Well the World Cup is back in Slovenia and still there is no snow! Fortunately Pokljuka did a great job of the tracks and racing went ahead as normal. Well I say as normal but the first race, the Women’s Sprint, was far from normal. First Kaisa Makarainen missed four shots and finished 15th on what looked like a relatively easy shooting day. Gabriela Soukalova took full advantage and made up for a slow start to the season by shooting clear and winning by 18 seconds. Dorothea Wierer returned to the podium in second and probably the most consistent of the women so far this season Valj Semerenko came in third.
Further down the field there were some tremendous personal performances. Rosanna Crawford continued to creep closer to the podium by coming fourth. Olga Podchufarova made another TOP 5, 2 more Italians got into the TOP 10 with Nicole Gontier in 8th and Karin Oberhofer in 10th. Laura Dahlmeier came back from her summer injury to finish 9th, Mari Laukkanen beat Makarainen by coming in 11th and the two French girls Braisaz 14th and Latuilliere 20th continue to impress. Fuyuko Suzuki 12th and the USA’s Hanna Dreissigacker 17th posted their career best results. There were also 3 Austrians in the points and I could go on but I still have a lot to write about the other races!!!
It was the mens turn to race in the Sprint on Friday afternoon and Anton Shipulin kept up his great start to the season by winning in style. Another clear shoot and a strong ski meant he finished 12 seconds ahead of Austria’s Dominik Landertinger. In third was Svendsen whose shooting has been amazing so far but his skiing needs to catch up a little bit. His fellow Norwegians the brothers Bø also got into the TOP10 with Tarjei 7th and Johannes 10th. Two more Russians also hit the TOP 10 with Garanichev in 5th and Tsvetkov in 9th. France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet got his best result on the World Cup so far in 8th and Joel Sloof also achieved his in 46th qualifying his for the Pursuit for the second week in a row. Slovakia’s Martin Otcenas got in on the act too getting his best place finish in 21st.
The Pursuits took place on Friday and two great performances from Darya Domracheva and Emil Svendsen secured them the wins. They both shot well, Emil shooting 20/20 and Darya 19/20. Kaisa Makarainen tried her best to catch up to Dasha but she started too far back to be able to do it. Third was a great battle between Valj Semerenko and Dorothea Wierer which the Ukrainian won in a sprint for the line. In the men’s race there was no such action as Svendsen won with a comfortable margin and Shipulin took second well ahead of Martin Fourcade in third.
Further back in the field there were some great place gains for the likes of Canada’s Megan Heinicke who went from 41st to 14th and Russia’s Timofey Lapshin who started 45th and finished 6th! Also impressive were Johannes Kuehn(GER) 37th-13th, Martin Krcmar(CZE) 35th-15th, Simon Fourcade(FRA) 41st-20th and Sven Grossegger(AUT) 43rd-24th. In the women’s race there were a lot of big moves like Nadezhda Skardino(BLR) 22nd-6th, Daria Virolaynen 35th -9th, Krystyna Guzik(POL)48th-22nd, Nadzeya Pisareva(BLR) 42nd-27th,Juliya Dzyhma (UKR) 60th-34th and Natalya Burdyga(UKR) 53rd- 33rd! Two biathletes in the Men’s Pursuit also hit the deck pretty hard. Italy’s Dominik Windisch face planted his way across the line and Finland’s Olli Hiidensalo gave himself a nasty scrape and a concussion doing the same on the tracks.
On Sunday we were traeted to the first Mass Starts of the season. I was really looking forward to Kaisa vs. Dasha in a head to head race with no advantages for either. Unfortunately for Dasha and for us this ended after the first lap when she crashed into another athlete while exiting the penalty loop. She continued to the next shoot but had to use the spare rifle and missed four shots. Understandably she called it a day after that! This then left Kaisa to go on and win but it wasn’t easy. She had to chase down and pass the excellent Anais Bescond who was too tired to hold her off. More great shooting from Skardino saw her take third.
The men’s race was similarly unjust as this time Jean-Guillaume Beatrix got the bad luck. In a race to the finish with Shipulin and Fourcade the Russian skied over his basket on the end of the ski and tripped him. Then Fourcade broke his pole trying to avoid him and so Jean-Gui lost a chance to fight for the podium and probably the win. Shipulin took advantage of the accident and skied away from a slightly tired looking Fourcade to make it two wins and a second place for him! He loves Pokljuka! Simon Eder snapped up the chance to get third just pipping Fredrik Lindstrom on the line to get his first podium of the year.
Pokljuka provided some great racing this year and saw a lot of biathletes achieve their personal best performances. We head into the Christmas break with Kaisa and Martin still in yellow but with a lot to look forward to when we start again in Oberhof. If you suffer withdrawal symptoms over Christmas with no biathlon may I suggest you watch the replays of this weekend’s action. I am sure you will enjoy a bit of Pokljuka in SLO-motion!
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