Season Preview 2022/23:Men!

Finally the biathlon season is almost upon us! Which means it’s time for the season preview. The men’s Overall Title is back on the line so let’s look at the serious contenders to pick up the big crystal globe.

Number one on the list is Quentin Fillon Maillet. He is the reigning champion and was the outstanding biathlete last season not only on the World Cup but also at the Olympics. He picked up 8 World Cup wins and was so much more consistent than he has ever been before. There is no questioning his talent but does he have the ability to back it up and win again? If he performs the way he did last season then he has a great chance of doing so.

However the Frenchman has never been in the position of favourite before. As we see so often in a pursuit it is sometimes easier to be the hunter than the leader. We will see if he can cope with this different kind of pressure.

After all Fillon Maillet’s success last season he has also been in great demand. He has been seen at all the major French sporting events like the Tour de France and the French Open. He will also have had more requests from the media and his sponsors for his time and that can affect training and focus. It will be interesting to see how he has managed all the trappings of success.

Fillon Maillet will have three main rivals for the total score. The first of these is Sturla Holm Laegreid. He was runner up in the last two seasons and will pose a threat. The points margin was over 200 between first and second though and shows Laegreid’s weakness which was consistency. He started the season with a win but didn’t get another until the final round of the World Cup. Those were his only two wins which does not get you and overall title. We know Sturla can shoot but his ski speed needs to improve if he realistically wants to challenge for the number one spot.

In third place last season was Sebastian Samuelsson. He was pretty similar to Laegreid. The Swede got a great start to the season but then had a dip in the middle before finishing stronger. Again he needs to improve his consistency especially in the individual race which provided his worst two results last time around.

Samuelsson has worked hard on ski speed and it has paid off but if something let’s him down it is his shooting. His prone was 86% and standing 81% compared to QFM with 88% and 90%. The standing results are a crucial difference as they determine who gets out of the range quickest on the final loop.

Normally I wouldn’t include the biathlete who finished 13th on the total score last year on my list of challengers for the overall but when that guy is 3-time champion Johannes Thingnes Boe you can’t leave him out! He had a dismal World Cup season by his high standards and didn’t even complete the season. In the last 9 seasons he has never finished lower than 5th so you can see the difference!

It all depends on which Johannes turns up at the start line. If it’s ’16 wins in a season’ Johannes we have a competition on our hands but if it is last season’s ‘can’t hit anything’ Johannes then QFM could have an easy ride. One thing is for sure though and that is Boe will be desperate to get his title back!

Vetle Christiansen was 4th in the Overall last season and he could possibly push for a podium this time around. We know he is an amazing shot but his ski speed is not good enough compared to the other top guys to give him a chance of first place.

Someone who does have the ski speed and the tactics is Emilien Jacquelin. What he doesn’t seem to be able to put together is a consistent run of results. He can be exceptional on his day but he can also have a disaster and that doesn’t translate into an overall title. He will be aiming to move up from fifth place this season and is easily capable of reaching the overall podium.

Tarjei Boe was 6th last season but at his stage in his career he will be concentrating on the World Championships. With 7th placed Simon Desthieux and 10th placed Erik Lesser both retiring there are some places to be filled in the Top 10. Benedikt Doll will hope to better 8th place and the likes of Johannes Keuhn and Fabien Claude will be trying to get themselves into the Top 10 too.

After a great end to last season and finishing 9th overall Sivert Bakken unfortunately had problems with a covid vaccination in May and hasn’t trained much over the summer. He probably won’t be back until after Christmas which is a shame but hopefully he will be back healthy and strong then.

After a tough season last year hopefully we will see Johannes Dale return to form. He spend most of last season on the IBU Cup and missed out on a chance to complete at the Olympics. It won’t be easy though as the Norwegian team is stacked with talent but he has been named on the squad for the first World Cup so let’s hope he can stay there.

As for the rest of the field look out for debut wins for Fabien Claude, Filip Andersen and Felix Leitner. Pushing for a first podium will be the likes of German trio Philipp Horn, Philipp Nawrath and Roman Rees as well as Aleksandr Andersen. There is also potential for a first podium for Eric Perrot and keep an eye on Christian Gow for a top three finish possibly in the individual. And lastly I must insist that this is the season when Sean Doherty finally fulfils his junior potential and gets on that World Cup podium!

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Season Preview 2022/23:Women!

Winter is coming which can only mean one thing – biathlon is back and the race for the women’s overall title is too!

Marte Olsbu Roeiseland is the reigning champion and will be trying to make it back to back total score triumphs this winter. Honestly I thought she might retire at the end of last season after enjoying 2 amazing years achieving pretty much everything you can in this sport. However her husband’s new job as German women’s coach seems to have extended her career and brought in a healthy amount of family rivalry!

Roeiseland has been training with her husband and the German team over the summer and it could be a good move in terms of both biathlon and her marriage! With the likes of Hermman-Wick, Preuss and Voigt the German women have a strong team and with the Norwegian team a bit disjointed at the moment it is a strong place to train.

With her experience and talent Roeiseland has to start favourite to retain the big crystal globe despite admitting that she hasn’t been 100% focused this summer. If she isn’t at the top of her game there are plenty of rivals lining up to take it away from her.

The first of these is Swedish youngster Elvira Oberg. She made a huge step forward last season after her earlier promise the year before. Her amazing ski speed took her to second place in the overall at just 23 years old. Despite winning 4 races she still finished 134 points behind Roeiseland. That is a massive gap to make up! The Norwegian had more wins than Ogerg but crucially many more podium finishes and this is what Elvira will have to do if she wants the title especially with the new points system in place. She also lacks the experience that Roeiseland has but she is 23 in season 22/23 so that has to be an advantage!!!

