Getting to know … Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat

Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat entered the biathlon history books in the 2023/24 season. He was the first athlete from his home country of Mongolia to achieve a top placing in the IBU Junior Cup. He even went one better at the IBU Junior Open European Championships, taking home the gold medal.

Biathlon is a foreign concept in Mongolia. Hardly any of the 3.3 million inhabitants know that the sport exists. There is no shooting range or roller track in the country. Although the conditions are difficult, Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat has managed to pursue his passion. “Unfortunately, we do not have any courses or shooting ranges in Mongolia where we can train. We do not have targets, so you can only shoot at paper, and to ski you must drive on the roads between the cars,” explains the 21-year-old. The team spends most of its time training in Kazakhstan. There is close cooperation between the two countries. In October, the Mongolian team usually flies to Europe to tackle the winter season. This is also how contact with Dmitry Popov came about, who was to play a significant role in the sporting development of Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat.

Found a new (training) home on the Arber

In recent years, Dmitry Popov has repeatedly supported the Mongolian team as a coach at major events, such as the 2022 IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships in Ruhpolding. He recognized Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat's talent and, together with the IBU Development Team, organized for the 21-year-old to train with him at the Arber biathlon base in the Bavarian Forest. And so Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat came to Germany in March 2023. A challenge, as he now had to organize his summer training without his teammates and spend many months away from his family. But he has accepted this challenge. “Enkhsaikhan is extremely ambitious and hard-working. I had to slow him down during training so that he did not overdo it”, explains Popov. “But what I really appreciate about Enkhsaikhan is that he is very grateful for the opportunities he has been given here on the Arber”, continues the coach. Enkhbat learnt Russian and German on his own so that he could better communicate with his coach. This made the car journey of over two thousand kilometers from the Arber to Kontiolahti, which the two made together, more pleasant.

IBU supports biathlon development

The International Biathlon Union has a development programme to support smaller biathlon nations such as Mongolia. “We assist nations in establishing themselves in the sport of biathlon and gaining access to knowledge or funding. With IBU development support, we want to increase youth participation, promote gender equality, improve training facilities, support biathlon experts, and promote partnerships between national federations”, says Dagmara Gerasimuk, IBU Development Director. The Mongolian federation and Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat have also been able to develop further thanks to financial support and the IBU network, as the lack of coaches in their own country and the costs of training camps in Europe are a constant challenge for the federation.

On the fast track

The 2023/24 season was the most successful so far in Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat's biathlon career. Training together with Dmitry Popov was the right path for him. He competed in the IBU Cup in November and December and raced at the IBU Junior Cup in Jakuszyce in February. There he finished sixth in the sprint. Never had a Mongolian biathlete placed so high in a biathlon race. But he managed to do even better. Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat won the gold medal in the individual race at the IBU Junior Open European Championships. “The best day of my biathlon life so far”, says Enkhbat. At the World Championships in Nove Mesto na Morave, he then also competed in the individual race and had the chance to meet his idol. "I really like Norwegian athlete Sturla Holm Laegreid. He is a really good athlete, strong and shoots well. And I was glad to see him at the World Championships in NMNM." Enkhsaikhan Enkhbat has clear goals for his future: “I really want to improve my results and get to the World Cup events, after that, I want to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2026. And in 5 years to be steadily at the WC circuit.” He can definitely count on Dmitry Popov's tips and advice.

Photos: IBU I Manzoni, Koksarov

Share this article

Header iconSign up for our newsletter