Ruhpolding 2017: The Pursuits!

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Much like a German pretzel the Pursuit races in Ruhpolding had a few twists and turns in them but ultimately ended up where they started with the person who started first finishing first! This meant double victories this weekend for Kaisa Makarainen and Martin Fourcade.

The men raced in the morning with quite heavy snowfall which did seem to affect Fourcade a bit and he missed 3 targets in total, two in the second prone and one in the first stand. However he hit all five in the final shoot which gave him a comfortable win in the end.

Emil Svendsen was his closest challenger and at one point was only half a second behind him. Svendsen shot clean but couldn’t match Fourcade on the skis and when he made his break on the track before the final shoot no one could live with him. It’s great to see Svendsen back on such good form but there is nothing he can do at the moment to stop Fourcade.

Third place was where the best action of the day came when Michal Krcmar of the Czech Republic came from 29th place all the way to third. He shot clean and managed to pass Anton Shipulin in the final straight to claim his first ever podium on the World Cup. Shipulin also had a good race moving from 24th to 4th.

German’s Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp treated us to an early crash on the first loop when Peiffer seemed to slip on the flat and Schempp who was skiing close behind him couldn’t avoid hitting him. They both recovered well though to finish in 5th and 7th.

Daniel Mesotitsch rolled back the years with clean shooting to finish 9th. Erlend Bjoentegaard came from 21st to 8th, Dominik Windisch went from 43rd to 11th, Simon Fourcade went from 46th to 16th and Henrik L’Abee Lund from 54th to 21st.

The women had better conditions in the afternoon with no snow and even some blue skies above. Kaisa dominated the race from the start and won in the end by a minute just missing 1 target. Gabriela Koukalova held on to second missing 2 shots and Marie Dorin Habert recovered from an early fall to grab third with 3 misses. That meant Laura Dahlmeier was pushed down to 4th with 4 missed targets which is unusual for her.

Sweden’s Hanna Oeberg had another fantastic race finishing 5th with just 1 miss to improve her personal best again. Lisa Vittozzi shot clean to move from 27th to 10th, Franziska Preuss went from 31st to 14th, Maren Hammerschmidt from 39th to 17th, Iryna Varvynets from 52nd to 20th, Baiba Bendika from 47th to 25th and Selina Gasparin from 49th to 29th.

So we now head to Antholz with Gabriela Koukalova still in the yellow bib but only by 19 points from Kaisa Makarainen in second. The women’s World cup is so close and exciting which is great because the men’s isn’t! Martin has 730 points and Simon Schmepp in second has 446!

With another packed week of racing coming up in Antholz we really have to praise all the biathletes because it tires me out writing about all the races never mind actually doing them! There are Individuals, Mass Starts and Relays in Italy and then a small rest before the World Championships. I will need it never mind the biathletes!!! 🙂

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Ruhpolding 2017: The Sprints!

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Just like a Bavarian grandmother preparing Dampfnudel for pudding, the outcome of the Men’s Sprint was entirely predictable. Martin Fourcade dominated the entire race and shot 10/10 to lead the field by 18 seconds in his 200th race. In fact he now has 101 podiums in those 200 races which is incredible!

Considering he beat Julian Eberhard by those 18 seconds shows that it’s getting a bit ridiculous how good he is. Eberhard is one of the fastest skiers around and even shooting 10/10 himself in tricky wind conditions he couldn’t get near Fourcade. It’s quite depressing for the other biathletes I imagine and to be honest it’s not that entertaining to watch. None of which is Fourcade’s fault of course, that is just the way it’s going at the moment.

Third place went to a resurgent Emil Hegle Svendsen but even he was nearly 40 seconds off Fourcade’s time. The home team’s best results came from Arnd Peiffer in 4th and Simon Schempp in 5th. Schempp missed a target in the standing shoot which probably cost him a podium position. Another German Matthias Bischl continued his excellent form from Oberhof by getting another personal best result here of 16th.