Lisa Teresa Hauser was third overall last season and will be in contention again for the podium. Remember a couple of years ago she had never won a race and now she is spoken about as one of the favourites! She was like a loose magazine – suddenly everything clicked into place and she hasn’t looked back. Like Elvira she lacks consistency. Too many finishes outside the top 10 is not good for the overall and while I think she will improve again this season it probably won’t be enough to challenge for the number 1 spot.

Fourth place last season went to Hanna Oberg. It was a tough season for the elder sister especially with Elvira doing so well. Really it was her shooting that let her down with 79% in both prone and standing. It was surprising as that has always been her strength. She has finished 4th for three years running now but if she can fix her shooting issues she could be in serious contention for the title.

The other top 10 finishers last season were Anais Chevalier-Bouchet, Denise Herrmann-Wick, Dzinara Alimbekava Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, Dorothea Wierer and Marketa Davidova. With Alimbekava missing and Braisaz-Bouchet taking the year off to have her first child it leaves probably just Herrmann-Wick and Wierer as possible title contenders.

Wierer is a two time champion and you can never write her off. If she gets a good start to the season she will have a good crack at the overall but if not it will probably be all about the World Championships for her. The same applies to Herrmann-Wick especially with the World titles up for grabs at home in Oberhof.

With the retirement of Anais Bescond and Braisaz-Bouchet’s baby break the French hopes will lie with Anais Chevalier-Bouchet and Julia Simon. They can both be brilliant on their day but Simon in particular lacks the consistency to make a sustained challenge for the overall title.

Fingers crossed that Lisa Vittozzi can get back to her old self after some tough years with her shooting and push back up into the top 10 of the overall. The same goes for Paulina Batovska Fialkova who showed signs of getting back to her best at the very end of last season.

This will be Marketa Davidova’s 5th full year on the World Cup and she has made steady progress. We know she shoots well and is the master of the individual but she is going to have to improve in the sprints if she wants to move up towards the top 5 overall.

It will be interesting to see how Franziska Pruess does this season. After finishing 3rd overall in 2020/21 injury caused her to miss several World Cup rounds last time and finish down in 21st. Hopefully this season she will have no issues and can again compete towards the top of the total score.

There is one person who hasn’t been mentioned yet and that is Tiril Eckhoff. This is mainly because I have no idea what she will do this season. She is a former champion and was exceptional that season. Last year she struggled and her shooting suffered badly. This summer she has trained away from the team most of the time and has ongoing issues afer a covid infection such as insomnia. She won’t be able to start the season and without a full summer programme of training she will probably target the World Championships if she is able to race at all.

Amongst all these names I have already mentioned it is really difficult for anyone to get a first time win. However this season I will be expecting the Swedish trio of Mona Brorsson, Linn Persson and Stina Nilsson to do just that along with Germany’s Vanessa Voigt. I will also be looking for first time podium finishes from Jessica Jislova and Emma Lunder.

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10 years of B23: Emma Lunder!

It’s been 5 years since Canada’s Emma Lunder spoke to biathlon23. In that time she has become the senior member of the women’s team, competed for her country at 2 Olympic Games and got a personal best of 6th on the World Cup.

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Everyone reading this loves biathlon but why do you love biathlon?

I love it for so many different reasons! It’s been my life for a really long time now, but I still get excited every day about training and trying new things to become better. I think that’s the thing with biathlon – there is always something that can be improved, and anything can happen in the races!

You competed at the Blink festival this season. Why did you decide to do that and what was it like?

It was my first time competing at the Blink fest, and it was fun to do something different during my training season. I really enjoyed having summer competitions, amazing Norwegian fans, and a more relaxed race environment compared to the World Cup. It was also my first time traveling to Europe outside of the winter months!

Tell us about the Olympics in Beijing. What was the experience like and how did you cope with the tough conditions?

I think our team did a really good job with preparations for Beijing, especially the mental component. We had a good idea of how things would be at the village and venue, as well as preparing for the challenging weather (although I think as Canadians, we had some advantage with the cold!). It was a very different experience compared to 2018, but I did my best to enjoy the roller-coaster that the Olympics can be! 

How do you assess last season overall?

Honestly, last season was quite disappointing for me. The season opener in Ostersund was amazing with a 6th place finish in the individual, but from there I dealt with a lot of sickness through the rest of the winter. It was tough dealing with that during an Olympic season, but it also makes me even more hungry and excited to see what I can do this coming winter.

There were a lot of retirements from the North American teams last season. How much will you miss Scott,Megan, Susan and Clare not being around anymore?

Yes, it was too many in my opinion! Not just the North American crew who retired, but also Anais Bescond who has become a great friend over the years. I will definitely miss my cooldowns and game-nights with those familiar faces.

What are your goals for this season?

My number one goal for this season is to be healthy! Aside from that, I know my shooting speed is near the top, but I’m hoping to close the gap on the skiing side of things. 

I have seen you described as the veteran of the women’s team! How do you feel about that label?! On a serious note do you enjoy helping the younger athletes coming up behind you?

Since 2019 when Rosanna retired, I’ve been the senior female athlete on the team! I don’t mind it, but having some 20-year old teammates this year has definitely made me feel ‘old’ at times, haha. But I quite like helping the younger athletes where I can, because I remember how important it was for me to have someone to be able to ask questions and get advice from.

