SLOVEnia is a LOVEly country. It has beautiful countryside, really nice people and one of my Top 3 desserts!(The amazing krema rezina of Bled is just behind cheesecake and pavlova!) It has also provided some really nice surprises in the biathlon competition this year.
Firstly in the Men’s Sprint on Thursday morning we saw Bjorn Ferry back on top of the podium after too long away from the top spots. He put in a great performance to beat Anton Shipulin and Arnd Peiffer. The real surprises came later in the day however in the Women’s Sprint. Austria’s Katherina Innerhofer shot clear and put in a great ski to win her first ever race and achieve her best result by miles. Her previous best finish was 22nd in the Ruhpolding Individual.In second place was the athlete who started second last in the race Daria Viloraynen of Russia who also got a career best finish in her first ever World Cup race. Nadezhda Skardina of Belarus took third making it her third appearance on the podium this season.
Beyond the ladies on the podium we saw personal bests for Finland’s Mari Laukkanen 9th, Norway’s Marte Olsbu 10th, Switzerland’s Irene Cadurisch 19th and Spain’s Victoria Padial 20th. It is so nice to see these girls doing so well. After all that excitement we moved on to the Pursuit races on Saturday.
The men started us off again and Anton Shipulin was sublime in his standing shoots to take the win.Bjorn Ferry came second and someone called Ole Einar Bjoerndalen came third. I have never heard of him before, have you? Ha ha of course you have and he celebrated his non-retirement by claiming yet another podium place. I certainly hope he can stay at this level until Oslo 2016 as I would hate to see his career fizzle out. Other displays of note came from Jakov Fak who went from 15th to 6th, Simon Eder 20th to 8th, Emil Svendsen 33rd to 20th and Simon Desthieux 52nd to 33rd.
For the women Kaisa Makarainen took the win followed by Tora Berger and a hugely impressive Dorothea Wierer in third. She has been having an amazing season and just seems to be getting better and better. Could she take a victory in the final races? I would love to see it but it’s not going to be easy. Great performances also came from most of the women who had a bad day at the office in the Sprint. Darya Domracheva moved from 28th to 4th, Andrea Henkel 25th to 6th,Selina Gasparin 33rd to 10th and Valj Semerenko 46th to 11th.
Finally on Sunday we had 2 Mass Starts which are always a great way to end the weekend. Bjorn Ferry shot clear and skied away from Martin Fourcade to win and Evgeny Ustyugov was impressive in third. Somewhat surprisingly Emil Svendsen missed a chance to get on the podium by missing in the final shoot. I hope this isn’t going to become a habit!!! Olympic champion Darya Domracheva won the women’s race in front of Makarainen and a quality race from Olga Zaitseva saw her fill the last spot on the podium.
So now it’s off to Finland and we start all over again on Thursday in Kontiolahti with a slightly strange program of 2 Sprints and a Pursuit. Pokljuka was as entertaining as ever and saw the return of wind to the range which we have been missing for a while. The racing was great and it is always good to see personal best performances and new people on the podium so all in all not only was it a lot of fun to watch but also quite surprising, Slovenia!
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