Two for Hochfilzen…Anton and Tatiana
The second in our series of quick looks at some of the medal contenders at the upcoming IBU WCH.
*Russia was shut out of the medals at last year’s IBU World Championships, two athletes could easily reverse that trend, Anton Shipulin and Tatiana Akimova could easily reverse that trend at Hochfilzen 2017.
Anton Shipulin is the most-experienced, most-titled and the most-likely medal contender for the Russian team. He has an ace in his hand as Hochfilzen. His two podiums in Antholz include his first-ever 20K individual win and a solid third place in the mass start. The 20K win was a career milestone that should buoy the confidence of the man in third place in the World Cup total Score. Although a multi-Olympic and WCH medalist with 216 World Cup starts, Shipulin has never won a World Championship title. In recent weeks, he has shown the fight and form necessary to end that streak, shooting well, hitting 38-of-40 shots in Antholz. Shipulin is one of the fastest shots on the World Cup circuit; when “in the zone,” the targets drop like flies. His finishing speed is unmatched by few. He thrives on the shoulder-to-shoulder battles against his rivals. Like most champions, Shipulin is a bit of a perfectionist, who sometimes overanalyzes. The three successes in Antholz leave little need for reflection, so after a two-week pre-WCH training camp in Obertilliach, he should be ready to go after that elusive WCH title. Best chance for medals: pursuit, mass start, relay.
This is 25-year-old Tatiana Akimova’s second World Cup season. She was a virtual unknown until shooting clean on the way to her first-ever World Cup win in the Nove Mesto sprint. This victory was part of her rapid progression to the podium. Last season Akimova along with Anton Babikov won the IBU Rookie of the Season award, for scoring the most World Cup points in a debut season. At that time, Akimova commented, “Next year I will work even more; I will dedicate myself fully to training. I feel that each year I grow, develop and improve."
The work paid off with the victory followed by third in the next day’s pursuit, proving the win was not just beginner’s luck. So far this season, she has scored World Cup points in every competition, currently sitting 10th in the World Cup Total Score. The results so far are promising; her biggest hurdle may be lack of experience and standing shooting. She generally cleans prone with ease and skis consistently well; standing is her weak point. Akimova shoots consistently well in the sprint, with zero or one penalty in every sprint so far this year. With no medals last year in Oslo, so she shares the burden of high expectations with Shipulin. Akimova plans to bring her Nove Mesto medals to Hochfilzen for motivation. Best chance for medals: sprint, pursuit.