With a view to 2018 Olympic Games

The Belarusian biathlon team will be joined by two Russian sportswomen long the subject of fans’ speculation

This season, the Belarusian biathlon team will be joined by two Russian sportswomen long the subject of fans’ speculation: Tuymen’s Kristina Ilchenko, and Maria Panfilova
This season, the Belarusian biathlon team will be joined by two Russian sportswomen long the subject of fans’ speculation: Tuymen’s Kristina Ilchenko, and Maria Panfilova


Maria Panfilova

Kristina Ilchenko

Belarusian team leader Nadezhda Skardino has told Russian journalists that Ms. Panfilova has begun training sessions with the Belarusian squad, at Tyumen’s Siberian Pearl Sporting Centre. “Masha has been working with us since August but we’ve not yet met Kristina. I hope these sportswomen will help our team, making it stronger,” she admits.

Until 2013, Ms. Panfilova performed with the Tyumen Region team, winning gold and bronze medals at the 2008 Junior European Championship as part of the Russian team. She also skied for the Ukrainian team at the recent Sochi Olympics, being placed seventh in the mixed relay. This summer, the media reported that Ms. Panfilova had chosen to retire, but the biathlete unexpectedly joined the Belarusian team, under coach Vladimir Korolkevich. He explains that much is expected of the Russian sportswomen.

“We’re aiming to create an efficient team for the 2018 Olympics. Ms. Ilchenko and Ms. Panfilova will receive the opportunity to demonstrate their skills. Maria was close to retiring, and had begun studying at the Medical University but found that she missed biathlon. She may have felt the weight of unrealised sporting goals so she’s back and we’re delighted to welcome her. We expect great results from her early in the season, as she began training with the team in August. However, if she does well later, she’ll receive the chance to participate in the World Cup. Ms. Panfilova is no ordinary sportswoman, having performed at the World Championship and at the Olympics. We’re lucky to have her.”

He continues, “As regards Ms. Ilchenko, I viewed her as a candidate for the Russian team a year ago (when I was working with them). She’s had some problems with marksmanship, so we need to figure those out.”

It’s easier to teach marksmanship than how to ski quickly, and the team aims to find a common language with Kristina, pinning great hopes on her. Moreover, Belarus has Nadezhda Skardino, who can offer great master classes in shooting and help Ms. Ilchenko.

By Yegor Glebov
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