It seems it’s not just Svendsen who is in good form for the Norwegians with Ole Einar Bjoerndalen in 8th and Lars Helge Birkeland in 10th. Russia’s Dmitry Malyshko got his best result of the season by far in 6th and Ukraine’s Dmytro Pidruchnyi also did well finishing 7th.

Klemen Bauer grabbed another Top 20 finish in 14th and his teammate Jakov Fak made his long awaited start to the season finishing in 56th and scraping into the Pursuit on Sunday. Johannes Boe returned from illness to finish 37th and the USA’s Sean Doherty got back in the points in 40th after also coming back from ill health.

The Women’s Sprint was also a little predictable if you watched the first leg of the relay on Thursday. The light snow meant that conditions were a little heavy for skiing but it didn’t stop Kaisa Makarainen who won her first race of the season shooting 10/10 and winning by 22 seconds. It was very similar to her relay leg when she put Finland in the lead and we all know if Kaisa shoots clean she is very difficult to beat. Second place went to Gabriela Koukalova who also shot clean but wasn’t fast enough today to challenge for the win. The same goes for Laura Dahlmeier who shot clean in third but was 30 seconds behind Makarainen.

Marie Dorin Habert was 4th meaning the Top 4 in the Total Score were the Top 4 in the race. She missed a target but still beat Dorothea Wierer, who didn’t, into 5th. Hanna Oeberg continues to impress improving her personal best to 7th in this race and Darya Domracheva finished 13th, her best result since her return. The Czech Republic’s Marketa Davidova was 28th which is her personal best so far. Another biathlete racing for the first time this season was Valj Semerenko who was 30th with 2 misses.

Both Pursuit races are tomorrow but there are some big time gaps separating the top biathletes in both the men’s and women’s races. Hopefully they can be made up and we will see some exciting races on the final day in Ruhpolding.

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Ruhpolding 2017: The Relays!

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It seems the people of Ruhpolding like everything weiß. Weißbier, weißwurst and of course weiß snow! They also love an exciting finish in the Relay and that’s exactly what they got in the Men’s race on Wednesday.

We all know the Norwegian men love to win the Relay in Ruhpolding and they did so again for the third time in a row. For most of the race it didn’t look that likely until Emil Svendsen took over on the final leg and very much proved why he is called Super Svendsen – and it’s not because he wears his underpants over his trousers! No it’s because when he is on form he is an awesome biathlete.

Russia spent most of the race in the lead apart from the first lap where a great leg from Lukas Hofer, shooting 10/10, put Italy in the lead at the first changeover. The second two legs were dominated by Anton Shipulin who only used one spare and Matvey Eliseev who didn’t miss a target.

He handed over a 30 second lead to Anton Babikov who had Simon Schempp and Emil Svendsen chasing him. Schempp was lucky to be there after Erik Lesser did a penalty loop on the first leg but some great work from Bendikt Doll and Arnd Peiffer put Germany back into contention.

Svendsen proved to be the best of the three, shooting 10/10 when the other two both needed a spare and had a great ski to catch and then pass Babikov to win the race by 5 seconds. He has teammates Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Vetle Christiansen and Henrik L’Abee Lund to thank for putting him in such a good position and also his ski technicians for some incredible skis. With Norway winning without a Boe in sight they could be hard to beat for the rest of the season.

Back in the pack Sweden came all the way from 23rd to finish 6th using 8 spares, Bulgaria finished an impressive 8th including a penalty loop and the Ukraine showed how good a team they have maintaining 4th place with Vitaliy Kilchytskyy completing his standing shoot in 17 seconds hitting all the targets. France came 9th unable to recover from a poor first leg from Simon Fourcade who is back after an illness.

So then the Women’s race on Thursday had a lot to live up to and it did just that! Kaisa Makarainen got us off to a great start by leading the race up to the first exchange. However Finnish hopes were short lived as the bigger teams took over from there. Maren Hammerschmidt took the second leg for home team Germany taking over from Vanessa Hinz. She managed to hand over the lead to Franziska Preuss despite the close attentions of Italy, Ukraine, Norway and France.