The next time the World Cup comes to Canmore is 2024! How much does it mean to you to have an opportunity to compete at home?

Having the World Cup in Canada is always a huge opportunity for us to showcase our sport, and as a team who is typically on the road for 4 months straight during the race season, it’s such a treat to sleep in our own beds and have the support of family & friends. I’m really glad to have the races back in Canmore, with the range we train on all year and the tracks we know quite well. We will do our best to take advantage of the perks of having a home World Cup!

You are having a dinner party with 3 other biathletes. Who would you invite and why? What’s on the menu?

I think Benjamin Weger, Anais Bescond and Julia Ransom (Christian would be there too, of course!). We’ve all been friends for a long time, and it would be nice to be together in one place again, especially with those 3 not competing anymore.

Which song would you add to the stadium playlist and which song would you remove?

Add ‘The Edge of Glory – Lady Gaga’, and I wouldn’t remove any! Especially in Oberhof & Ruhpolding, the stadium playlist always puts a smile on my face before the races.

Last time we did an interview it was 2017! You said Kontiolahti was your favourite track and you were working on your coffee art as a barista in Starbucks! Is that still your best track and have your coffee skills improved? 

I still like Kontiolahti, and still working at Starbucks! Since 2017, I think both my skiing & barista skills have improved 😀

What are your TOP 10 favourite things?

Reading, napping, biathlon, cows, traveling, family, baking bread, being by the ocean, walks with friends, and…napping, again! I really like my naps! 😀

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Johanna Puff: The Interview!

Johanna Puff is a German biathlete who was born on the 2nd of July 2002 in Rosenheim. She competes on the IBU Junior Cup and has medalled at the European Junior Championships as well as the World Junior Championships in the relays. At the recent Summer World Championships in Ruhpolding she won bronze in the Junior sprint and silver in the pursuit.

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Why did you become a biathlete?

I grew up in a very sporty family. My mother played handball and my dad was a cross-country skier. So I tried quite a few sports in my childhood and I enjoyed cross-country skiing the most. When I was 14 years old I got the chance to try shooting with Fritz Fischer and from then on it was clear to me that I wanted to do biathlon.

How do you assess last season? What was good and what was bad?

I had a good preparation and was very motivated to compete in the qualifying races, but unfortunately I got sick two days before the races. I stayed at home for 2 weeks and tried to distract myself with baking cookies while watching all my teammates run the races. But I was so happy that I was nominated for the IBU Junior Cup anyway. And from then on I had quite mixed results just in terms of my running performance, that also gnawed at my self-confidence and I became a bit insecure, so I would see that as a weakness, but seeing that there are also races where I have a very good running performance gives me the motivation to stabilize that in the coming season. My strength last year was that I could stabilize my shooting a little bit. The season was definitely not perfect so to put it in a nutshell it was like a roller coaster ride.

You won the Super Sprint on the Junior Cup in Martell last season. What do you think of this new format?

When I heard that for the first time I thought it would be a short workday 😉 but two competitions in one day, that drags and exhausts the athlete quite a bit. But it’s similar to the sprint races in cross country skiing so it was nothing new for me.
What I like about the format is that there is more pressure because everything is a bit faster. Shorter laps, shorter penalty laps and faster shooting. And also fighting man against man or woman against woman is pretty cool.

You did really well at the Summer World Champs in Ruhpolding. What was that experience like for you?

The summer world championship was a super experience for my team and me and a highlight in the preparation because the atmosphere at home was breathtaking. We didn’t train for it but used it as a training effect because there is no better training than a competition and the atmosphere with the spectators can’t be trained like that. It was good to see that the training in the preparation is going in the right direction so far and that we can fight for the medals at the front. But I also know that many of the big nations were missing and it counts in the winter who is on the top.

What are your goals for this season?

I am pre-qualified for the first races in the IBU Junior Cup and I will try to achieve good results there to qualify for the IBU Cup. But the highlight of the season for me is hopefully the participation in the Junior World Championships. I know that not everything is perfect yet. I will try to fix my weak points as well as possible until the winter and to represent my team as well as I can. But the most important thing for me is still to have fun and enjoy this sport.

You are having a dinner party with 3 other biathletes. Who would you invite and why? What’s on the menu?

That’s not an easy decision. I have met so many great people and athletes in the last few years that I would love to have a big dinner party with them all…. so I don’t want to commit there.
As for the menu, I would like a nice salad as an appetizer, sweet potatoes in sage butter as a main dish, and ice cream for dessert.

What are your hobbies?

I like to be outside in nature to take pictures. I also like to cook and play the piano. And I love to spend time with my family and friends.

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

I am far from knowing all of the biathlon facilities. But of those I know, I think I would choose Pokljuka because I just love the course, the location and the nature.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Dorothea Wierer. I admire her shooting skills and like her friendly and funny character.

Does your rifle have a name?

I like my rifle but I haven’t thought of naming it yet.

Describe yourself in three words.

funny, cheerful, ambitious

What are your TOP10 favourite things?

biathlon, fun, photography, music, family, friends, food, cycling, travel, sun.

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10 years of B23: Sebastian Samuelsson!

Biathlon23 last spoke to Sebastian Samuelsson in 2017 during his debut season on the World Cup. Since then he has won 2 Olympic medals, 5 World Championship medals and has a best finish of third in the total score.

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Everyone reading this loves biathlon but why do you love biathlon?

