Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire politician who heads the Russian Biathlon Union, has said that he is to blame for the team’s recent poor performances.
Russia won two bronze medals at the championships in Ruhpolding, Germany, to record its worst-ever performance, and followed up with a single bronze at home in the final round of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiisk at the weekend.
In the wake of the results, there have been calls to replace the coaching staff, most of whom are in their first year working with the team.
“The guilt is all mine, don’t touch the others,” Prokhorov said in Khanty-Mansiisk on Sunday.
The coaches should stay, but needed to form bonds with the athletes, he said.
“One of the problems, it seems to me, is that we’ve brought in the best specialists, but we haven’t been able to achieve the working chemistry, complete mutual understanding.”
“We’ll work on that. Some things have worked, some haven’t worked, but the important thing is that there’s forward movement.”
Russia won the men’s and women’s Nations Cup trophies, among other strong results in the World Cup. The disappointing world championships should not overshadow these achievements, Prokhorov suggested.
“On the stages of the World Cup there were a lot of positives, but we obviously messed up the world championships,” he said.
Russian Olympic gold medalist Svetlana Sleptsova had an average winter by her standards, but has vowed to improve for next season.
“I know what mistakes I made. I’m going to fix them. Now I really want to relax and then I’ll get the desire to start working and competing again,” she said Sunday.
Olympic bronze medalist Anton Shipulin picked up Russia’s only medal in Khanty-Mansiisk with bronze in the men’s mass start Sunday.
There was almost a second bronze for Russia when Dmitry Malyshko came close to beating Emil Helge Svendsen to third in the pursuit, in a duel the Norwegian later called “a real nightmare”.
Svendsen won the mass start, while France’s Martin Fourcade finished a strong season with wins in the sprint and pursuit. German athlete Arnd Peiffer came second in all three of the men’s races.
The event was the last competitive appearance for German biathlete Magdalena Neuner, who won the women’s sprint to take the 46th World Cup event win of her career and seal a third overall World Cup triumph.
Neuner retires with two Olympic gold medals, an Olympic silver and 17 world championships medals, 12 of them gold.
Her Belarusian rival Darya Domracheva won the pursuit and mass start in Khanty-Mansiisk, and picked up the overall season titles in those events.