How Alexander Tikhonov almost lost his gold at the 1972 Olympics. An opponent came to the rescue
The current year has already become unsuccessful for the Russian biathlon, because 26 races in a row without medals at the World Cup is an absolute anti-record. While fans with bated breath expect better results from athletes, we recall the golden age of our biathlon and Alexander Tikhonov - a man who learned from personal experience that everything is possible in sports. And the main competitor in the Olympic race may be the one who will save in a critical situation.
Who is Alexander Tikhonov?
Alexander Tikhonov is a Soviet biathlete whose skill all sports peaks have conquered. He is a four-time Olympic and eleven-time world champion, and he took the gold of the USSR championship as many as 15 times.
Alexander began to get involved in skiing as a child and showed himself well at school starts. However, even in an older age, when Tikhonov entered school and worked at the Chelyabinsk Metallurgical Plant, sports remained a hobby and did not go beyond the border of the track in the local park. Everything changed when Alexander was invited to study at the technical school of physical culture in Novosibirsk. There the student began to show himself as a cyclist, skater and, of course, a skier.
Alexander Tikhonov in training
Photo: RIA Novosti
Later Tikhonov got into the Soviet national team, but he still did not reach biathlon - he did not shoot so well. Only when the official program was expanded due to the relay format, where fast riders were needed, Alexander was able to recoup his shooting mistakes with excellent driving speed.
The first large-scale competition for the athlete was the World Championship in Altenberg in 1967, where Tikhonov took second place in the relay. And the next year he went to the Olympics in Grenoble and there he took the first major gold in his career - also in the relay. The athlete finished the individual 20 km race second, but this result was impressive, considering that the biathlete was barely able to bring down the high temperature before the start. He caught a bad cold due to the fact that he wore sneakers not for the weather.
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1972 Olympics: broken ski and help from an opponent
The Second Career Games turned out to be no less funny. They went down in history thanks to an incident that happened during the relay. In the Japanese city of Sapporo, Tikhonov was again entrusted with running the first stage. The athlete overcame the first shooting line without complications, earned two penalties in standing shootingcircle, but did not despair and continued to fight.
Alexander Tikhonov at the World Championships in Raubichi
Photo: RIA Novosti
When Alexander walked in a noticeable separation from his rivals, the unexpected happened: one ski broke into pieces. None of the teammates or coaches were around to help the athlete in such a situation. He had to somehow overcome almost a kilometer on one ski. And suddenly, as they say, help came from where they did not expect.
Dieter Speer , an athlete from the GDR team - the main competitor of our national team, saw Tikhonov hobbling in the forest, warming up before the second stage ... The German could not stay away and gave Alexander his ski without hesitation. Its bindings were of a different size, but it was possible to continue the race. Later, a teammate shared a suitable inventory with Tikhonov, and the athlete rushed to make up for lost kilometers.
In this relay, Alexander finished only ninth, and the USSR national team was already written off. But Viktor Mamatov, Rinat Safin and Ivan Byakov jointly returned the leadership to the team and brought gold, while the GDR remained with the bronze.
USSR national biathlon team at the Olympics in Sapporo
Photo: RIA Novosti
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Helped the strong. Why did Speer decide to help Tikhonov out?
Little is known about the relationship between the Soviet and German biathletes. But that's enough to say that the two main competitors on the track were friends outside the sport. It is symbolic that a year before the Games in Sapporo, at the 1971 World Championships, Speer walked around Tikhonov by almost half a minute and won the individual race. Alexander, in a sense, was involved in this victory. It was he who gave Dipper the rifle he used to shoot at the world championship.
In the same year, Speer got married and, they say, after the wedding, went to Novosibirsk to see Tikhonov. Therefore, in Sapporo, the German did not have to decide for a long time to help, on the one hand, a competitor, and on the other, a friend.
Alexander Tikhonov now
Later Alexander won two more Olympiads in a row, despite his age for a biathlete : At the start in Japan, he was 25 years old. After the conquest of the third and fourthth gold of the Games in Innsbruck and Lake Placid, the athlete's name was entered in the Guinness Book of Records, and the International Biathlon Union crowned him the best athlete of the 20th century.