Well the start of the season is not far away now so it’s time to look at the main contenders for the Overall title. There is of course one outstanding candidate – Martin Fourcade. He is aiming to win the title for the fourth year in a row and continue to stamp his dominance on male biathlon. Normally I would say that no one can beat him but this time round there may just be a few chinks in his armour that might give someone else the opportunity to win the Total Score.
Two reasons leap out as to why Martin may find his title more difficult than normal to defend. The first is his bout of mononucleosis or glandular fever as it’s more commonly known. He had to scale back his training in the summer and this is bound to affect his fitness. It will probably catch up to him around mid-season as I expect him to make his usual good start in Oestersund. He will also find it hard going as he is considering competing in Falun in the cross country World Championships and so he might do some races on the FIS calendar to prepare for this. So an extra work load along with his summer illness just opens a crack in the door that might be big enough for one of the other guys to sneak through and take victory.
Ah a chance then for Emil Svendsen to regain the title he won for the only time in 2009/10 and put an end to his 4 second places in a row! Well maybe but reports out of Norway suggest that Svendsen is struggling for motivation after last year’s Olympics and is considering his retirement before the next Games in 2018. He definitely has the talent and experience to win but does he have the mental fortitude and motivation to do it. Well only he can answer that.
I am really looking forward to seeing what young Johannes Bø has got to offer this season. He was remarkable last year and a real breath of fresh air on the World Cup and with his confidence and fast shooting he is great to watch. He finished third last time, a long way behind Fourcade but only 5 points behind Svendsen who was second. He got five wins in the previous season and I can see him exceeding that this year and it will put him in a great position to win. I hope his big brother Tarjei can also return to his old form which saw him win the Overall title in 2010/11. There is nothing like a bit of “friendly” inter-family competition!!!
Three top Norwegians there for Fourcade to contend with but he better watch his back for the Austrians as well. Fourth and fifth in the Total Score last year were Dominik Landertinger and Simon Eder. Both of them are good enough to win and have a lot of experience. If either of them can put together a really consistent season they will be in with a chance. They have to start taking podiums from the beginning though to be able to challenge for the top spot. Austria’s neighbours also boast a couple of potential winners. Germany had Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp in the Top 10 last season and it’s about time we had another German winner of the big Crystal Globe. Peiffer did well to come back from an abysmal season two years ago and Schempp has finally got the victories his talent had promised.
Russia have Anton Shipulin to look to for victory. Like the others he can be great on his day but has been lacking the consistency to really push for overall glory. There are also many other top male biathletes who can take points off the top guys and make their chances of winning really difficult. Jakov Fak, Lukas Hofer, Ondrej Moravec, Jean-Guillaume Beatrix, Tim Burke and Freddie Lindstrom are all capable of winning races and taking podiums and will hopefully get more involved in the Total Score, if not right at the top then at least to shake up the TOP 5.
Watch out this year for Nathan Smith, Andrejs Rastorgujevs and Simon Desthieux to start mixing with the top men for podiums and victories. Have I forgotten anyone? Oh yes there is a guy called Ole Einar Bjørndalen that you may have heard of. I hear he is quite good at biathlon! Keep an eye out for him and his fancy new ski poles! He was meant to retire last season along with Bjorn Ferry, Carl Johan Bergman and Cristoph Sumann but changed his mind after Sochi. Quite right too! There are still wins left in the old legs yet!
It will be an intriguing season for the men to see if any of them can beat Fourcade to the title although possibly not as unpredictable and exciting as the women’s side. However I look forward to seeing how Martin copes with the aftermath of his illness and his possible extra commitments in cross county. We will just have to watch and see what happens with so many great men Gunning for Glory!!!
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