Pokljuka 2018: The Relays!

So it has finally begun! The new biathlon season got underway on Sunday with both the mixed relays – the single and well the double I suppose! Normal service was resumed with Norway and France winning, or was it?

The Single Mixed relay went to the Norwegian pair of Thelka Brun-Lie and Lars Birkeland. They finished ahead of the Austrian team Lisa Hauser and Simon Eder in second. Ukraine took third. Not too many surprises there but there was some exceptional shooting from Anastasiya Merkushyna and Artem Tyshchenko who only used 1 spare in the whole race.

Canada were leading the race at one point and so were France but the shooting let those teams down a little. Japan were 10th and usually do well in this race.

It was the Mixed Relay where we got a surprise. France won with a strong team of Bescond, Braisaz, Martin Fourcade and Desthieux. However second place went to Switzerland with fantastic performances from the birthday girl Elisa Gasparin, Lena Hacki, Benni Weger and Jeremy Finello.

Third went to Italy, with the usual suspects, Vittozzi, Wierer, Windisch and Hofer despite a penalty loop.

Finland also had a great race with Eder(formerly Laukkanen) and Makarainen putting them in the lead but the men, Seppala and Hiidensalo, couldn’t hold it and eventually finished 5th which is still a great result.

The biggest excitement of the day however was reserved for Timofey Lapshin’s moustache. It’s amazing! Curled up at the ends and everything!

Racing continues on Wednesday with the Individual and goes right through until Sunday with the Pursuits.

Apologies to my regular readers as the blog coverage is going to be patchy before Christmas. It seems I am so busy writing about biathlon for other people that I don’t have a lot of time to do it for myself. Hopefully normal service will be resumed after Christmas!

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Season 2018/19: Women’s Preview!

Three points! That’s all that separated the top two women in the Overall last season. It went down to the very last race at the final World Cup. In stark contrast to the Men’s Title no one knows who will win the Women’s Overall Title.

Kaisa Makarainen was victorious last season and she is probably just the favourite for this year but really it could go to any one of three.

Anastasiya Kuzmina was unlucky missing out on what would have been her first ever Overall victory. She had an astonishingly consistent season which hasn’t happened for her before and to lose out on the big crystal globe in her home town of Tyumen must have been heartbreaking. She decided to race again this year to try and win the one thing that has eluded her so far in biathlon.

Challenging both of these women will be Laura Dahlmeier. She had a fantastic Olympic Games but wasn’t as good as usual on the World Cup. She finished third, 92 points behind Makarainen but won’t have the big distraction of the Olympics this time around. She has already won the Overall and so knows exactly what it takes to do it. She still suffers with illness during the season however and that could make the difference between winning and losing in the Total Score. She even had to take a break this pre-season from training in October due to ill health so hasn’t had the ideal preparation.

There are other biathletes who will feature in the Top 5 or 10 of course but none of them have yet showed they have what it takes to win the World Cup. The Italians Lisa Vittozzi and Dorothea Wierer are always strong and are fantastic shots but lack the consistency for the Overall Title. Tiril Eckhoff is a great biathlete but you never know what you are going to get with her. One day she is outstanding, the next she disappears. Justine Braisaz and Anais Bescond both had good seasons in 2017/18 but the French duo are also a bit hit and miss.

The Women’s Relays will be very interesting this season. Last year the dominance of the German Team was ended with France and Belarus both taking victories. However both of those teams will be missing big guns, Dorin Habert, Domracheva and Skardino, so hopefully other teams like Italy, Ukraine and the Czech Republic will threaten the Germans.

It will also be fun to see who comes out on top in the Mixed Relays. There were three races last season and three different winners; France, Norway and Italy. This could be a really exciting event with quite a lot of strong teams around.

The season starts on the 2nd of December in Pokljuka with the Single and Mixed Relays. The programme also includes the Individual, Sprint and Pursuit races. We then head to Hochfilzen and Nove Mesto will take us up to Christmas! What an awesome present! 🙂

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Season 2018/19: Men’s Preview!

Thanks to Martin Fourcade winning 7 Overall Titles in a row my trusty thesaurus and I have run out of words to describe him. Although one we could use is predictable. Let’s face it he is going to win the Overall again this year unless some outside force like illness or injury stop him. I can’t see it being a fellow biathlete that will halt his progress.

Johannes Thingnes Boe will try to beat him but he has had a bit of a topsy turvy summer. He got married, he admitted to not being in the best shape and he was also ill for a while and had a back problem. Not the best preparation to take on the titan that is Fourcade!

It would be nice if his big brother Tarjei could get back to the form he showed when he won the Overall all those years ago. Years of illness have set him back a lot though and he doesn’t seem to have the consistency to get back to the very top.

