New Season Begins: A Spin on the Coaching Carousel
May marks the return to training for many athletes with first training camps coming later in the month. While much of April was dedicated to holidays in the sun; Canada, Sweden, Russia and the USA announced changes to their coaching and administrative staffs.
Matthias Ahrens Moves On
Long-time Canadian Head Coach Mathias Ahrens left his position in early April after 15 years of coaching the Canadian Biathlon Team at various levels. Ahrens led the Canadian team to consistently better results under his stewardship, including the men’s breakthrough Relay Bronze medal at the 2016 IBU World Championships. He commented, “As all the athletes that have grown with me in the system of Biathlon Canada are leaving, so will I. It was a great pleasure seeing those fine young athletes train, grow and improve under my guidance. Over this period we have transformed into a National Team that is now internationally recognized.” Ahrens has since taken over as Head Coach at the Biathlon Alberta Training Center which will give him more time to spend at home with his family. He stated, “My goal is to foster the passion and performance in young athletes to reach their potential.”
Biathlon Canada is currently seeking a new Head Coach to replace Ahrens. Three-time Olympian and former Cross-country National Team Coach Justin Wadsworth will serve as interim Head Coach to start the new training season. He will be assisted by National Team Coach Pavel Lantsov; and Assistant Coach/Ski Technician Andrew Chisholm.
Russia: New Men’s Team Assistant Coach Maxim Maksimov
The Russian Team after a solid season that included IBU WCH Silver medals by Alexander Loginov and Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht only made one major change to their World Cup coaching rosters, adding 2011 IBU WCH 20K Individual Silver medalist Maxim Maksimov as an assistant to Head Coach Anatoly Khovantsev. Maksimov had two individual podiums in his World Cup career: the 2011 IBU WCH Silver medal and a 2008 IBU WCH Bronze medal in the same competition. The 39-year-old has been a regional coach in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District.
Long-time reserve (IBU Cup) Coach Andrei Padin was not included in the IBU Cup staff. He was replaced by Evgeny Kuvaev who previously worked as a national team analyst.
Nadija Bilova Steps Down as Polish Women’s Coach
Polish Women’s Coach Nadia Bilova stepped down recently for health reasons. Bilova was an accomplished biathlete in the early days of the sport, winning a Relay Gold medal and Sprint Silver medal at the 1986 Biathlon World Championships for the Soviet Union and later competed in the 1994 Olympic Winter Games for her native Ukraine. She later coached the Ukrainian women and men’s team during her career.
While the Polish Federation is seeking a replacement for Bilova, Coach Adam Kolodziejczyk will handle training for the women’s team.
Sweden Formalizes Staff Changes
With the retirement of Wolfgang Pichler as Head Coach, the Swedish Biathlon Federation announced significant staff changes with the hiring of 41-uear-old Anders Byström as National Team Manager while Johannes Lukas takes over the position of National Team Coach. Byström will be coordinating the National A, Development and Futures teams while also focusing on long-term planning. Byström, who previously was Swedish Ski Federation Development Director, commented,” I am looking forward to bringing the team into the future. We have a well-established coaching and management team…I think I can contribute my experience in top-level cross-country skiing to take us even further.”
Lukas will be assisted by the same staff of Mattias Nilsson and shooting coach Johann Hagström as in recent seasons. The team’s base remains in Östersund where the coaches provide daily guidance and support year-round. Although Pichler has moved on, his training system that produced recent Olympic and IBU WCH medalists Hanna Oeberg, Sebastian Samuelsson will be maintained by the coaches who have worked with him for many years.
New Leadership Positions at US Biathlon for Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke
2017 IBU World Champion Lowell Bailey and 2013 IBU WCH Silver medalist Tim Burke have taken new leadership positions at US Biathlon.
The 37-year-old Bailey has been hired as High Performance Director, replacing long-time HP Director Bernd Eisenbichler who moved on after 20 years with US Biathlon to Sporting Director with the DSV German Ski Federation. Bailey’s former teammate and friend since childhood will be the newly created Director of Athlete Development. Both men were significant parts in the growth of the US Biathlon program in the 21st century. In a press release, US Biathlon CEO Max Cobb commented, “Bernd has led our program brilliantly to new heights. He leaves us with a strong team and a great staff…With staff like Tim and Lowell leading our efforts, we'll continue with the same level of enthusiasm and passion for supporting our athletes in the years to come.”
Bailey became the USA’s first-ever IBU World Champion at Hochfilzen after more than 300 World Cup starts, shooting clean and hanging on for a 3.3 second career-first win over Ondrej Moravec and Martin Fourcade. Bailey commented on his new position, “With our dedicated athletes, an incredibly talented staff and a passionate and supportive board of directors, U.S. Biathlon has never been in a better position to build our sport in America, with the unwavering and collective goal of seeing an American atop a future Olympic podium.”