I love competing and biathlon is perfect with the physical skiing and the mental shooting! 

You started last season really well but didn’t seem to maintain it. What were the reasons for that do you think?

I was bad in the Olympics, I think I struggled a lot with the altitude and conditions there. But other than that I would say I was good the whole season – if not I wouldn’t be number 3 in the overall! 

What was your Olympic experience like in Beijing with all the restrictions and tough conditions?

If you only consider the sport the Olympics were great! But it was very special with all the Covid-restrictions. The temperature and wind made everything tougher but I think we had fair races!

Can we talk about the PyeongChang 2018! What are your memories from those Olympics?

It was very surreal, I came there just enjoying the Olympic spirit, to leave with two medals was something I couldn’t have dreamed about before! 

The Swedish team is really open training with the Brits in the past and now Lukas Hofer. I see why it’s good for them by why is it good for you?

Hofer has been contributed a lot to our team! It’s always interesting to learn from each other and different training cultures/mindsets. 

You are really outspoken and involved in anti-doping. Many athletes probably feel the same but why have you decided to be so vocal when others are not?

For me it’s important to use my voice as an professional athlete to try and make the sport better for the next generation, I see it as a responsibility and I’m not afraid of saying what I think! 

What ambitions do you have left in biathlon? You have more Olympics in you but do you want an Overall Title too?

To win the overall World Cup is something I would really want to do in my career! It’s a tough goal but I think I have a good chance to make it!

Which song would you add to the stadium playlist and which song would you remove?

Hmm, I like a lot of the songs playing! I would add something with Adele and take away a Norwegian song 😉

Have you tried all the sweets from that shop in Oestersund? What’s your favourite?

Hmm, I don’t know which one you are referring to! But I love candy! 

Have you got a name for your rifle yet? You called your dog Albus so surely it has a Harry Potter inspired name by now!

Hmm sorry, but I would take suggestions!

What are your TOP10 favourite things?

Top 10-favorite things, not in a special order: Family, biathlon, tacos, golf, nature, rest days, Netflix series Suits, restaurants, economy and late evenings!

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Erik Kulstad: The Interview!

Erik Bartlett Kulstad is a biathlon coach from Norway. He was an assistant coach with the Chinese team for three years but has recently been appointed as the new head coach of Finland.

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What is your background in biathlon?

I was a biathlete for Oslo Skiskytterlag and NTG Lillehammer until I was 19 years old and got a couple of junior national championship medals.

Why did you decide you wanted to be a coach?

After I stopped competing, I had to take some time away from biathlon. After a couple of years, I found out that sports were such a big part of my life, and I began studying Sport Science. While studying I tried coaching kids on the side. It gave me back my love for biathlon and I became more and more interested in the details of the sport. Since then I have just tried to learn more and more.

You worked with Bjoerndalen and Domracheva in the Chinese team. What was that experience like?

Yes, it was very cool. I did not know them personally before, so to come to work and see them there was a little bit of a starstruck moment. I had some years of coaching then, but no experience with that level, so for me to feel like my ideas and thoughts were important was very cool and says something about their willingness to learn. It was interesting to see their coaching develop through the years as they gained that experience on top of their enormous personal experience. 

Our time in China was marked by some extreme situations in how long we stayed with the team, and how we had to adapt to teach and understand athletes from a very different culture. This might be the most important lesson for me, to see how they work to find the best solution in every situation, and never ever give up on the job. Seeing the way they work I can understand that they are as successful as they are. 

Is it true you used to play American football? If so, does any of it translate to coaching biathlon?

Yes, while I was studying, I wanted to try something different, and I had been watching American Football for some years. So, I joined the Vålerenga Trolls in Oslo, and I was able to play three years on the Elite level in Norway. Two of those years I also played together with Tobias Torgersen (the coach of the Polish women).

I would say yes. Both sports require you to regulate/change your mental stress and focus very quickly. Even though biathlon is an individual sport, we are still a team who need to function together for almost the whole year. And the attention to details is something that both sports have a lot of, so for me it was fun to draw inspiration from those coaches, and the sport and see that many of the things that were talked about were the same, but in a different context.

What training have you done so far with the Finnish team and what is the plan up to the start of the season?

So far, we are done with 4/7 camps. We have been in Vuokatti, Otepää, Kontiolahti and Ruhpolding. And I am very happy with the way the team has been able to get to know each other and work together. We are trying to establish stricter routines for threshold training and get more training with high intensity shooting. Our goal was to test this work in Ruhpolding, and for me we got the perfect amount of top performances and reality checks so that we feel good about what we are doing, but all have things to improve in the next months. 

We went to Antholz in September to get a small dose of altitude and we want to get some more uphills than we can have in Finland. When October comes, we are going to transition to snow, so that will be very interesting for me to see how they take what we have been working on, and are able to do it on skis. 

What are your ambitions for the Finnish team this season?

I hope to lift their performance to a more stable level this year. It seems to me that there is a lot of potential, and a high max performance as a team, but that they have not been able to put it together. If we can go in and have the mindset that your normal is good enough, I think we can do some good things with this team.

Do you enjoy training and thinking of new drills and ways to train? Do you use a lot of statistics and data?

I do use some statistics and I think it is a great way to get the “truth” when you see something but can’t be sure, or an athlete and a coach might see things differently. In China my job was to give Ole and Darya the best information possible with video and statistics to guide their decisions. But now in Finland I can’t use as much time on it, since we are a smaller team. But I think it is critical to base your decisions on something, and not your feeling as a coach or athlete. 

