In mid-March, Ole Einar Björndalen gave a written assessment to the Chinese biathlon leaders, after an Olympic season that did not go according to plan.
In the assessment, he listed a number of things that would have to change if China was to be able to develop as a biathlon country, but since then it has been quiet from the Chinese.
—They don’t respond to evaluation, which is a bit surprising after about two months, says Bjorndalen.
His contract as national team manager expired in March. Bjørndalen has been in business since the fall of 2019.
Do you consider yourself to have finished working in China?
– Yes really. I haven’t received any feedback from China, nor been involved in any dialogue since mid-March either. They seem to have had enough to deal with. So from my perspective, it looks like I’m done, he says.
Several places in China have been subject to new closures in recent weeks and months due to the outbreak of the Corona virus.
demands for Europe
Bjørndalen has had occasional contact with the athletes along the way, despite his contract expiring over a month ago.
– I did a training program until May 1, but when the appointment came, there was no change. Then I wrote to the athletes that they could contact their district and team leader to move forward, he says.
Initially, he was interested in continuing as the manager of the Chinese national team, despite many adversities with the epidemic and refusing to travel to Europe.
I feel like we haven’t finished the work we started. We were excited to continue if we could follow my original plan. Since the Olympics, we’ve heard nothing from the leaders, so now there are no ready-made plans to continue with China, Bjorndalen explains.
He had with his wife Daria Domarcheva in the technical staff.
– It was good to have a dialogue about the way the Chinese think, because if they intended to be in China and train, it wouldn’t be relevant anyway. But if the team came to Europe and was there most of the year, it would be interesting to train them further. Unfortunately, Bjørndalen says, it’s not good enough to be in China 90% of the time, at their level.
There was also a lot of evaluation core.
It had to be on our terms, because that’s how we have the greatest chance of making good athletes. I wrote a very clear comment on that. If they are interested in it, we can discuss it. But as it now appears, they intend to go their own way, he says.
It’s much more difficult to be a coach
Bjørndalen believes Chinese athletes will also remain in their home country next season, even though the rest of the world has largely reopened after corona.
– And then they have the Chinese Winter Games for the winter. I think they prioritize that and drop the World Cup. For them, these games are almost as big as the Olympics. There they have a chance to win, and that gives a lot of fame, in addition to the fact that there is a lot of economy in the picture, he says.
The 48-year-old, who has worked from morning to night for extended periods in recent years, has plans for something as unusual as a year off.
– Maybe I’ll give priority to a little travel. It has been a lot. Daria and I will probably slow down too much, we need more family time, says Bjorndalen.
He says the coaching career has given more flavor, although the learning curve has been quite steep at times.
– I never thought coaching was so much fun. Everyone says it’s totally different from being a performer, and it’s true. You need to be more consistent as a coach. As a practitioner, you are very selfish and clear as to where the path should go, while as a coach there are twelve different paths and twelve different practitioners. He went in one, the clock, all the way. Therefore, there is no doubt that being a coach is more difficult than being an athlete, says the 48-year-old.
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