TYUMEN, February 12. /ITAR-TASS/. Yamal reindeer herders have invited the Russian biathlon team for a special training session in the Siberian taiga forests, the only part of Russia where reindeer herding did not decline or stagnate after the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the contrary, it has been steadily growing and today this area boasts the world's biggest herds, with roughly 600,000 reindeer managed by 15,000 nomads.
The Yamal peninsula in the Russian Arctic has been home to the reindeer-herding Nenets people for over a thousand years. Nenets herders are excellent hunters, and it makes them really sad to hear that Russia’s athletes at the Olympic Games in Sochi miss such big target diameters as 45 millimeters when shooting in the prone position and 115 millimeters when shooting in the standing position.
“If I had such an opportunity, I would take our biathletes to the taiga and train them well,” a local reindeer herder, German Sandrin, told journalists. “I would teach them to shoot so that they can hit a squirrel’s eye. They shoot badly now. Take for instance Shipulin, if he hadn’t missed, he would have won.”
Winter is the time of big darkness on the Yamal peninsula, when the herders move to their winter pastures. In many cases herders do not need to manage their herds on a daily basis, and they move less during winter, staying at one campsite for a week or longer. People spend more time together, sitting around the campfire and telling fairy tales. This year’s entertainment program has been supplemented with television and the Sochi Olympics. Commentators’ voices and fans’ shouting often break the tundra’s silence.
In 2011, about 900 equipment sets for the reception of Tricolor TV satellite television channels were bought and delivered to nomads’ camps, said Pavel Kosmovsky, the deputy head of the Information Technologies and Communication Department of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District.
“All of them have diesel engines, and a satellite antenna is installed in the chum (a tent made of skin or bark looking pretty much like North American Indians’ wigwam),” he said. “Everything happening in Olympic Sochi today is, therefore, available to people in the tundra, especially as they are currently staying at winter campsites for the major part of the season.”
Herder German Sandrin is an athlete himself, and he considers it necessary to add some of Russia’s ethnic kinds of sport to the Winter Olympics’ program, like axe throwing or jumping over sledges.