I did want to create a lot of new ways to train when I was younger, and I think it is great when working with kids or younger athletes. As an elite coach it is more about maximising the time, we are doing work that makes the athlete better, and it’s not always the most creative and “fun”. But yes, it is fun to figure out how to optimize the plan or schedule to try and get an edge on others.  

What do you do before, during and after a race as a coach?

Before: Make sure we have all the equipment, bibs, personnel where we are supposed to. Read the wind so that I can put the athletes in the best situation before the race. Do the zeroing and remind athletes what their focus is for the race. 

During: Be on the shooting range and see the prone shootings through the scope. This is both for evaluating after, and to give adjustments if there is a second prone shooting. Standing shooting I like to see how the athletes are doing with my own eyes to evaluate their performance that way. 

After: See the athletes in the cabin, and approach them differently based on their performance. Some need to be alone for some time, others want to evaluate immediately, and some wish to celebrate. Give them some evaluation. But not too much before we have seen the statistics and video so we know what we are talking about. 

I wish I could give you some rituals or something, but I’m not very superstitious.

If you could pick any of the other biathlon coaches to be your coach, who would you choose and why?

Physical: Ole Einar Bjørndalen because he knows so much, would be painfully honest with me, and work his ass of to help me. 

Shooting: Jean Pierre Amat because he knows so much, he makes shooting simple, but can go deep into the details if he needs to.

Describe yourself in three words.

Curious, Childish, Happy

What are your Top 10 favourite things?

Not in ranked order; my girlfriend,surfing, American football, biathlon, Randone skiing, biking, cooking, trying new stuff, playing games, my life.

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Marcus Webb: The Interview!

Marcus Bolin Webb is a British biathlete who was born on the 27th of March 1995. He started biathlon in 2019 and made his debut on the IBU Cup in 2021. He is a Captain in the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery in the British army. He also happens to be half Norwegian which is pretty handy if you are a biathlete who trains in Norway!

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Why did you become a biathlete? 

When I was younger I was also looking for that sport I would be good at. I’ve always been very competitive (I’m sure my friends will agree!) but I never really found the sport that I loved and could really excel at. In 2019, I had the opportunity to lead the regimental ski team on the Army Nordic season which runs from November to February each year. I was hooked before we even got out onto snow! At the end of the national championships a group of us were selected for the British Development Squad where it’s been steady progression since. I love the challenge of racing around the course, there’s something that really draws you in when you’re presented with getting around the undulating track as fast and also as efficiently as you can. 

I’ve always enjoyed shooting, we had an air rifle at home when I was younger and I used to shoot a bit at school.The sports of cross country skiing and target shooting don’t naturally go together, it’s a bit mad really. Let’s try to hit small targets after you’ve just skied 3km up a hill. I have brought some friends to the range during the summer and got them to run around the range to then shoot with a higher pulse – suddenly they realise how hard it can be! But you can see that they are being drawn in to the sport and challenge, it’s addictive.

How do you assess last season? What was good and what was bad?

Last season was fantastic! My goal for the season was to get less that 250 IBU points to qualify for the second trimester (athletes are awarded more points the further they are behind the race leader). I finished with 184 IBU points which then led to the discussion with coaches about Olympic qualification after having looked at my progression.

The shooting could have been better but we didn’t have regular access to a shooting range during the summer as we were constrained by COVID-19 so I understand that it would have been unlikely to hit 90-100% during races. I was very happy with the three races where I hit 80% of the targets. My ski speed was reasonably consistent but my time on the shooting mat needs a lot of improvement. I also hadn’t raced so much before in one season so I was quite fatigued by February. I didn’t race Trimester 3 as I had to go back to work and complete some army career courses which was probably a good thing.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I think my strength, or X-factor as I’ve heard it called in some performance podcasts, is my determination to find areas where I can improve and to learn as much as I can about biathlon and elite sport. As a small nation in the biathlon world, we don’t have the same extensive support that bigger nations like Norway and France do. I am trying to cover this gap by bringing in as much external expertise as I can and also learning as much as possible. I’ve gone quite deep on the data analysis which is helping me to understand where my strengths and weaknesses are – it’s important to understand what I need to do to the get to the Olympics and how I’m going to achieve that.

A weakness may be that I started in the sport when I was 24 which most will say is too old. But I see that as a challenge – bring it on! Can a 24 year old, now 27, from a no-snow nation win one of the 12 wildcards for the Olympics? The quality line is getting higher and higher each year so it’s not going to be easy! I’m also quite bad at switching off. I need to make sure I don’t spend too much of the day thinking about biathlon and sport. There’s a healthy balance to be struck between sport and life which I need to get better at -my girlfriend will definitely agree.

What training have you done so far this off season and what are your plans up to the start of the season?

I was selected to join a professional biathlon team in Lillehammer, Norway this summer. Team Blåne have provided an exceptional training environment for me with monthly training camps, coaches, testing and 3-4 team sessions every week. I’ve learnt so much and the team has such a great vibe. It’s been a great decision to come to Norway to train.

In September I will be attending the Norwegian summer biathlon championships and also getting some time on skis in the snow tunnel in Sweden. In October, there will be more team camps and visits to the snow tunnel. As I don’t have the same amount of time on snow in my legs as my Norwegian counterparts (I can see why they say Norwegians are born with skis on their feet!), I need to get as many sessions on snow before the season as I can to help even out their advantage.

