Imagine you are a young Norwegian biathlete. You turn up for a competition and who do you see – Ole Einar Bjorndalen, probably the best biathlete ever, then you turn around and there is Emil Hegle Svendsen, and who is that next to him, oh yes Lars Berger and there is Halvard Hanevold in the corner. That is exactly what Tarjei Bø saw when he debuted for the Norwegian team in 2009. No pressure then!
But you know that if Norway put you into that kind of situation they must have found something a bit special. And so it proved when it took him just over a year to win his first World Cup race and another year to win the overall title.
Tarjei Bø was born in Stryn on the 29th of July 1988. At the age of 24 he has already won 7 World Championship gold medals and 1 Olympic gold medal. He missed a lot of races last season due to a virus but came back to win gold in the World Championships in Nove Mesto in the mass start and in both relays. He went on to win the sprint and take second in the pursuit in his home race in Oslo. A remarkable achievement considering a lack of summer training and competing against others whose season was in full swing.
Tarjei is one of the top biathletes of his generation. He has the advantage of being from Norway which helps as I think the vast majority of the population are born on skis! It also provides great facilities like Holmenkollen and Lillehammer and has a great tradition of winter sports to inspire and motivate their athletes. On the other hand it brings a lot of pressure. Winter sports stars in Norway are treated basically like footballers in other countries. They appear on the back and front of newspapers and go on sports shows and talk shows. Then you have the added problem of keeping your place in the Norwegian team. There is a constant production line of great young biathletes and for Tarjei he even has to watch out for his younger brother Johannes trying to steal his place!
However he seems like the type of character who can handle this type of pressure pretty well. His bromance with teammate Emil Hegel Svendsen I imagine helps him a lot. Although they may seem like the comedy double act of biathlon I am sure having a teammate who has gone through all the same things you have is a great help. There are not a lot of people out there who understand the difficulties of being an elite athlete and having one as a roommate and friend can only be a good thing, even if he does occasionally post unflattering pictures of you on instagram.
Expectation will be high for next season. An Olympic year and probably one of the hardest world cup seasons ever, what are Tarjei’s prospects? He definitely has the ability to beat Svendsen and Fourcade over a single race. He has also proven in the past that he can win consistently over the course of a season and hopefully with an illness free summer of training he will be back to his very best. I just hope all the athletes stay fit and well all season so we can see some amazing races starting in November.
So might we see a few Chrystal globes and Olympic medals for Tarjei next season, you never know for sure but I for one am a Bøliever!