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Russia-born biathlete set to compete for S. Korea

Posted December. 06, 2017 07:38,   

Updated December. 06, 2017 09:30


“I am a biathlon player. Can you see it? (Laughs)”

Timofey Lapshin, a naturalized biathlon player from Russia, introduced himself in Korean slowly. Ever since he acquired Korean citizenship in February 2017, he has been learning Korean from time to time. But he laughed shyly after saying a few words, perhaps because he was a bit embarrassed by his not-so-fluent pronunciation. When he was asked about what kind of Korean food he misses, he said, “I like Bulgogi, Samgyeopsal and Bossam. I am especially craving for spicy food.”

These are the words Lapshin said to say “hi” via a video call from Östersund in Sweden, as he made his refreshing first step at the first major game of this season on Monday. He competed in International Biathlon Union (ICU) 2017-2018 World Cup Men’s 10-kilometer Sprint and ranked No. 13 (out of 108) with 23 minutes, 17.05 seconds. This is the best record by a Korean male player in the history. As Lapshin has been focusing on rehabilitation since his knee injury in May, this was the first time he competed in a game properly.

“My body has not fully recovered yet. I will reach the peak at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which takes place in my country, and make that day ‘Lapshin’s Day,’” the 29-year-old said.

Lapshin is considered to be one of the most powerful players to bring a medal in the history of Korea’s biathlon in Pyeongchang. Born in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, the former national team member has won six World Cup titles from 2008 to 2016, but due to issues in Russia, such as cliques and factions, he chose to be naturalized as a Korean citizen.

He selected his physical stamina as the most urgent he must make up for during the remaining days. During the Monday game, Lapshin fell behind the records of the winner for 10 seconds per kilometer at the later parts of the game. Lapshin eval‎uated his bodily condition as “95 percent,” saying, “I will strengthen my leg muscles, which grew weak after injury, not to fall behind during the later parts of the game.”

The Korean national biathlon team will focus on the final training for the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games by competing in the World Cups taking place in Austria and France until Dec. 17 (local time). The coaches of the national team, including manager Park Sung-cheol, wish that Lapshin will recover fully without any injuries and learn his sensibility in games during the training session.

“Lapshin is a strongly determined player. I was concerned about making him compete at this game due to his injury, but I let him play as he volunteered to play,” said Park. “If his athletic performance improves as I have planned, I think we can win a bronze medal at least in Pyeongchang.”

Jae-Hyeng Kim monami@donga.com