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Biathlon failure puts Prokhorov under fire


Sport-loving oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov is under fire after Russia suffered a dismal showing at the Biathlon World Cup.

Prior to the competition Prokhorov, who is head of the Russian Biathlon Union, said that he took personal responsibility for Russia’s results: during the women’s relay event he dismissed team coach Anatoly Khovantsev from his post.

Frustrated expectations

Hopes were high for a procession of Russian triumphs when the showcase event was held in Khanty-Mansiisk.

But from the opening event – the mixed relay – the hosts failed to impress.

Wayward shooting with their downfall, from Olympic Champion Svetlana Sleptsova’s wobbles on that opening day to Anna Bogaly-Titovets missing with six of her eight shots in Sunday’s finale.

In the end the women’s team did not land a single medal, and as it became clear that the relay squad could not end the competition on a high note Prokhorov acted decisively.

In mid race he informed Khovantsev that his services as coach were no longer required, TV commentator Dmitry Gurbeniev announced during a live broadcast from Khanty-Mansiisk.

No freedom

Speaking to Sovietsky Sport after his dismissal, Khovantsev suggested that the coaches’ decisions about team selections had been overruled at times by Union officials.

And he dismissed suggestions that Prokhorov had made a “manly” decision in firing him, saying that it was a knee-jerk response which was emotional rather than rational.

And asked if he had any regrets after leaving his job with the Finnish team, he said: “Only my 24-year-old daughter saw it coming. She once asked me, ‘Dad, why did you come to Russia? Here you cannot work freely and do as you see fit’.”

End of an era

And after a competition which yielded just three silver medals for Russia, veteran Olga Zaitseva upped the pressure on the authorities by announcing her departure from competition, saying she had no further desire to continue working with the team.

She too blamed the dismissal of Khovantsev for her decision.

“I hate it,” she told All Sport agency. “It’s easy to act so ugly. The championship is not over, the race is still going on, then suddenly …

“So my personal desire to work with this team is no longer there. That’s it!”

Zaitseva, a former Olympian, added that she was reluctant to continue in the sport while her son was growing up.

“How much can a son grow up without a mother? How many months of the year can I stay away from him?

“I decided to get away from the sport and just live my life,” she concluded.

Source: The Moscow news

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Commentary and opinions: a selection of excerpts from speeches and presentations by Mikhail Prokhorov