The Germans are always in and around the Top 5 come the end of the season. However although Simon Schempp and Arnd Peiffer get a lot of Top 10 and Top 6 finishes they don’t gather enough podiums to challenge for the title.

Anton Shipulin usually finishes third in the Total Score but this summer has suffered from mononucleosis and only confirmed that he would continue racing in biathlon at the start of October. Not a recipe for success.

Lukas Hofer finished fifth last season in the Overall and maybe he could move up a place or two this year and grab a Top 3 but he is not likely to win the big crystal globe.

The Swedes had a great season with their Olympic success and you might think Sebastian Samuelsson or Freddie Lindstrom could mount a serious challenge. They wont! They have a home World Championships in Oestersund and will be looking to repeat their Olympic preparation plan to bring them medals come March. That means their main focus will not be the World Cups.

Where there might be a bit of excitement on the men’s side is with the Relays. Last season we only had 2 different winners; Norway and Sweden. However the Norwegians have lost Bjoerndalen and Svendsen to retirement and there are a lot of strong teams who can get in the mix like Germany, France, Austria and Russia.

There were only two races in the Single Mixed Relay last season and they were won by Austria and France. This is a great format for the Austrians with two great shooters in Simon Eder and Lisa Hauser. It all depends on who is racing however so there are a lot of teams who could win this season.

The first round of the World Cup begins in Pokljuka this season. Be careful not to go to Oestersund by mistake! We get underway with the Single Mixed and the Mixed Relays on the 2nd of December!
FINALLY!!! 🙂

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Johannes Kühn: The Interview!

Johannes Kühn is a German biathlete. He was born in Passau on the 19th of November 1991. His Junior career was pretty successful winning 4 gold medals and 2 silver. Last year was his best so far on the World Cup finishing 28th in the Total Score and achieving a personal best finish of 5th. He also qualified and competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

Like his Facebook Page: Johannes Kühn – Biathlon https://www.facebook.com/johannes.kuhn.37/

Why did you become a biathlete?

When I was young I played soccer and started with cross-country skiing.
One year later I switched from cross-country to biathlon and stayed there. 😉 I played soccer for several years but I was never that good. 😉


You got your career best result of 5th in the Antholz Mass Start. What are your memories from that race and how did you feel at the end?

I was happy after the race, for sure. 🙂 It was the last chance to qualify for the Olympic Games, that made it even more special!
I remember very well the last lap with Benni (Doll) and great emotions at the finish!

Last year was your first full season racing on the World Cup and your results improved a lot. What made the difference last season?

It was also my first season after my last injury so I did not know what to expect from the season. I think I had a good start and my shooting was most of the time better than the previous years.

You also qualified for the Olympics for the first time. What was that experience like?

The experience was great there, the team was very successful and I could start in a race. That was great, on the other side compared to World Cup races the atmosphere was not that good in the stadium.

What is it like having Andi Stitzl at the side of the tracks when you are racing? Can you even understand what he is saying when he is shouting and running at the same time? 😉

It is motivating most of the time. 😉 If you feel bad and he tells you the start was too slow… then it is not good. 😀
Yes usually it is good to understand, just at some certain places like Birxstieg it is hard to understand someone.

What have you already done for summer training and what is the plan up until December?

We have been on some camps, including one cycling camp which I have never done before, but it was nice in the south of France.
Then we had the German Championships and now the final preparation towards the winter is on. Soon we will go to Sjusjoen for our last camp before the races.

What are your goals for this season?

My goal is to ski like last year and improve my shooting.

Do you have any hobbies away from biathlon?

Soccer, Mountain Bike, Cinema.

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

My favourite track is Obertilliach, I like the atmosphere, the people and the village there.

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

Mh… I think Raphael Poiree or Emil Hegle Svendsen because I like their style of skiing.

Does your rifle have a name?

No

Describe yourself in three words.

Tall, funny, realistic.

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): The blue Italian suit.
Favourite shooting range: Osrblie
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Benni Doll
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Mario Dolder because of Bankso 2013.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Doing what you love and travelling around the world.

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I(BU) got new rules, I count’em!

New things are happening in biathlon this season. They had one of those congress things back in September and the powers that be have made some changes. Even though in general we fear change, some of these aren’t so scary!

Firstly they have introduced a new event! OK so it’s not exactly new it’s just a bigger Mass Start. It means there will be 60 starters instead of 30. That’s madness I hear you cry – they will never all fit on the range! And you would be right but actually they don’t have to.

