I’m going to compete here for the first time, so we will see tomorrow how it goes. But anyways, I’m waiting for it, as a holiday!”
Antholz Winner Nadine Horchler in the Field
The women will be represented by the IBU Cup Total Score leader and today’s birthday girl Daria Virolaynen of Russia with the teammates Svetlana Sleptsova and Iryna Starykh. Defending sprint champion Nadine Horchler who won the Antholz World Cup mass start last Saturday leads the strong German women’s team. Horchler’s sister Karolin and Denise Herrmann are both podium threats. Norway features triple medalist from last year’s IBU OECH Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold. The Czech Republic team has past World Cup winner and Olympic medalist Veronika Vitkova while Ukraine has Olympic Relay Gold medalist Juliya Dzhyma here along with their rising star Anastasiya Merkushyna.
The new stadium and a lot of familiar winning faces should make for a great week of biathlon!