In the third leg it was Tiril Eckhoff of Norway who went into the lead missing just one shot in the prone. In fact that was the only spare round the Norwegian team used in the race! She handed Marte Oslbu a 4.5 second lead but she had some tough competition in the form of Olena Pidhrushna, Laura Dahlmeier and Celia Aymonier.

In the end it was Laura Dahlmeier who was victorious giving the crowd something to cheer! She used 1 spare but was too strong on the skis for the others making up a 10 second deficit on Olsbu. Second place went to France with Celia Aymonier also beating Olsbu to the line after they both hit every target. Aymonier, who used to be on the dark side of cross-country, seems to have found some Jedi powers on the shooting range and is becoming a fantastic biathlete. The French team were without Marie Dorin Habert today but with Anais Chevalier, Anais Bescond, Justine Braisaz and Aymonier they look a formidable team even without her.

Norway had a great race in third. Their women’s team hasn’t been as strong this season but Kaia Nicolaisen, Hilde Fenne, Eckhoff and Olsbu put that right today. Hopefully they can carry this success into the individual races.

Norway were the top team on the range followed by Ukraine and Canada who used only 3 spares and finished 4th and 10th respectively and Sweden used only 4 finishing 7th. Russia had a bad day at the range using 11 spares and incurring 2 penalty loops.

The Relays were both really good races to watch with exciting finishes. Hopefully the rest of the round will be the same with the Sprints on Friday and Saturday and the Pursuits on Sunday.

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Oberhof 2017: The Mass Starts!

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Just like a plate of Thüringer Klöße (potato dumplings) or Thüringer Rostbratwurst we were treated to a very tasty final day in Oberhof! The Mass Starts are generally great to watch and these were no exception. It also gave the home fans a lot to cheer about.

The men raced first and thankfully the foggy conditions were not bad enough to have an effect on the race. The first part of the race was very close with most of the top biathletes hitting 10/10 in the prone position. It was in the first standing shoot were we saw most of the action with only Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Erik Lesser shooting clear to leave them in the lead.

Surprisingly Martin Fourcade missed 2 shots and Simon Schemmp missed 1 to leave them in a chasing group along with Jean Guillaume Beatrix and Emil Svendsen. Fourcade put it a great lap on the skis to catch up however and the tables were turned on the final shoot. This time Lesser and Bjoerndalen both missed 1 shot while Fourcade, Schempp and Beatrix shot clean. So there was a group of five heading into the fianl lap and Fouracde tried to break them on the first uphill.

His plan didn’t work however as Schempp kept pace with him all the way and with one less penalty loop in his legs looked the fresher of the two. He overtook Fourcade in the finishing straight to grab the victory in front of his home fans and Erik Lesser made up a lot of ground in the final kilometre to ski past Beatrix and then beat Fourcade on the line in a sprint finish. They were awarded the same time but Lesser will be pleased he didn’t cut his toenails as that’s the distance he took second by! Fourcade doesn’t have much luck in sprint finishes but possibly because he usually wins by a big margin and doesn’t get to practice them much! 😉

Beatrix was 4th after a good race although he tired at the end trying to keep pace with Fourcade. Ole Einar came home 5th ahead of another German in 6th Benedikt Doll.

The women’s race was less exciting but with some high quality performances especially from the eventual winner Gabriela Koukalova. She shot the perfect score 20/20 to win the race by more than 30 seconds. Laura Dahlmeier returned to racing after missing the sprint and pursuit and took second which was the best result she could hope for after missing 1 target. Third place went to Eva Puskarcikova who followed her teammate Koukalova by hitting all 20 targets. Kaisa Makarianen missed 4 targets on the first prone shoot and 7 in total but still finished 8th.

Marie Dorin Habert also missed 7 targets and was 14th. Susan Dunklee had a good race finishing 9th and Rosanna Crawford was 25th meaning she had 3 Top 25 results in Oberhof after a difficult start to the season. Chardine Sloof proved her Sprint result was no fluke by finishing 15th which means she was in the Top 15 in all three races.

