The Finnish Biathlon team went through a big change at the start of the training season as a new head coach was appointed to the team. Norway’s Erik Kulstad, who was a coach next to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Darya Domracheva in China, took on the task. His goal for the up-coming season is to see the athletes are using the skills and techniques that they have been developing during summer.
Building the trust
Since joining the team this spring, Kulstad has been trying to build trust between him and the athletes. “The summer has been very good, the biggest focus has been to get to know the athletes, and understand their level, and how to work in the best way towards this team. I feel like we have done a very good job together with that.”
”They gave me a chance, and I felt they gave me an opportunity explore my ideas for how we should work in biathlon. I was also looking for more responsibility and they have trusted me with that”, Kulstad says.
Since training started the focus has been on working on the stability, in both shooting and physical level. “For me it became clear that stability in both shooting and physical level had to be improved. We have worked a lot towards improving the threshold speed for the athletes to be able to see more even loop times. On the range we have been working towards a clear and efficient approach, so the athletes have a clear plan A for the shooting.”
As for many other teams, staying healthy at the brink of the season is critical. Other than that, Kulstad states “I have some ski-technical adaptations that we have been working on roller ski that we need to bring to snow, so that will be the focus in October. In November it will be to fix put the final pieces to the shooting puzzle.”
This season the World Championships will take place in Oberhof, starting on 8 February 2023. Trying to take some preassure off Kulstad says that “I view them mostly as a learning experience, so I wish to see how everyone is approaching the different stages of the winter and then optimize from next year onward. But I have an idea of what we should do. And then we learn.”
Full spectrum of emotions in the Summer Biathlon World Championships
”The summer-champs were a very fun experience, and it was very good to see that what we had been training on was going in the right direction. For me as an unknown person it was also good to show that what we are doing is helping. We had the full spectrumof performances and emotions with almost all athletes so the learning experiences from that week was the most important” says Kulstad.
The veteran of the team, Nastassia Kinnunen was one of the brightest stars in Ruhpolding, taking home a bronze medal. “The summer passed by quickly and it was cool for me. It is fruitful to remember the summer biathlon bronze medal. As I approach this new season, which will be my last in the high level, I want to enjoy the full competitive spirit.”
“Going with full force”
The best Finn in the past season was Tero Seppala, who was knocking on the podium a few times and finished 12th in the total score. He has been training mostly outside of the national team this summer. The focus on Seppala’s training has been on ski power and the action in the shooting range.
“Last season was cool with the fights to the top spots. I want to do that again this winter and do it well. This gives me a lot of motivation and I am not giving anything away for free.”
When asked about what he looks forward the most next winter the answer is clear. “The World Championships in Oberhof will be tough. The tracks are hard and there will be a huge crowd.”
The first competitions of the season will take place in his home tracks in Kontiolahti. “The season start will be very exciting, and I think we will see a lot of surprises. The athletes can ways push a bit more if there is a big crowd cheering, so I am hoping to see a lot of fans at the side of the tracks!”
Photos: Manzoni/IBU, Finnish biathlon team