From “Ugra Cup” to World Championships. Part 1

Greeting spring  with big biathlon is a great tradition in Ugra. And this season won’t be an exception. IBU Cup Final 2017/2018 will take place in Khanty-Mansiysk on March 13-18. Citizens of Khanty-Mansiysk and other fans of biathlon and winter sports are looking forward to the great biathlon holiday and count days till this major sport event of Ugra spring. To brighten up the expectation we’d like to remind you about the most spectacular moments of big biathlon in Khanty-Mansiysk from the 90th to our days.

The memorandum that started a long and warm friendship between Ugra and IBU was signed in Khanty-Mansiysk in the autumn of 1993. The document was a starting point for building an international level stadium. And till this moment biathlon center of Khanty-Mansiysk remains one of the best in the world according to experts and ordinary fans.

Ugra Cup — 1997, 1998, 1999

Ugra Cup became an experimental site of the future biathlon center. Lots of famous athletes took part in the competitions form 1997 to 1999/ Among them are as Ekaterina Dafovska, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Frode Andresen. The very first international competition took place in Khanty-Mansiysk in 1997. To compete in “Ugra Cup – 1997” 56 athletes from 10 countries — Kazakhstan, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Germany, USA, Great Britain and Russia – came to the capital of Ugra. The first international competition in Khanty-Mansiysk was men sprint. It was held on March 19 1997. The winner was Russian athlete Vladimir Drachev, silver medal came to a well-known Norwegian Halvard Hanevold and the bronze winner was the host of the track – Viktor Maygurov.

By the time of the second “Ugra Cup” in 1998 the stadium of Khanty-Mansiysk got a B-license and the right to host the IBU Junior Cup and the IBU Youth/Junior Championships. There were five race in the schedule already: in addition to sprint and pursuit competitions mixed relay appeared. That year was the Olympic one and “Ugra Cup” welcomed four olympic champions at once, that made the fight for the win as tough as it was during the Olympics or World Championships. So, the duel between Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Frode Andresen that has started on the Olympics continued during sprint competition at the “Ugra Cup”. And if Ole Einar became an Olympic champion, in Khanty-Mansiysk luck was on Frode’s side.

The number of the participants increased in 1999. 12 national teams took part in the third “Ugra Cup”. However,  success came to a Ukrainian biathlete Alena Zubrilova. She made a sprint-pursuit double. The winner of men’s sprint was Halvard Hanevold, second place took Ludwig Gredler and Vladimir Drachev was the third. Later Vladimir took revenge in pursuit race. Pavel Rostovtsev and Mariya Strelenko won mass start competitions in Khanty-Mansiysk.

World Cup 1999/2000

In 2000 an old wooden building of the sports school turned to a modern stadium with a shooting range, stands, roller-ski tracks, bridges and a new sports school. Exactly in that year the sports center of Khanty-Mansiysk got an A-license of IBU. Together with it the capital of Ugra got the right to host competitions of any level up to the World Championships. The same year Khanty-Mansiysk held the first World Cup of its history.

Its first World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk held at the barely ready stadium. Journalists huddled in a tight room (Siwidata is now located there), the tracks were laid completely differently, spectators were confused — whether to support a biathlete who came to the shooting range or to stand quietly, but the World Cup debuted! And the premiere was a great success! The same summer Khanty-Mansiysk hosted IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships and moreover in the autumn got the right to host the World Championships 2003. Khanty-Mansiysk was the first ever Russian stadium to get this right!

IBU has gradually come to a logical decision to trust Khanty-Mansiysk to hold the World Cup Final. That decision was based on the high level of engineering and technical facilities, organization of the competitions as well as weather conditions of Ugra capital.

IBU Grand Prix — 2002, 2004, 2006

From 2002 Khanty-Mansiysk has hosted IBU Grand Prix – a prototype of commercial races such as “The Champions Race” and many other super tournaments. Competitions took place after the end of the World Cup season. The first IBU Grand Prix included mass start and pursuit competitions. The first winner of IBU Grand Prix was Russian biathlete Svetlana Chernousova and Frode Andresen of Norway. In pursuit competitions winners were Ekaterina Dafovska from Bulgaria and Viktor Maygurov from Russia.

