On March 5-6, a series of official training sessions at the "Laura" Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Center marked the opening of the IBU World Cup 8 Biathlon. The event is being staged by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee in conjunction with the Russian Biathlon Union and the International Biathlon Union.
The "pre-Olympic" week in biathlon is the second Sochi 2014 international Test Event (after the FIS Cross-country Skiing World Cup, which took place in February 2013) to be held at the "Laura" Center, which will host the Olympic biathlon and cross-country ski events in 2014. More than 60 representatives of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee are helping to organize and stage this Test Event, and they will be making sure that all of the functions and services at the venue are tested thoroughly in "Olympic" mode.
Most of the world's leading biathletes are taking part, including: the most decorated biathlete in history, six times Olympic champion, Ole Einar Bjorndalen (Norway), the leaders in the current World Cup rankings Martin Fourcade (France) and Tora Berger (Norway), the World Cup champions in 2010/11 Tarjei Bo (Norway) and Kaisa Makarainen (Finland), double Olympic champion Andrea Henkel (Germany), double world champions Daria Domracheva (Belarus) and Miriam Goessner (Germany), and world champion Yakov Fak (Slovenia). In total, there will be over 230 athletes taking part in Sochi from 34 countries.
The line-up for the Russian national team, which missed the previous stage of the World Cup in Holmenkollen, is going to be strengthened in Sochi by the addition of biathletes who have performed well at recent tournaments during the international season. The ladies' team consists of: Olga Zaitseva, Olga Vilukhina, Ekaterina Glazyrina, Ekaterina Shumilova, Ekaterina Yurlova, Anastasia Zagoruyko, Svetlana Sleptsova, Olga Podchufarova and Ekaterina Yurieva.
Russia's men's team will have the following line-up in Sochi: Evgeny Ustyugov, Evgeny Garanichev, Dmitry Malyshko, Aleksei Volkov, Anton Shipulin, Aleksei Slepov, Sergei Klyachin, Timofei Lapshin, Maksim Tsvetkov and Alexander Loginov.
On March 7 the competition program at the "Laura" Center will begin with the individual races, after which there will be an awards ceremony for the winners of the overall rankings in the World Cup in this event. On March 9 the sprint races will take place, and on March 10 – the last relays of the season.
Tora Berger (Norway), Olympic champion, eight-time world champion: "The track is really nice and difficult. I'm looking forward to starting here, it is going to be real fun. At the same time, it might be the most difficult track I've ever seen. The uphills are very demanding. As I said, it will be interesting to compete on the track of the next Olympic Games."
Martin Fourcade (France), five-time world champion: "The stadium is really huge and the track is hard. This course was made for strong skiers and I’m happy about it. It would not be interesting if the Olympic track was light. I think that everything is amazing here – [the] building, tribunes."
Raphael Poirée (France), eight-time world champion, Belarus men’s coach: "There is so much wood around. Nowadays they cut the wood at the stadiums, so it is not natural. But here you are much more at nature. And I like it very much."
Matthias Ahrens (Germany), coach: "It's a fantastic location with beautiful mountains and a nice Olympic Village. The food is really good, too. The tracks are really challenging but at the same time very nice. They are at a good level."
Siegfried Mazet (France), shooting coach: "We are very surprised, we didn’t expect such buildings and such tracks. I think it would be a hub for athletes, because it’s a very nice new stadium, with nice mountain around."
Notes to the editor
The "Laura" Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center is unique in that it consists of two separate stadiums, with their own start zones and finish zones, two separate sets of tracks for cross-country skiing and biathlon, a shooting range and preparation areas for the athletes.
The center is situated on the crest and slopes of the Psekhako Ridge, 6.5-10 km to the north-east of the Krasnaya Polyana Village. The Laura is a raging alpine river with a large number of waterfalls, whose source can be found on the southern slopes of the Assar Ridge, inside the Caucasian Nature Reserve.