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Ukraine's first medal at the Biathlon World Championships: Russian-born Petrova made it to the top three and helped the team

Olena PavlovaNews
Petrova and her teammates won three medals at the 1996 World Cup

On February 7, the Biathlon World Championships will start in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, despite the recent stormy weather that damaged the stadium. The Ukrainian national team is among the contenders for awards. But our shooting skiers won their first World Cup medals 28 years ago - the tone was set in the individual race by the future 1998 Olympic medalist Olena Petrova, and then the Ukrainians climbed to the podium in two team races.

Even after her sports career was over, Petrova, a native of Udmurtia and now a resident of Sumy, admitted that she had always loved competing in Ruhpolding with its mild climate, warm atmosphere, hospitality, and thousands of fans. And in 1996, one of the biathlon capitals turned out to be a happy one for both Olena and her teammates.

Ukraine's first medal at the Biathlon World Championships: Russian-born Petrova made it to the top three and helped the team

We can say that it was in Upper Bavaria that the history of the Golden Four, led by Elena Zubrilova, began. And Petrova brought the first medal of the 1996 World Championships to the "blue and yellows", winning bronze in the individual race.

At a distance of 15 km, the Ukrainian made one mistake, lagging behind the future winner of the World Cup at the end of the season, Frenchwoman Emanuelle Claret, by a minute and a half and 20.4 seconds behind Russian Olga Melnik.

"The first race - and immediately the podium. Then another bronze in the relay. It was a successful championship for me and the entire team. A year later, I won bronze in the team race with my participation. My first gold medal was in the relay race at the World Cup in Nagano, a year before the Olympics. And then the Olympics itself..." Olena recalled.

Ukraine's first medal at the Biathlon World Championships: Russian-born Petrova made it to the top three and helped the team
Ukraine's first medal at the Biathlon World Championships: Russian-born Petrova made it to the top three and helped the team

Petrova later noted that each of her 10 World Championships awards is very precious and has its own value, but the most memorable is always the first: "This medal has given me even more confidence and understanding that this particular course with its four firing lines is my forte thanks to my fast and accurate shooting."

And then there was even more. Three days after her individual medal at the 1996 World Championships, Petrova, along with Tetiana Vodopianova, Valentyna Tserbe, and Olena Zubrylova, won silver in the team race, which is no longer on the international biathlon calendar. At the time, the Ukrainians were second only to the Germans, led by the legendary Usha Diesl and Katrin Apel.

Ukraine's first medal at the Biathlon World Championships: Russian-born Petrova made it to the top three and helped the team

Behind our girls, the French finished in the team race, and later beat the Ukrainians in the relay. Petrova and her team won bronze, while the gold went back to Germany.

Ukraine's first medal at the Biathlon World Championships: Russian-born Petrova made it to the top three and helped the team

Interestingly, Petrova did not like going out on the course in the mass start the most. According to the biathlete, she lacked the power and speed of running those first meters on her hands: "I always felt sorry for the athletes who started behind me because I slowed them down."

Ukraine's first medal at the Biathlon World Championships: Russian-born Petrova made it to the top three and helped the team

At the 1999 World Championships, however, it was Olena who tussled in the mass start with the leader of the Ukrainian national team, Olena Zubrylova, who was having a phenomenal season. Back then, in Kontiolahti, Zubrylova brought the team its first World Cup gold. And not just one, but three at once - in the individual race, the pursuit and the mass start, where Petrova won silver.

Nowadays, the legend of Ukrainian biathlon Zubrylova lives and works in Belarus, supports dictator Lukashenko and turns a blind eye to the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine's first medal at the Biathlon World Championships: Russian-born Petrova made it to the top three and helped the team
Zubrilova with Alexander Lukashenko. Photo taken on February 26

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