These results mean a change at the top of the standings in the women’s overall. With Dahlmeier missing 2 races and Koukalova grabbing 174 points in the three races it means she is now at the top and takes the yellow bib to Ruhpolding. Makarainen is third and Dorin Habert 4th but there are only 53 points separating the top 4! Very exciting! Martin Fourcade still holds a comfortable lead in the men’s overall but he only won one of the three races here in Oberhof! He is rubbish! 😉

Take a little rest while you can as World Cup 5 starts in Ruhpolding on Wednesday with the Men’s Relay!!!

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Oberhof 2017: The Pursuits!

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Well the wind made a return on Saturday for the Pursuit races and although it was more constant and less gusty it still played havoc on the shooting range.

The men’s race was first and Martin Fourcade was back to his best winning by over a minute. He showed remarkable composure on the shooting range and only missed 1 prone target. Considering many of the biathletes missed at least 4 targets it shows how good he really is. Behind Fourcade home favourite Arnd Peiffer managed to limit his misses to 3, all in the standing, to get a comfortable second place.

The race for third was the most exciting and came down to a ski race between Dominik Windisch, Emil Svendsen, Erik Lesser and Anton Babikov. It was Windisch who proved strongest in the end taking 3rd by 0.2 of a second from Svendsen in a sprint finish. However Svendsen’s tactics were questionable as he took the lead entering the finishing straight into a head wind giving Windisch the chance to overtake him on the line.

There were also a couple of fallers as Benedikt Doll hit the floor on the first lap ruining his hopes and Jean Guillaume Beatrix did the same when he was in 8th place after clearing all the prone targets and looking in good shape for a top result.

Normally I tell you who moved up the field and made up most places but today I will only mention one as he was head and shoulders above the rest. Artem Pryma from the Ukraine started 57th and with only 2 missed targets finished the race in 9th which is astonishing!

The women’s race was a closer affair as it usually is. They had snow and cold temperatures to contend with. This time Marie Dorin Habert held her nerve on the shooting range to make it a double victory for France. On the final shoot she missed just 1 target when her opponents missed 2 to win the race by nearly 40 seconds. Koukalova kept second place with 3 missed shots and Kaisa Makarainen came 3rd with 4 shots missed. We had the same three women on the podium from the Sprint but just in a different order!

Vanessa Hinz had a better day on the range coming from 34th to finish 6th, Galina Vishnevskaya did the same starting 38th and finishing 10th. In her second race back Domracheva made up 3 places to 34th missing 6 targets.

Tomorrow we have both Mass Start races where all the men will be chasing Fourcade and literally anyone could win the women’s race!

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Oberhof 2017: The Sprints!

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Biathlon is back after the Christmas break and we find ourselves in Oberhof! Or do we? You might not recognise it because of all the snow but it is in fact Oberhof. After a few years struggling with no snow , you may remember last year’s World Cup was moved to Ruhpolding, now there is too much!

It meant a difficult race for the Men’s Sprint on Thursday afternoon with fresh snow on the tracks making them slower and changing wind and snow conditions throughout the race. Although it’s good for the fans as it throws up some different results.

After his near total domination before Christmas Martin Fourcade didn’t win! (Of course he chooses the race when he is in bib23 to do it but I won’t hold a grudge…..well just a small one!) Instead we saw Austria’s Julian Eberhard win the second race of his career. He is one of the fastest skiers in the field and if he hits the targets he always has the chance to win. It’s just that he doesn’t hit them that often! Today he did and with 9/10, just 1 miss in the prone, he won by almost 11 seconds. I have a theory that the wind makes his bullets hit when they normally miss so if it’s bad conditions put your money on Eberhard! 😉

Second place went to the Czech Republic’s Michal Slesingr who also missed just one target and in third place was Dominik Windisch from Italy also with 1 miss. Martin Fourcade finished in 8th after missing 3 shots in the standing shoot. He was beaten for the first time this season by rivals Simon Schempp in 6th and Emil Svendsen in 7th. It should make for a fun Pursuit on Saturday!

