Russia’s top biathlon coach has been fired and his job split between his former assistants after a poor performance at the world championships, the Russian Biathlon Union said Friday.
Under head coach Valery Polkhovsky, Russia won just two bronze medals in 11 events at the world championships in Germany last month in what has been labeled its worst-ever performance.
“The decision to abolish the role of head coach was based on just one thing – we shouldn’t have two power structures,” union board member Dmitry Aleksashin said in a statement.
The announcement of the coaching overhaul comes a day after the biathlon union's president Mikhail Prokhorov wrote an opinion piece for the Kommserant daily warning it was coming.
Prokhorov blamed the results on “conflicts and arguments about training methods within the coaching staff” that he said had damaged team spirit, in an article for Russia’s Kommersant newspaper on Thursday.
Polkhovsky, meanwhile, said that the union had fired him without telling him.
“For me it’s absolutely unexpected. No one talked to me about it, or chatted to me or met me,” he told RIA Novosti.
His role will be split between Nikolai Lopukhov, promoted to replace Andrei Gerbulov as head of the men’s team, and Wolfgang Pichler, the women’s coach.
He sought to deflect blame for the team's collapse.
“This year Wolfgang Pichler received free rein from me. And also Andrei Aleksandrovich Gerbulov took on the responsibility for the performance at the world championships.”
“The path that the RBU has taken today is the one we already took this year, unfortunately. And we can see the results of the world championships.”
Several well-known Russian biathletes had called for the current coaching structure to be given more time to show results.
Double Olympic champion Olga Medvedtseva, now retired, said in March that the coaches were trying to complete a long-term plan for success at the Olympics in 2014, which should not be expected show immediate results.
Her fellow double Olympic champion Olga Zaitseva said that the women’s team was getting old and needed to include younger athletes, and that the problem would not be solved by “looking for scapegoats” in the coaching staff.