Outside of the training sessions, I now have an excellent support structure to help with my progression. Dr David Macutkiewicz has joined as performance scientist to help with data analysis and the scientific aspect of training. I think we had a 20 minute discussion on whether to bring my Level 1 zone up by 4 beats per minute which is the kind of detail that I love. Simon Allanson (he works predominantly with the GB Para Nordic team) is now my performance manager to help provide guidance, experience and make sure we make decisions with the bigger picture in mind. Christopher Jowers is my strength and conditioning coach who helps plan some pretty painful gym sessions. I have a physio here in Lillehammer who helps with any niggles and from September I will have support from a sports psychologist, nutritionist and lifestyle coach through the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme.They are all spokes to the wheel to help get that Olympic wildcard and I couldn’t be more grateful for their support. 

What are your goals for this season?

My goal for this season is to maintain my trajectory to achieving selection for the one of the Olympic wildcards which is my overall goal for biathlon. I am confident that I will be able to maintain the trajectory but time will tell once I’m on the start line in November.

The funding situation for British biathlon is very difficult. What, if any, funds and help are you getting?

I am in the British Army and am incredibly lucky to train and compete in biathlon whilst still employed. This means that I can use my salary towards funding the training, equipment and competitions to give my myself the best chance of success. I was also recently awarded a grant from the The Skiers Trust of Great Britain to help with buying some more skis. Thank you to them.
There is an electronic shooting device that will help analyse my shooting that I am trying to find a sponsor to help purchase. If there is anyone reading who would like to join my journey then please reach out and I’d be very excited to discuss!

Amanda and Vinny both retired last season so you are now the ‘big cheese’ for GB! How are you coping with the pressure of carrying the hopes of a nation? 😉

I struggle to sleep at night! Haha no, I don’t really see it as pressure. I’m more excited about hopefully developing a pathway to give future British biathletes the best chance of success. More integration into the biathlon scene in Norway would be fantastic and it would be silly to say no to all the experience and knowledge that is here! 
I’m thankful for your support though and I hope I can bring some good results to the dinner table this season.

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

That’s a tricky question, there’s a lot of good courses out there and definitely one or two that I wouldn’t mind being omitted from the calendar. I think my favourite would have to be Sjusjoen. It was the first place I raced with the Army and I love how it’s tucked away in the woods but you also get some great views at the top of the hills. My mother is Norwegian and I definitely have a soft spot for Norway and it’s venues. 

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

It would have to be Ole Einar Bjørndalen. His commitment to biathlon and how he dominated for so long is very impressive. I’ve watched the NRK documentary on him about 3 times now. 

Does your rifle have a name?

Unfortunately not! Maybe time for some suggestions?

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10 years of B23: Johanna Talihärm!

After competing at her first ever home World Cup races last season Biathlon23 had to get Johanna back for the 10 year celebrations!

Follow Johanna on Twitter @johannataliharm and Instagram!

Everyone reading this loves biathlon but why do you love biathlon?

I love how exciting this sport is and how many wonderful people it brings together.

You got your first home World Cup in Otepää last season! What was that like for you?

It was incredible to see so many Estonian fans! I knew we had a big TV audience, but to see it with our own eyes was amazing. It was also the time I saw many of my close friends and family members after a while as we had been isolating in a covid fear for months.

Tell us about the Olympics. What was the experience like and how did you cope with the tough conditions?

I was struggling the whole last season and hoping to be better by the time of the Games, unfortunately the high and dry conditions didn’t help. I was struggling to be able to keep the fighting mode on while knowing that I’m far from my best, still I’m proud of the mental concentration I was able to keep and still clean the sprint race.

How do you assess last season overall?

It was a lot of suffering 😀. I was very sick in August and September, so I could not train at all, and was still suffering from the extreme exhaustion of the sickness the whole winter. It was gradually getting better, but I never fully recovered during the season. It was tough mentally, as I had a lot of big goals I couldn’t meet for the Olympics and home World Cup, but also because I had absolutely no energy to even do normal everyday things. At the same time I had to learn to give my best every day, and keep a good attitude, as I was still needed in the team.

What are you doing for summer training?

I took a bit of a different approach this spring and summer. I was so disappointed after last season, that I just couldn’t keep on going the same way. I was invited to do adventure races, so I did 2 Adventure Racing World Series races, Expedition Africa in April in Lesotho and Raid in France in June. These are multi day adventures in the wildest places with a team, it was something very different and fun in a very unusual way. In between these long efforts I have joined my national team for some camps but spent some time training from home too.

What are your goals for this season?

My main goals are to be healthy and happy, if these are met anything can happen 😀.

Otepää has applied to host the World Championships in 2027. Why do you think it should go there? Pitch us the bid!

Otepää is the winter capital of Estonia and is also famous for organizing great sporting events. This year our fans showed that they will pack the stands (tickets were sold out to covid limits capacity, but the stands and the course could fit even more). In addition, Estonians cheer for everyone, they are huge fans of other nations too. I will forever remember Strolia crossing the finish line in the mass start with the three Baltic states flags while the whole stadium went crazy and a girl crying in the stands, because she saw her Norwegian idols, her whole face covered in the Norwegian flag.

(this interview was done before the vote and Otepää was chosen to host the World Championships in 2027!)

You are having a dinner party with 3 other biathletes. Who would you invite and why? What’s on the menu?

I’ll twist the rules just a bit. I haven’t seen the Fab 5 members for a while, so Hallie Grossman, Kelsey Dickinson, Jake Brown and Raleigh Goessling. We were all training in a group together in Vermont with Craftsbury Green Racing Project and I have seen all of them here and there, but we haven’t had a good reunion for a while, why not do it with pizza.