There is a sneaky way around this problem and it’s this – everyone skis the first lap together with the inevitable falls and pole breakages, but then only the first 30 stop to shoot and the second 30 keep skiing. At the end of the second lap the second 30 stop to shoot and the first 30 continue to ski. If all goes to plan most of the biathletes will have missed targets and we won’t have 60 biathletes descending on shoot two altogether! After the first two shoots are over (basically everyone’s first prone) then the race continues like a normal one and they all shoot the other prone and two stands together. Or more simply:

Bib 1-30 = lap-shoot1-lap-lap-shoot2-lap-shoot3-lap-shoot4-lap.
Bib 31-60 = lap-lap-shoot1-lap-shoot2-lap-shoot3-lap-shoot4-lap.

This will only be held on the IBU Cup this season and only in Martell at the final round. It won’t be replacing the 30 person mass start ….yet! Also it will be formally known at the Massive Start – well by biathlon23 anyway! 😉

The IBU have also made a small change to the Individual. If the conditions are bad, like rubbish weather or rubbish snow, they will have the option of shortening the races. For the men it will be 15km instead of 20km and the penalty for a miss will be 45 seconds instead of a minute. For the women it will be 12.5km and a 45 second penalty. This will make the person with the calculator at the side of the tracks job much harder when trying to work out the times! 😉

There are a few rule changes too. It seems that someone high up must read my blog as one of my Big Biathlon questions has been answered already. In the Mixed and Single Mixed Relay there is now the option of the men starting first instead of the women always starting on leg 1.

Weirdly the Juniors have all got older! The Juniors will have their own Nations Cup this season and you can be a Junior and a Youth for a year longer which means Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Samuelsson can still be a Junior. Get him on the Junior Cup Sweden!

Electronic targets are now allowed at IBU events. So exciting! 😉

Finally there has been some changes to the start quotas and wild cards for the World Cups, one of which I don’t really understand but here goes…

The Total Score winners from the IBU Cup will now get a start at the first round of the World Cup in the next season. The best Junior athletes at the Junior World Championships will get a start in the IBU World Cup finals in the same season.

The Top 8 athletes on the IBU qualifying points list who are not from a country that already has a World Cup quota will get a National Federation wildcard. A maximum of two wildcards per federation can be given in a single trimester. Got that? Yep, me neither!

Oh and they appointed a new President, Olle Dahlin from Sweden. But seeing as I was overlooked yet again it is not of interest to me!!! 😉

P.S Thanks to Dua Lipa for inspiring the title! 😉

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Scott Gow: The Interview!

Scott Gow is a Canadian biathlete who was born in Calgary on the 6th of November 1990. He was a member of the Canadian team who won their first Relay medal at the World Championships in Oslo 2016 finishing third. He has represented Canada at Youth, Junior and Senior levels and his best finish to date is 14th place in the Individual race at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. His younger brother Christian is also a biathlete.

Like his Facebook page: Gow Brothers Biathlon


Why did you become a biathlete?

I became a biathlete because when I tried the sport for the first time, I loved it so much I knew I wanted to keep training and practicing to become one of the best in the world.

How do you assess last season on the World Cup? You got a PB in Annecy and got to race in the Mass Start. What was that like?

Last season was my best season yet. I had a lot of personal best results, including at the Olympics, and had the opportunity to compete in the Mass Start. I’m happy with how I performed and it always feels good to see a hard summer of training pay off.

You went to your first Olympics in PyeongChang. What was that experience like? Tell me about finishing 14th in the Individual, were you happy or a bit gutted about the miss on the last shoot?

The Olympics was an amazing experience. The atmosphere of the Games, the athletes, the venues and everything else is over the top and catered to the competitors. It’s a very special experience to spend 2 weeks training and competing with all of Team Canada. The highlight of my Olympics had to be the 14th place. On the one hand I’m thrilled with the result and it’s the best I have ever performed, so it is hard to be upset, but on the other hand if I had hit my missed target then I would have achieved an even higher level. I’m sure I’ll wish for that shot for many years to come.

You won World Championships bronze in the Men’s Relay in Oslo. What do you remember about that race? How did it feel to stand on the podium with your brother?

The World Championships bronze was very special. It was my first medal, I achieved it with the rest of my team and I was sharing the experience with my brother. Oslo was an excellent atmosphere and the race was so exciting from start to finish. I still wonder sometimes how we did it.

What have you already done for summer training and what is the plan up until December?

Summer training has been fairly normal for me. Most of the training has been in Canmore, and I’ve had two training camps: one in eastern Canada in Quebec and one in Park City, USA. The first camp is a low altitude, high intensity training focus and the second is a high altitude, volume focus. For the fall training I’m staying in Canmore where I will ski on Frozen Thunder and then prepare to leave for Europe mid November.

What are your goals for this season?

