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Gold that the damned West will not take away. Great success in biathlon


For 26 long years, the country waited for victory in the men's biathlon relay at the Olympic Games. In Sochi 2014, our guys were not favorites, but Anton Shipulin and his friends created a real miracle. Those emotions are still firmly in the minds of millions of fans, many of whom probably rewatch that legendary race from time to time. And even the machinations of WADA and the IOC will not be able to take this victory away from Russia.

Expectations were frightening
The men's relay was the last start in the biathlon program at the Sochi Olympics. And in fact, it was the final chance for our team to correct the impression of an unsuccessful performance. One bronze medal for Evgeniy Garanichev in the individual race is clearly not what everyone was counting on and hoping for. The main star of the Russian national team, Anton Shipulin, consistently made it into the top 15, but never made it to personal awards.

There was too much at stake. Moreover, since 1988, our biathletes could not take gold in the relay. Almost always the Russians got on the podium, but they really wanted to win. Another thing is that there were few objective prerequisites. Firstly, Shipulin and company did not look very convincing in their personal starts. Secondly, the competition was powerful.

The Norwegian national team alone with the Boe brothers, Emil Hegle Svendsen and the great and terrible Ole Einar Bjoerndalen created fear. But there were also stellar Frenchmen led by Martin Fourcade, as well as good Austrians and Germans. In addition, the determination of the composition of our team resulted in a huge scandal. There was no place in the four for Garanichev – the only person with a personal medal! And Evgeniy was very good in the mass start, taking fifth place with three penalties.

Obviously, he was perhaps the best prepared for this race, but the coaching staff suddenly decided to give up the choice of the squad to the biathletes themselves. And they wanted to see the reliable shooter Alexei Volkov at the start, who had done well in his favorite first stage more than once. The downside was the biathlete's low speed. One way or another, Garanichev remained to watch the relay from the sidelines and, as they say, harbored a grudge.

Intrigue that was not asked for
Volkov in such a situation simply had no right to make a mistake. His partners vouched for him and they could not be let down. And the whole country knew about the story with Garanichev, so the pressure on Alexei was maximum. Unfortunately, our best shooter did not cope with the first milestone, making one mistake and falling back to 15th place! But Volkov had to compensate for his low speed with impeccable shooting.

Now I had to catch up with the leaders and work at a different pace. And then Tarjei Be worked brilliantly at the second stage and ran into the race in first place. Russia had no room for error, but Volkov again missed one shot. We must give Alexey his due – on the final lap he pushed himself to the limit or even beyond the limits of his body. The lag of 16 seconds from the leader did not look like a disaster.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic champion Evgeniy Ustyugov ran next. From the first meters he rushed to reduce the gap from Johannes Boe and the German Daniel Boehm. Everything was fine until the fifth prone shot, which missed the target. The Norwegian also missed, but Boehm did everything perfectly and ran away with a small gap. Ustyugov was 16 seconds away. It would seem that there was a decent gap, but the Russian brilliantly eliminated it and arrived at the stand together with the leaders.

And then drama happened. Johannes quickly closed all the targets, Be made one miss, and Ustyugov dug in and fired only seven rounds. Norway flew ahead, 19 seconds ahead of ours. The Germans were second, and then Zhenya was actively pressed by Austria and Slovenia. The situation was becoming critical, especially since Ustyugov lost again on the last lap, so that at the handover of the baton Russia’s gap was approaching half a minute.

Malyshko was supposed to save the country at the third stage. And after the first milestone, Dima really coped with the task, leading the team to second place. The Russian still missed while standing and had to start the chase again. The great Bjoerndalen did not run fast, but he shot perfectly and confidently led the race. On the last lap of this stage, German Arnd Peiffer did the incredible, winning as much as 22 seconds from Ole Einar. Malyshko also gave chase, but spent all his strength at the beginning of the lap, and at the finish he was clearly exhausted. However, a 16-second lag allowed us to hope for a miracle.

A great victory in spite of everyone
As has often happened with Shipulin, it was on his shoulders that the task of winning back, catching up and overtaking fell on his shoulders. The only problem was that there were all the superstars of world biathlon around – German Simon Schempp, Norwegian Emil Hegle Svendsen and Austrian Daniel Landertinger. The whole country literally froze in anticipation of something grandiose. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that our entire Olympic team was fighting for victory in the overall Olympic standings, so gold in biathlon would be a huge help in this battle.

Shipulin drove up to the first target… and missed twice. “How can that be, Anton!” – fans shouted at the stadium and at the TV screens. Fortunately, Schempp and Svendsen did not fully cope with the shooting either. So the final drama was transferred to the final stand. The Norwegian managed to completely fail the shooting, while the German and Russian closed all targets.

Schempp ran for gold, 4 seconds ahead of Shipulin, and Landertinger was third, 11 seconds behind. And now everything looked very promising. How many times before had Anton been ahead of the German at the finish line! In addition, it soon became clear that the Austrian would not be able to join the fight for victory. Shipulin first approached Shemp, and then did what he can do perhaps better than anyone else in biathlon – he had an outstanding and incredibly competent finishing segment. When the Russian rolled into the stadium, no one had any doubt that our biathletes would win the first gold medal in the relay at the Olympics in almost 30 years.

It was a great triumph and the best minutes in Shipulin’s career. Then a series of doping scandals fell on us, one of which ended in the disqualification of Evgeniy Ustyugov, who is still suing CAS for his good name. The fate of that gold in Russia is still not clear. But something else is clear – no tricks of the West, led by the IOC, WADA and CAS, will take away from our country those emotions and that sense of justice that everyone experienced exactly 10 years ago at the best Olympics in history.

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