Anton Shipulin, Biathlon’s driven relay man

Shipulin has won more team events than individual ones; he attributes all his successes to being spurred on by a mass of fellow competitors.

Anton Shipulin was born in the Siberian city of Tyumen to a family of skiers and biathletes. Source: AP

Ilya Trekhsvyatsky, special to RBTH

On Feb. 17, the 2014 Winter Olympics biathlon men's mass start will begin. The 15-km track will include four shooting lanes. Russia’s Anton Shipulin is among those who feel particularly at home during mass races.

At the final event of last year's World Championship in the Czech Republic town of Nove Mesto, Shipulin won the silver medal in a mass start; Shipulin also won a bronze in the pursuit race there.

At the previous Winter Games in Vancouver, Russia’s relay team, made up of Shipulin, Evgeny Ustyugov, Ivan Cherezov, and Maxim Chudov came in third. Shipulin raced the second leg of the relay. In Sochi, he may be entrusted with the final, decisive leg of the race, which will take place Feb. 22.

During the current World Cup season, Shipulin has participated in relays twice. In Annecy, France, he beat German Simon Shempp to the finish line by just 0.3 seconds, giving the Russian team the victory. In January, in Ruhpolding, Germany, Shipulin helped his team win the bronze.

"I used to have a certain fear of doing the final leg of a relay, I was afraid of failing the team," Shipulin said. "But I have overcome this and want to keep running the final leg. I am very assertive; there is no fear, nothing but confidence. It is of course for the coaches to decide, they will be looking at the athletes' current condition. But I would not like for them to stop trusting me with the final leg. In general, I love competing against real rivals, not just against the stopwatch. I love pursuits, mass starts, and relays. I prefer doing the catching-up, such situations give me extra strength."

Shipulin's personal track record for the 2013-14 World Cup season includes a third place in pursuit in Annecy. Shipulin is considered to be more of a team player – he has more team victories than personal ones at World Cups, 13, compared to 12 in individual races.

At Vancouver in 2010, the mass start was won by Ustyugov. Afterwards, at the three World Championships (in 2011, 2012, and 2013), the winners were Emil Hegle Svendsen (Norway), Martin Fourcade (France), and Tarjei Boe (Norway). There has only been one mass start in this year's World Cup; it was won by Fourcade.

Family traditions

Anton Shipulin was born on Aug. 21, 1987 in the Siberian city of Tyumen to a family of skiers and biathletes. He started with ski races, but his elder sister had already begun her biathlon career and Shipulin also became interested in the sport. At 15, he started training at the Khanty-Mansiysk sports school, the renowned alma mater of many Russian biathletes.

After moving to Yekaterinburg, Shipulin continued training under the supervision of Vladimir Petrov, who had coached a plethora of biathlon stars. In 2007, at the junior World and European championships, Shipulin won four medals, including the gold in a relay. The following season, Shipulin won seven out of eight events at the same championships.

A mixed debut

In the 2008-2009 season, Shipulin debuted as part of the professional national team. His first World Cup event was in January 2009 in Ruhpolding, where he performed very poorly. One year later, on the same track, Shipulin won his first World Cup gold. At the Vancouver Games, Shipulin took part in all the four personal starts, but did not rise above the 20th position, although he was part of Russia’s bronze medal relay team.

It was only during his third World Cup that Shipulin won his first personal victory, coming first in a sprint race in Anterselva, Italy, in January 2011.

Family ties

Shipulin's sister Anastasia, who is three years older, took the name of her husband, the Israeli cross-country skier Daniel Kuzmin, and has been performing under the Slovakian flag since 2008. Her change of nationality was the result of the strong Russian biathlon team. At Vancouver, Anastasia Kuzmina won a gold in sprint and a silver in pursuit.

"I am not at all disappointed that my sister and I represent different countries," Shipulin said. "Had she stayed in Russia, she would never have become an Olympic champion: she simply would not have made it to the national team. My sister does not like internal competition. I am different, though. I need to feel constant rivalry, both at international events and within my team."

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