Prokhorov Rues Bickering Biathlon Coaches
The historic collapse of Russia's biathletes at the March world championships in Germany was down to quarrels between coaches that punctured team spirit, biathlon union president Mikhail Prokhorov said Thursday.
Prokhorov, one of Russia's richest men and owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, presented a grim post mortem of the team's championships in Ruhpolding, in an article for business daily Kommersant.
Russia came back with just two bronze where historically it has fared much better.
"There is no chemistry among the coaches," Prokhorov wrote.
"This is especially felt in high-stress situations. Throughout the season there were conflicts and arguments about training methods within the coaching staff, between personal and team coaches, and as a consequence we had no unified team spirit," he said.
Prokhorov, a keen biathlete himself, said he was examining the possibility of appointing an intermediary coach to coordinate the athletes' personal and national team training programs.
The meager medal haul sparked soul searching among biathlon officials accustomed to greater glory, and there were suggestions that heads might roll as a result.
A number of Russian commentators called for the national team coaches to be replaced, with particular ire reserved for German coach Wolfgang Pichler, who trains the highly rated women’s team.
But double Olympic champion Olga Zaitseva leapt to their defense, saying "to blame the coaches, to look for scapegoats, isn't right."
Her fellow double Olympic champion Olga Medvedtseva said in March that the coaches needed more time to complete a long-term plan for success at the Olympics.
Last week, the athlete who won one of Russia's bronze medals in Germany told RIA Novosti that the team needed time to bond with the coaches.
Olga Vilukhina said she worked well with Pichler but felt uncomfortable training in his home town of Ruhpolding, Germany.
Pichler joined the Russian team for the 2011-12 season, after making his name coaching the Swedish men’s and women’s teams.