Two biathletes managed to shoot 10/10 in the tough conditions. Lukas Hofer who started in bib 70 cleared the targets to finish 4th just 0.1 of a second from 3rd place and South Korea’s Lee In-bok came 51st, his career best result.

There were more personal best World Cup results from the Czech Republic’s Adam Vaclavik in 17th, Germany’s Matthias Bischl in 22nd, Poland’s Grzegorz Guzik in 26th and Croatia’s Kresimir Crnkovic in 37th. It wasn’t a good race from Klemen Bauer however as a problem with his rifle meant he had to use the team’s spare and missed all 5 prone targets and 2 in the stand eventually finishing in 96th place.

The women were treated to much better conditions on Friday. The sun was out and the wind was calm which made for a lot of good shooting. Gabriela Koukalova started where she finished off in Nove Mesto by taking the win with 10/10. Second place went to Kaisa Makarainen who missed 2 shots in the standing but must be skiing really fast to end up second. Third place went to Marie Dorin Habert who missed 1 shot.

Laura Dahlmeier decided not to race today but should be back for the Mass Start on Sunday. Darya Domracheva made her long awaited comeback and finished 37th with 2 misses. Anais Chevalier continued her good form in 4th and the best German on the day was Maren Hammerschmidt in 5th.

Chardine Sloof who is now racing for Sweden got her personal best result with clean shooting in 10th. Poland’s Gwizdon and Guzik had good races on 8th and 11th places respectively and China’s Jialin Tang made it back into the points in 20th.

It sets up two very exciting Pursuit races tomorrow and who knows what the conditions will be like! I can’t wait!

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Biathlon at the Movies II: The Sequel!

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Hollywood loves a sequel, doesn’t it? Mainly to squeeze all the money it can out of the movie goers rather than making a better film than the first one and that is exactly what I intend to do! After the success of ‘Biathlon at the Movies’ I bring you ‘Biathlon at the Movies II’! It’s basically the same but with different movies. Hopefully it helps you get through the Christmas and New Year mini-break from biathlon. All ratings come in the form of crystal globes rather than stars. Popcorn at the ready? Then role titles!!! 🙂

The King and I:
Biathlon’s greatest love story set to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The story of a young Belarusian biathlete who falls in love with the King of Biathlon. That’s right it’s the Darya Domracheva story! The plot is simple. Domracheva and Bjoerndalen fall in love but neither of them will admit it until of course she gets pregnant and they get married! Featuring such classic songs as ‘Getting to snow you’, ‘Song of the King'(suspiciously similar to the Norwegian national anthem), ‘Shall we ski?’, ‘Shall I tell you what I think of your shooting percentages?’

Biathlon23: “Make sure you have plenty of tissues!” Rating: 5 globes

I am Sam:
The tale of a biathlete who thinks his name is too long. It chronicles his struggles to think of a name that is shorter than his. Being called Simon this proves to be a difficult task. After painstakingly searching the world for a shorter title he goes with Sam much to the disappointment of his parents who thought Simon was just fine. Other Simons like Fourcade, Schempp and Desthieux seem bemused by his decision but Simon Eder finally announces that he is Simon no more declaring – I AM SAM!

Biathlon23: “Simple Simon!” Rating: 5 globes

Skifall:
The third installment of biathlon Bond following ‘The Spy Who Loved Biathlon’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Simon Fourcade returns in the title role. Excitingly in this film we find out that Fourcade isn’t French after all but in fact he is Scottish. His enemy the mysterious Johannes Bøfeld follows him to his Highland home and attempts to kill M (his brother Martin) so Simon gets loads of gadgets from Q (Quentin Fillon Maillet) and blows loads of things up, saves the day and then appears for Great Britain at the Winter Olympics where he wins gold!

Biathlon 23: Oh come on, Blofeld wasn’t even in Skyfall!! Rating: 5 globes

The Hunger Range:

In a dystopian biathlon future Ivona Fialkova is chosen by her district to compete in the Hunger Range. However her big sister Paulina volunteers to take her place and is joined in the games by Matej Kazar. The tributes have to compete against teams from 11 other districts in order to win a medal and a bouquet of flowers. Unexpectedly it turns out to be the Single Mixed Relay and not a fight to the death – that’s lucky! Can the tributes from Slovakia conquer the Hunger Range? Watch it and see….