In 2004 the program included three competitions: sprint, pursuit and mass start. Russian athlete Svetlana Ishmuratova took gold medals in sprint and pursuit, but she became second in mass start that was won by Ukrainian biathlete Alena Petrova. Andrey Derizemlya won sprint. Dmitriy Yaroshenko of Russia was second in sprint and third in mass start. Mass start was won by Pavel Rostovtsev who also got silver medal in the pursuit competition.

The third and the last IBU Grand Prix was held in Khanty-Mansiysk in March 2006. The biggest number of medals was won by Russian athletes, only four medals left the country. One gold medal travelled to Ukraine with Alena Petrova, one silver and two bronzes went to Bulgaria with Ekaterina Dafovska. As for Russian biathletes, Olga Zaytseva became a two-time winner, Ivan Tcherezov, Sergei Rozhkov and Maxim Tchoudov won one medal each.

World Championships — 2003

In 2003 Khanty-Mansiysk hosted World Championships thus becoming the first Russian city that got this honor. By the way, one of the competitions during the World Championships was rather unique.

At the finish corridor of women pursuit, German athlete Martina Glagow and Sandrine Bailly of France were struggling for a victory. Bailly attacked from behind Glagow’s back, caught up with her rival, and crossed the finish line simultaneously with Martina. The final result was up to photo finish. However, camera was placed the way that it didn’t recorded the whole finish area and Bailly’s boot was not visible in the picture. As a result, an unprecedented decision was made – to give two gold medals.

French athlete Sylvie Becaert won sprint, Albina Akhatova of Russia was first in mass start, Team Russia won women relay. Among men gold medals in sprint and mass start competitions went to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and were very first individual gold in his career. Before Khanty-Mansiysk well-known Norwegian biathlete can’t seem to overpower Raphaël Poirée and Ricco Gross. Funny thing but by the time of winning his fist World Championships gold medal Ole Einar already was five-time Olympic champion. Ricco Gross also didn’t leave Russia without any gold, he won pursuit competition. The winner of individual competition was Ole’s teammate — Halvard Hanevold. Team Norway also got to win men relay.

World Cup Final 2004/05

Khanty-Mansiysk was hosting its second World Cup being an experienced and well-known biathlon center. To some extent, it was a trend-setter. At that moment the capital of Ugra has already been hosting Biathlon World Championships 2003, Junior World Championships 2001 and Summer Biathlon World Championships 2000. More than that, since 2002 upon an initiative of Khanty-Mansiysk, every biathlon season was ended with Gran-Prix IBU tournament – an analogue of “The Race of Champions” and many other commercial competitions.

And still 2005 was a special year. It was the season of the official debut of mixed relay in World Cup program. And the prizes in that race were the medals of World Championships! To the great delight of the audience both gold and silver of the premier race were won by the team of Russia.

The performance of women team of Russia was perfect in World Cup races as well – a representative of it was on each podium. However, there was a lack of one big bright victory. It was expected that Olga Medvedtseva will win a Big Crystal Globe. To do this she only needed to do three small steps… However, biathlon is an unexpected sport that keeps its fans nervous until the final race. Later on there were a lot of tough sport dramas in Khanty-Mansiysk, when the winner of the main trophy was determined in the last minutes. But in 2005 the last race did not allow Olga Medvedtseva to win the Big Crystal Globe although it brought Small Globe to Olga Zaitseva.

World Cup Final 2006/07

Year 2008 was the first to break the tradition to host the final leg of IBU World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. That year Ugra capital hosted World Cup 8. But  biathlon holiday didn’t seem to be less spectacular than usual. Especially when the heroes of the World Championships came to competitions. World Championships in Östersund was the most successful for team Russia in this century.

Season 2006/2007 was a new start for biathlon men’s team of Russia. It was the first time since 2000 that Russia won gold in relay on World Championships, for the first time since 1996 it won Nation’s Cup and for the first time since 2003 Russian athlete became the winner of small Crystal globe.

For sure those wins were not so easy to accomplish. The destiny of the National Cup was unclear till the last moment of sprint competition. Until the finish of Andrey Makoveev team Germany was going to win the Cup. But when an athlete from Tobolsk crossed the finish line showing the third time, it was set – Russia was a winner of the Nation Cup.

The success of Russians continued in pursuit and mass start. Maxim Tchoudov and Ivan Tcherezov celebrated their first personal victories, while Dmitry Yaroshenko won small Crystal Globe in pursuit.

Other memorable races in Khanty-Mansiysk and biathlon facts will be found in our new article. To be continued.




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