Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

The early end to the BMW IBU World Cup season for the Slovenian team meant that gearing up for the new season and their home 2021 IBU World Championships began in mid-April instead of early May. Yet even with this once-in-a-generation event on the horizon in February 2021, the small Slovenians eased into their summer program.

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

Family, Friends and a Relaxed First Camp

Coach Uros Velepec explained, “The season ended March 15, so we said, ‘take 4 weeks, then two weeks easy and we will start May 1.’ It was a really nice relaxed atmosphere…Our first camp was in Bled, not Pokljuka, three days of hard work, some pizzas and some talks in the evening. It was a fun time.”

Before that brief season-starting camp, “It was like a normal spring; a lot of work around home, some sports and lots of time with family and friends. I did not want to focus too much on coronavirus; I just let them know that we were pretty lucky in Slovenia.”

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

No Pressure Eight Months Out

He was equally relaxed about the home IBU World Championships. “I did not want to put too much pressure with this World Championships. We want to take it slow. I do not want (the team) to be over motivated in May and June, push too hard at the beginning of this basic training. We are quite lucky because we have this World Championship; the federation wants a medal so the National Team will not have big cuts. We need the best conditions to have a chance. The athletes do not feel any pressure yet. It is 8 months away; it will get heavier and heavier. It will maybe be the hardest for Jakov (Fak) and Klemen (Bauer), because they need to perform.”

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

“The only thing that is constant is change”

Despite the relaxed easy start, Velepec admits it will be a typical hard training season with a few twists and turns. “The only thing that is constant is change. You cannot go on with the same system every year. You have to put more stress, sometimes less stress; different stress especially for the old guns like Jakov and Klemen. They have to change every year, because they can get bored. They do not want to work every year in the same way. My goal is to do something different with the system, training camps, with everything.”

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

Fak: Family and Flexible Training

Two-time Olympic medalist and IBU World Champion Fak concurred with the coach. “My life is different now with two small children than it was when I was a single guy with all the time. I am still motivated but need to train differently; a plan with more flexibility and will not spend as much time with the team. If I get to bed at 8 pm with the kids and wake at 6 and am ready to train, I get going. It is different than when the coach picks you up at 8 to go to Pokljuka and training starts at 9; you have to do the training even if you feel bad. Then it is a wasted day. I am adjusting training many days to my family life. Of course it has not been perfect, but I am in very good shape after the first weeks.”

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

At Pokljuka, sans Fak

The Slovenians started their second camp last weekend at Pokljuka, “our only constant; we planned to do some camps in other places but much of that is on hold due to the coronavirus,” according to Velepec. Fak will miss much of that camp, not due to family obligations, but because he recently contracted Lyme disease. “I got a tick bite on my Achilles when I was out running, went to the doctor and am now on 14 days of antibiotics, because if not caught early, this can be a very serious illness. So I am only training lightly for 14 days.” Yet the Slovenian star saw a bit of humor in his latest setback. “I told my wife that I must be the test case for illnesses and injuries; I think I have had them all!”

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

Giving Back in Stressful Times

Part of the relaxed start to the season found some Slovenian athletes, including Fak doing a few days of farm work in conjunction with a sponsor, Pivovarna Laško. With the coronavirus shutting down cross-border farm workers, there was a need for help planting hops. Velepec admitted this was “hard work” while at the same time, Fak admitted it was important for “people to help each other in the stressful situation we are in.”

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

Women’s Team: From Juniors to BMW IBU World Cup

One of the biggest changes for the IBU WCH host is a young separate women’s team for the first time in several years, with most of the group jumping directly from the junior level to the BMW IBU World Cup. Velepec commented, “We have four senior girls now and it was time to make a separate girl’s team.” Women’s Coach Andreja Mali, working with her team on a secluded small shooting range, added, “They all lack a proper IBU Cup experience where the results would be much more satisfying and encouraging; on a perfect day would probably mean at least Top 25. The same performance in the BMW IBU World Cup would only be a top 60 or 80 at best where the competition level is very, very high. It takes a lot of work, patience and time.”

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

Personal Biathlon Development

With the group’s youthfulness in mind, Mali keeps the pressure off, focusing on “personal biathlon development. I told the girls it is only their performance now compared with their own performance in the past that matters; continuous personal improvement will eventually bring results…I am putting a lot of effort into getting my girls to a point where they can get proper training and live decently while building a biathlon career. In the end the commitment and intrinsic desire will decide who will stay, as I did until I was 37 years old.”

IBU WCH: Learning Experience 

Like Velepec, Mali’s approach to the home IBU World Championships remains stress-free, especially at this time of the year. “We will approach the IBU World Championships as another learning experience, an occasion with profound stress and big expectations where the only aim will be to have a personal best competition and block out the rest. We dare to believe that on a very good day any for the girls can finish in the World Cup Points.”

Relaxed Start of Training for Slovenian Team

Think Positively

The veteran Coach Velepec who finished 7th in the 1993 World Championships sprint thinks this relaxed low stress approach is important for everyone in these uncertain times. “If we start thinking about what can happen, then it changes your idea about what to do. It is best to think positively that the end of November we will be on the start in Kontiolahti and it will go as planned. Do not think too much about what can happen. Still, coaches need to have different scenarios: A, everything is perfect; B, something goes wrong; C things might change. Now we are just focusing on the A plan and getting on with it.”

Photos: IBU/SLO Biathlon, Jakov Fak, Christian Manzoni, Evgeny Tumashov, Andreja Mali, Jerry Kokesh

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