Biathlon23:”Surprised the Hungarian biathletes aren’t in this!” Rating: 5 globes

Macx Payne:
An epic starring Macx Davies in his second film role to date after ‘Macx The Man’ thrilled audiences in Norway. Macx Payne tells the story of his 10th place finish in Oestersund in the Sprint race in 2015. Being a dedicated and well prepared biathlete he naturally forgot to load one of his magazines and so only had five bullets to shoot at 10 targets. Cliffhanger! I won’t spoil the whole film for you but chaos ensues and as usual out of tragedy comes triumph. A heart warming tale of one man’s fight against his own incompetence with a lot of pain involved!

Biathlon23:” The Charlie Chaplin of biathlon.” Rating: 5 globes

Hard Target:
Florent-Claude Van Damme makes his film debut pretending to be a Belgian. He is joined in this film by Michael Roesch, who is also pretending to be a Belgian. The duo are hired by Jakov Fak, who is pretending to be Slovenian, to hunt down Torstein Stenersen, who is pretending to be Swedish. Also pretending to be Swedish is his accomplice Chardine Sloof. Are you following this so far? They are hiding out with Anna Frolina and Alexander Starodubets who are pretending to be South Korean. Anastasiya Kuzmina is also involved somehow while pretending to be Slovakian but that’s about all I could work out.

Biathlon23: “Sounds like a lot of make believe to me!” Rating: 1 globe

Open range:
A classic western starring the Estonian biathlon team. A baddie (the IBU) has decided to close down the range in Otepaa and it’s up to the team to open it again. Lot’s of action right from the start with “KALAMITY” Kauri Koiv leading his band of heroes, Kalev “THE FROG” Ermits (also known as Kermits), Rene “THE SNOWDANCE KID” Zahkna, Johanna “THE LONE RANGEr” Taliherm and Kahdri “LETHAL” Lethla. There is plenty of shooting in this one but can they save the day and open the range?

Biathlon23: “Yee-haw! or however you say that in Estonian.” Rating: 5 globes

RamBø 2: The second shooting
Tarjei Bø is released from the Norwegian training camp and sent on a top secret mission to France. His teammate Ole Einar Bjoerndalen has offered him a deal to get out. Go to France and secure the services of their shooting coach. He goes deep undercover and befriends the French team before using his many skills to tempt away their coach. In a desperate attempt to disguise himself he grows his hair longer (after getting the proper grooming advice from expert E.H Svendsen) and ties a red band around his head in preparation to fight the whole French Team. Who will win? Will he get the coach? Will he go totally nuts with a machine gun? Watch and see.

Biathlon23: “Another unbølieveable performance.” Rating: 5 globes

24: The Movie:
The movie version of the TV series 24 starring Klemen “Jack” Bauer. The film follows Bauer for 24 hours in real time in an exciting day in his life. He gets up,has breakfast, trains, eats lunch, trains again, watches some snooker on TV , eats dinner and goes to sleep. Oh did I mention that he also thwarts multiple terrorist plots, including presidential assassination attempts, weapons of mass destruction detonations, bioterrorism, cyber attacks, as well as conspiracies which deal with government and corporate corruption. All in one day- What a guy!

Biathlon23: “Not thought this through! Who would spend 24 hours in the cinema! Rating: 24 globes


Fantastic biathletes and where to find them:

Sorry Nathan Smith fans although this is set in the same wizarding world, Harry Potter isn’t actually in this. All the biathletes have escaped from the magic rifle case where they are kept over the summer before they are allowed out in the winter. The owner of the case and the person responsible for the escape, Andrejs Rastorgujevs, is tasked with finding them all before the evil FIS catches them and tries to make them into cross-country skiers by taking away their rifles! The horror! Joined by teammate Baiba Bendika can they find all the biathletes before it’s too late?

Biathlon23: “Simply magic!” Rating: 5 globes

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