Well the World Cup is back with a bang!(and I don’t just mean from the rifles!)No snow, fog and rain,tough tracks and a difficult range made Oberhof a great stop on the tour.Emil Hegle Svendsen and Darya Domracheva both decided that now was the time to show their form winning the Sprint and Pursuit races on Friday and Saturday. Svendsen was coming off the back of a strong shooting performance in the Schalke event over the Christmas break and it seems taking WC3 off in Annecy was a good move. In fact I think it’s his plan to also skip Anholtz. His shooting and skiing are looking really good and he seems fresher and sharper than Martin Fourcade at the moment.
His big competition in the first 2 races in fact came from Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. A strong skiing performance in the Sprint meant he only lost out on first place by 0.4 of a second and 2 costly missed shots in the last standing shoot in the Pursuit meant he missed another top spot which should have been his 94th World Cup win. You would think Svendsen might have given him the victory – he is after all Emil Skywalker to Ole Wan Kenobi – Ole having mentored and helped him as a youngster! How ungrateful!;-)
Martin Fourcade took 3rd in both those races but his shooting wasn’t as good as usual and a planned break from Ruhpolding is looking like a good decision. Elsewhere in the men’s races we saw exceptional stuff in the Sprint from Artem Pyrma from the Ukraine and Kauri Koiv from Estonia who finished 4th and 5th respectively both shooting clear and getting their best results ever. The foggy and rainy conditions may have helped them but they deserve huge credit for pulling off those results in such difficult circumstances. It was good to see Sweden’s Magnus Jonsson back in the Top 20 too.In the Pursuit Andrejs Rastorgujevs of Latvia stormed to an amazing 4th place finish from a start bib of 28 and has to be a serious contender for his first podium soon.
The women’s races were pretty similar as Domracheva won both and Makarainen came second. The only change was in third which was taken by a solid outing from Olena Pidhrushna in the Sprint and a fantastic display in the Pursuit saw Synnove Solemdal finish third from a start position of 21. Other movement of note came from Vilukhina 15th to 5th, Soukalova 26th to 12th and Ringen 22nd to 13th. The Sprint also produced some some impressive results for Evi Sachenbacher 7th,Novakowska 8th,Weirer 9th and the 2 French girls Marine Boilliet and Anais Chevalier finishing 12th and 14th.
Sunday saw the first mass start races of the season and a flashback to last season’s results as Martin Fourcade and Tora Berger both won. It’s great to see Tora getting her form back on the standing shoot and just in time too with the Olympics little over a month away. Solemdal made it a Norwegian 1-2 but almost lost out to Domracheva in a close finish. Alexey Volkov shot clear to finish second in the men’s race. His best ever result giving the Russian selectors a headache for Sochi. Tarjei Boe was third despite Simon Eder’s best efforts to knock him over. In fact both Boe and Fourcade could have careers in figure skating, after fine pirouettes to save falls, should they tire of biathlon.
So now it’s off to Ruhpolding which starts on Wednesday with the women’s relay. The crowds in Germany are amazing and the fans and officials in Oberhof deserve great credit for this week end considering the miserable conditions. There may have been No Sn-Oberhof but there was certainly some great racing!Good job everyone!
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