My goals for the season are to build on last year’s good results and increase my consistency. I would like to see consistent top 20 results with some top 10’s in there too!

What’s it like training, competing and travelling with your brother? Do you get on well?

Travelling with my brother is great. He is like a piece of home I can take with me everywhere I go. We get along very well.

Is it true that you want to study medicine after biathlon? Have you always been interested in that?

I have always been interested in medicine, and my focus in school is to still pursue that career. It’s just taking me a very long time.

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

My favorite track is in Antholz. It’s a beautiful place, with great food surrounded by mountains. It also reminds me the most of home so I like it for that reason as well.

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

My favorite biathlete is Ole Einar Bjorndalen. I had his poster from the 2002 Olympics on my bedroom wall when I was growing up, and I always saw him as the greatest biathlete ever.

Does your rifle have a name?

I do not have a name for my rifle. Maybe I should think of one?

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Switzerland
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Michael Roesch
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): France
Favourite shooting range: Ruhpolding
Favourite biathlon siblings (not yourselves!): Bø brothers
Lucky bib number: 24
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Michael Roesch
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Anais Bescond
Best thing about being a biathlete: Skiing all winter.

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Gabrielė Leščinskaitė: The Interview!

Gabrielė Leščinskaitė is a Lithuanian biathlete. She was born on the 25th of March 1996. She has represented Lithuania at the Youth/Junior World Championships four times. She has raced on the IBU Cup, World Cup and at the World Championships.

Like her Facebook page: Gabrielė Leščinskaitė Biathlete

Why did you become a biathlete?

I became a biathlete because probably that was one of God’s plans. If not because of this, then the reason was my surroundings. I was born in a sporty family so from a very young age I had to release energy in order to express myself. Actually I insensibly chose biathlon because I can’t even clearly remember how and when I became a biathlete. It just happens when your stepfather turns out to be the President of the Lithuanian biathlon federation.

How do you assess last season? What were you happy with? What were you disappointed with?

I hope that last season was the last such terrible and gloomy season in my life. I think there is nothing I am happy with. But I survived it though. Obviously there are many things I am disappointed with. It is quite hard to pick out one or two things that I feel sad about because everything in life is made of millions of connected pieces like a chain. However, one of the worst things that disturbed my preparation was a groin injury. That made me reduce the workload to the minimum and just maintain some kind of shape but in the end I was still suffering from the endless sore leg and butt. Apart from poor physical preparation I have been fighting with other problems related to psychological and mental health like intense anxiety, fear, insomnia etc.

What have you already done for summer training and what is the plan up until December?

This summer is a little bit different from the previous ones. First of all, I started to work constantly only in July, so the majority of the work is simply delayed. Secondly, we got some changes in our team. Some of the biathletes left the biathlon world and a new coach came to train the rest of us. So as usual half of the summer we spent in Lithuania, then some athletes had a camp in the mountains, while others stayed in the Baltics. Soon we should go to Ramsau but this year is an exception and we are heading to Vuokatti to check the snow out there. Finally, our preparation journey ends in beloved Sjusjoen, how could we miss this place?!

What is your favourite or best biathlon event? Why?

I do not have a favorite event but I do have a least favorite one and it is the Individual race. And you know what, the greatest achievements of my life was made during Individual races :)))

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are persistence, patience and hope. My weaknesses are uncertainty, low self-confidence and vulnerability.

What are your goals for this season?

My goals for next season are to improve my skiing technique and shooting time. Staying overall healthy, peaceful and optimistic should help me get the right shape I guess.

Do you have any hobbies away from biathlon?

I would like to have more time for hobbies but I have to continue my studies every time I come home after competitions. The only things I can do is just spend time with my family and take some dancing sessions that are the only thing that takes away the worries, lightens me up and inspires.

How popular is biathlon in Lithuania?

Actually some years ago you could barely find any Lithuanian that knew what biathlon is. I have been repeating the same story of giving an explanation of this sport to every person that hasn’t heard about it. I feel really satisfied that after the Olympics in PyeongChang the situation is turning to be a bit better.
Of course there is nothing to talk about the funding, on this point biathlon suffers from a lack of financial aid a lot.

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

Probably I do. Hochfilzen and Anterselva. Because of the aura there. Sjusjoen track is nice for me as well.

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

That would be Algimantas Salna. Because he’s like legend walking on the earth.

Does your rifle have a name?

No.

Describe yourself in three words.

Always a dreamer.

Quickfire Questions:
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Haven’t seen it yet.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Lithuanian of course!
Favourite shooting range: Lenzerheide.
Lucky bib number: Doesn’t exist.
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Klemen Bauer.
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Clare Egan.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Chance of winning for everyone.

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