Which song would you add to the stadium playlist and which song would you remove?

I’d add some more local music from each country and just switch it up a little more, at the end of the season we all have the same songs stuck in our heads 😀.

Last time we did an interview it was 2015! You told me your favourite track was Oslo, favourite race was the pursuit and relay and your favourite food was chocolate! Are those still true?

Oh wow, that was a while ago, but looks like I haven’t changed so much. But maybe Otepää is my fav now just because it’s at home.

What are your TOP 10 favourite things?

I can’t rank them but chocolate, nature, mountains, sea, home, friends, flowers, being active, laughing, snow!

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10 years of B23: Mark Arendz!

Biathlon23 could not celebrate a decade of biathlon blogging without getting Mark Arendz back for a third interview. The first time we spoke he didn’t have a Paralympic biathlon gold medal – now he has two!

Follow Mark on Twitter @markarendz, Facebook and Instagram. Check out his blog :

Everyone reading this loves biathlon. Why do you love biathlon?

I fell in love with biathlon because of the challenge that the sport demands from the athlete. The raw energy, power and finesse required to ski well, coupled with the precision, instant decision making and mental test of the shooting. You may get one or the other right on any day, but to be one of the best in the World, you need both, and to do both masterfully. I love that!

You won Paralympic gold in Beijing in the biathlon middle distance. What do you remember about the race?

I remember the race, but the leadup to the race made a more significant impact on me—the evening before, I came down with some stomach bug. And as a result, I was up much of the night, far from the ideal prep. This continued throughout the morning. Twenty minutes before the start of the race, I still felt ill and considered not even starting. But I had never not started a race that wasn’t planned, and so I wouldn’t start at the Paralympic Winter Games. I didn’t know what to expect from my body. All I could do was control the factors I had control over. Mostly the range. I had to be shooting clean to give myself any chance. And after an extremely poor shooting performance days before in the Sprint, I was driven to prove I still need to be considered one of the best shooters. I was surprised when Grygorii (Vovchinskyi) caught me so quickly after the first lap, and we skied much of the remaining race together while answering each other’s shooting, shot-for-shot. Coming into that final bout was a battle for whoever could shoot clean. I needed every ounce of control, but I ensured I hit every one of those targets. As I headed out to the loop, I saw Grygorii head left into the penalty loop. I knew I had one chance, and I needed to attack the first part of the lap with everything I had left to see if I could create a gap; in doing so, I put myself in the position to win.

You also medalled in the Sprint and individual races. How do assess your Paralympics overall?

The 2022 Paralympic Winter Games and the lead up to the Games were a constant and unpredictable series of ups and downs. Overall, I am thrilled I showed my consistency in biathlon by taking a medal in each event. But there were disappointments within those successes. My Sprint, a race I showed tremendous ski speed; I wasted by having one of my worst shooting performances in recent memory. What was worse was that I had confidence in that range. I was capable of great shooting in those windy conditions. My mindset was so ready to perform; everything was happening naturally, which was beautiful, so I didn’t make the conscience switch to a hyper focus in the range required to shoot well in the typical windy and challenging conditions of the Beijing biathlon venue. I left Beijing satisfied and relieved in my performance but knowing I was capable of more, so I’m hungry to achieve more. 

You have said that you will carry on for another Paralympic cycle up to 2026. What is your motivation to continue when you have already achieved so much?

My goal is to continue my competitive career for another four years until the 2026 Games in Cortina. Curiosity is my motivation. I wonder what I can shift, change or evolve to achieve more extraordinary performance on demand. I wish to push my abilities further. I am discovering new levels of performance and skill. I want to push my athletic skill and mindset and see what is still possible, or can I go somewhere no one else has gone? Working on the smallest of details to drive further possibilities. I left PyeongChang thinking about what could be next; I left Beijing knowing but wanting more from myself and determined to try and find it.

You will have a new coaching team next season, with Brian McKeever and Bjorn Taylor taking over. What are your thoughts on the new team?

We had a few changes to the staffing on our team this Spring, as is to be expected after any Games. The change is exciting; Brian and Bjorn have been a part of the team for many years, we could say decades. But as their roles shift into these new roles, the team can evolve onto a new path, which is an exciting part of what might become of the new possibilities. I know both have the best interests of each athlete in mind and will bring together anything we, the athletes, need to succeed over the next four years and beyond.

The IBU and FIS are taking over the governance of biathlon and cross country from the IPC. Do you think that is a good thing or not?

I think it will be an excellent opportunity for Para-Nordic to take the next step forward and grow. There will be hurdles to overcome, but I wholeheartedly trust that both sports have the support to build into the future with this shift of governance to IBU and FIS, respectively. There are several opportunities for the Paralympic and Olympic streams to unite and strengthen each other. Create a single stream of sporting excellence within either sport, be it biathlon or cross country skiing. I hope more Para-Nordic events will be shown and watched, reaching a more significant audience so they may see the incredible athletes that dedicate their lives to the sport, willing to show the World their abilities rather than their disabilities.

You have been competing in para biathlon for a long time now. What are the changes you have seen over your career?

Sometimes being in it, it’s hard to see the changes and how they evolve. In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that I’m becoming the last or one of the last athletes left from when I started.

I’ve witnessed a constant improvement in the quality and accuracy of shooting at the top end of any category. When there are only a few misses in an entire field, I know I need to shoot clean, or I won’t be successful that day.

