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From Poland to Russia

Nadezhda Belova, a former coach of the Polish team and a world champion of the WCH 1986, has joined the Russian youth team's coaching staff this off-season. Biathlonrus.com has talked to the first women coach of the Russian biathlon and revealed why she left the Polish team, are there any talented sportsmen in her team who may participate in Sochi, and is there enough space for her and Alexander Selifonov in the team.

— Nadezhda, how do you feel yourself in a men's coaching world of the biathlon?

— I have never thought about it. All my life I have been doing my favorite thing — biathlon. I have always thought and still think that I know a lot about this sport. I can do a lot. The more I work, the more interesting it is. I am lucky.

— Have you become a coach right after you finished your sport carrier?

— It turned out that one day I finished competing and «the next day» I have started coaching. My sport carrier ended in 1996. The same year I went to Poland. At first I just wanted to have some rest. When we came it turned out that the Polish federation had opened a sports lyceum and they needed a coach. They offered this job to me. At first I had some difficulties with the language, but several months later I have already wrote some documentation in Polish.

— How did you decide to start biathlon at all?

— I switched from the country-skiing. But prior to that I left the cycling sport for the country-skiing. I was a master of cycling sport. But I could not participate in Olympics — this sport just was not included into the program. Some of my classmates were in the cross-country skiing section. This was a traditional for Kazakhstan, where I grew up. I joined them and after some time I improved my skills. In 1977 the biathlon team of Petropavlovsk lacked one person for the relay team. My coach and the biathlon team's coach were friends. They asked me to join the team and train. The shooting went out smoothly. I participated in the biathlon races couple of times and decided that it was more interesting. Until 1988 I competed both in biathlon and in cross-country skiing. Only after our team won gold of the world championship in relay, I finally chose biathlon.

— Has the women biathlon changed a lot since then?

— Yes, of course. As a coach now I laugh at my sport carrier. The competition was much easier. One could win just because he shot clean or run fast. The functional training was on the first place that time. The sportsmen were not trained to think with their own head. This skill is one of the most important in the modern biathlon. I really believe in that and I find the evidence when I work with the sportsmen. It is true especially for the younger athletes. You should not carry a rifle for her or him, but make her or him to control everything, follow the situation. The sportsmen should be responsible for everything. Many cannot think independently. That is just because we did not teach him the main thing — to think! The coach could not be always there for them. I believe we need to teach sportsmen how to think and analyze, develop a flexibility of mentality, and make the quick decisions.

— Which of the biathletes made a biggest impression on you?

— While I was a sportsman the biggest impression on me made Kaia Paarve. She had a very flexible mind. Everyone was impressed by her skill to control herself — to restrain panic and jitters. At present I am really conquered by the Swedish girls — Zidek, Ekholm. The have had a very fast progress. I remember quite well the time when they have skied with many significant technique mistakes that it seemed they could never achieve anything. Zero skiing technique, zero shooting technique. But then they moved to the forefront. Now they have the whole team — Sweden has never had anything like this before.

— What can you tell about your work with the Polish national team?

— All these years have given me a lot. Firstly, it was interesting. Secondly, that work made me to change the methods and the coaching approaches. The Polish sportsmen have another mentality. At first I had to find a key to them. I needed to make sportsmen to believe that she was not forced, but it was her decision to start everyday hard training. This habit — to find a key to every sportsman — is one of the main things that work with the Poland team gave me.

— Now you work with the Russian team. What did surprise you the most at the new position?

— It is early to say, we just had a single training camp. I can mark out the contrast in the organizational expertise. I used to work as every coach in the coaching staff in Poland. However here everyone has his own allotment of work. There are a lot of high-quality coaches in the Russian team. Everyone is responsible for his own part of the training. I was invited to become a shooting coach of the women youth team. I had to hold myself back from doing everything. Another point here is that I have a lot of sportsmen. If it is good or bad I cannot say surely. I think that as a women coach I can understand the girls better. Sometimes I watch the sportsmen and think of what is the best for her at the moment. The reserve team is a special team. The sportsmen do not have enough expertise yet. On the other hand we have enough people from whom to choose and with whom to try out. I did not have this opportunity in Poland.

— Are you still close to the Poland team?

— Of course! We call each other, regularly communicate. The last season was unsuccessful for them. The girls who used to qualify in top-10 surged back to the level they started with in biathlon.

— Was this invitation from Russia unexpected?

— Definitely. I thought that the phone call from Alexander Kurakin was some kind of a joke. There are enough qualified coaches in Russia. Why do they need Belova? When I understood it was not a joke, I started to think — how can I help the team? If they invite me, they expect the progress, the Russian team to win everything. Now I can only say that I am very motivated to be useful and very pleased with this invitation.

— You worked with the national team of Poland. Now your work with the reserve team back in Russia. Do you consider it like a downshifting?

— I really got used to work with the sportsmen whose main goals were the Olympics, world championships and world cups. But the work with the Russian youth team is in any case not a downshifting. In the Polish team I also had a lot of green sportsmen and I had to pull them up. So I am well aware of the tasks I have in the Russian team. And I think I know what I need to do. I believe that some of these girls can grow to the level of the national team and participate in Sochi. Sometimes sportsmen develop very quickly in the women biathlon. I have seen very interesting young sportsmen in the team.

— You work with the well-known shooting specialist Alexander Selifonov. How do you like working with him?

— I know Alexander for years. He is a big professional and we have good relations. We have just started. But I think that it is also interesting for him. Alexander is a wise man. He has told me several times — Nadia, try out your own methods. We are not competitors. We work in one team and our goal is to make our girls to shoot better and faster than anybody else. Together we can achieve it faster.

Profile: Belova Nadezhda

Date of birth: 02.09.1961, Petropavlovsk (Kazakhstan)

Results:

Olympics:

1994 — 13th place (individual race).

World championships:

1985 — 8 (individual race), 7 (sprint).

1986 — 4 (individual race), 2 (sprint), 1 (relay).

1987 — 12 (individual race), 8 (sprint).

1993 — 6 (relay).

1995 — 45 (individual race).

Country championship

1984 — 3 (sprint).

1985 — 3 (sprint).

1990 — 2 (individual race).

Cup standing

1992/1993 — 26

1993/1994 — 16

Additional info:

Honored Master of Sports, USSR

Competed for the teams of USSR and Ukraine

1996 — 2010 — worked as a coach of the Polish national team

From 2011 — shooting coach of the Russian youth team

Konstantin Boytsov for biathlonrus.com