I’ve seen the distances, and some formats change over time, some for the better, others; I might have liked it if they had remained the same or even gotten longer.

What changes would you like to see in the future?

I’m excited to see what IBU and FIS envision for biathlon in the future. I do hope there will be a few opportunities to combine competitions or opportunities to compete against the Olympic athletes. Showcasing the best biathletes from around the World of all abilities.

What are your Top 10 favourite things? 

  1. Sport
  2. Exploring new trails, running, cycling or skiing
  3. Enjoying the storytelling of movies or books
  4. Chocolate
  5. Orange juice
  6. Seeing how guests and animals interact while visiting Zoos and how design affects that interaction
  7. Apple pie
  8. A good stretch through a tight muscle
  9. Taking off compression socks after a long day of travel
  10. The sound of a sub-20-second clean bout of shooting

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Blagoy Todev: The Interview!

Blagoy Todev is a Bulgarian biathlete from Bansko. He was born on the 6th of July 2001. Last season was a real breakthrough for him winning gold in the individual at the Junior European Championships in Pokljuka and silver in the pursuit at the Junior World Championships in Soldier Hollow. He represented his country at the Beijing Olympics and achieved his best result on the World Cup so far coming 40th in the sprint in Otepää.

Follow Blagoy on Instagram.

Why did you become a biathlete?

I started the sport against my will! I started cross-country skiing at the insistence of my sister and my grandmother. I was 9 years old when my sister (She is a year and a half older) started to practice cross-country skiing and after a while started telling me to try it too. For a long time I refused her and my grandmother, who told me to go so that my sister would not be alone. After all, a few months later I agreed so that they would not repeat the same thing to me and after the first training I fell in love with the sport. Two and a half years later, I was absolute champion of Bulgaria in all disciplines for my age, but my coach had to retire. Then, at his insistence, I took the path of biathlon, because he had seen talent in me and did not want me to stop developing it.

Last season was amazing for you! Do you have a favorite moment?

A World Championship medal is something I’ve craved and craved all summer season. It’s an unforgettable feeling!

But the whole season was amazing for me! I was happy with the results I did at the races before Christmas, but then I got sick and couldn’t train for about 10 days. I got very demotivated and I told myself that the season is over for me. One of my coaches talked to me for a long time and reassured me that the important races for me are just starting and that I should brace myself.

After the New Year, I managed to become the European champion, participated in the Olympic Games, won the first Crystal Globe in the history of Bulgarian biathlon, came 4th and 2nd at the World Championship and received an award in Bulgaria for athlete of the month of January. During the quarantine in Rupolding before the Olympics (more on this later) I found a girlfriend and after the end of the season, I fulfilled a dream by going to an Arsenal match in London (a 3-1 win against Man. Utd). Now I look positively and forward to new heights.

Your first Olympic Games were a bit different with all the restrictions and no crowds etc. What was the experience like for you?

The freakiest season! 😀 After I tested positive one day before the flight to Beijing, I did not believe at all that I would really stay in Europe. I believed that the coaches would figure something out and I would leave, but when they left I started to realize that I was really still in Europe 😀 I went to Rupolding where I made a training camp and trained at night to adapt to China. The day before I left for Milan, my phone broke and I was traveling without GPS, just following the signs. I got lost in Milan and after 2 hours of wandering around the city, I reached the airport. I landed in Beijing and gave an “unsatisfactory” result on the PCR test, which forced my isolation. A few hours after I arrived at the Olympic Village, I was told that it was a girl next to my seat who tested positive and they extended my isolation for 5 days, so for a total of 7 days I was isolated from everyone, a different changing room, not allowed to enter the restaurant for food and running with a mask in the Olympic village. The whole atmosphere was boring. Nothing interesting. There was no Olympic spirit at all.

Is it true that you sold your European gold medal for charity? What was the reason?

Yes, how do you know that? (Biathlon23 knows everything!)I put it up for auction along with 3 race numbers from the Olympics. The total amount of all things was about 12,500 euros. The cause was about a woman from my town who I didn’t know, but I found out she had cancer.
Before the Europeans, I found out about this case and it motivated me to fight hard for the cause I was thinking of doing.

What are your goals for this season?

We are currently in Ruhpolding for the Summer World Championships (this was in August) and I will be happy to do some decent results, but I don’t know if I will be able to fight for a medal, it would be great. My goals for the winter are to become World Champion in Kazakhstan and enter the top 30 of the World Cup.

You are having a dinner party with 3 other biathletes. Who would you invite and why? What’s on the menu?

Martin Fourcade, Dorothea Wierer and Johannes Bo. I want many more athletes from different sports to join, because they will have a lot to tell about themselves and their interesting stories. The menu doesn’t matter as long as there’s something to eat.

What are your hobbies?

I like to read different books and educate myself in different fields. I rarely play games, but if I’m going to play anything, it’s definitely going to be FIFA.

Do you have a favorite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

The track in Slovenia is one of my favorites. Not because I became a European champion there, but I just like the layout of the course. It is also a very beautiful place.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Martin Fourcade. In the winter I got an autograph and took a picture with him in Annecy, France. When I saw him I just swallowed my tongue, I didn’t know what to say, I just looked at him like a little kid.

Does your rifle have a name?

No, but I love my rifle a lot.

Describe yourself in three words.

Smiling, positive and motivated

What are your Top 10 favorite things?

Football, Biathlon, Friends, Music, YouTube, Books, Food, Crypto, Excursions, Gaming.

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