Well after a million pictures of the Holmenkollen jump on the biathletes social media pages and an equal amount of beautiful Oslo sunrises/sunsets we started the Women’s Individual race in a cloud of fog!!! That’s right the World Cup is back in Norway for the last round before the World Championships come along in March. Missing in the Oslo fog was most of the Norwegian men’s team with Svendsen and Tarjei Boe sick and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen choosing to skip the round!
Kaisa Makarainen got bib number 2 for the race and she crossed the line in first blowing away all the competition with 20/20 on the range and super fast skiing. It made the rest of the race a little predictable as you knew no one could beat her. Darya Domracheva missed one target which meant that she could only finish second and in by now what is becoming quite a familiar looking podium Veronika Vitkova was third. The conditions on the range were good when the fog cleared and so there was some excellent shooting from the field. Along with Makarainen there were another 9 scores on the range of 20/20 from Vitkova, Juliya Dzhyma, Iryna Varvynets, Megan Heinicke, Audrey Vaillancourt, Laura Dahlmeier, Monika Hojnisz, Jialin Tang and Emma Nilsson.
The men’s race turned out the same! Martin Fourcade stared in bib number 1 and won the race with clean shooting and so we knew no one could beat him! In second place was Evgeniy Garanichev and in third was Sergey Semenov who both also shot the perfect score. Jakov Fak skied the fastest of everyone but 2 missed shots meant he couldn’t challenge Fourcade for the win. He did come in fourth which was a great effort with 18/20. Seven men in all hit all the targets. Joining the TOP 3 were Benjamin Weger, Maxim Tsvetkov, Poland’s Lukasz Szczurek who set a personal best of 51st and Peppe Femling who achieved his personal best result of 21st.
There was a rest day on Friday and so the Sprints took place on Saturday. The women went first and Darya Domracheva did the perfect race to come home first. Laura Dahlmeier got her 4th podium in a row finishing in second ahead of Marie Dorin Habert who got her first podium of the season and is going in Kontiolahti in fantastic form. Kaisa Makarainen unfortunately missed 3 shots and could only finish 24th which means that Domracheva takes over the yellow bib and leads Makarainen by 10 points. The USA’s Hannah Dreissigacker got her PB in the race in 16th place as did the Ukraine’s Iana Bondar who was 14th.
In the men’s race Martin Fourcade thought he had another victory in the bag but he was beaten by 3 seconds by Germany’s Arnd Peiffer who won his first race since the 2011/12 season and relegated Fourcade into second. Less telemark landings off the bridge and more sprinting for the line Martin – lesson learned! It didn’t cost him any points in the overall as he finished ahead of Shipulin in third and Schempp who was 13th. Lars Helge Birkeland was the best of the home team coming in 5th and elsewhere there were personal bests for Switzerland’s Mario Dolder in 16th and Estonia’s Kalev Ermits in 20th.
The final day of competition on Sunday was for the relays. In the women’s race The Czech Republic won yet again and are red hot favourites for the World Championships. They are an impressive team and are solid on each leg with each women doing their very best for their country. Second was Italy who did a great job especially in legs 2 and 3 with the less experienced members of the team Gontier and Sanfilippo keeping them in touch with the leaders. France were third with top shooting in legs 3 and 4 as Varcin and Dorin Habert used no spares. Germany had the chance to win with Miriam Goessner doing a great job on leg 3 and showing fantastic mental strength on her standing shoot to hand over to Dahlmeier in second place. She couldn’t keep that position however and the Germans were 4th. The Estonian team had an exceptional race and used only 1 spare round between all four women and saw them take 12th place.
The men’s race gave us some fabulous entertainment where Shipulin and Schemmp treated us to yet another sprint finish! This time Shipulin won to give Russia the victory by 0.2 seconds. In third were an impressive Austrian team with Landertinger hitting good form in time for Kontiolahti. The Canadian team were 5th which is their best ever finish in a relay but home team Norway were a disappointing 9th missing a lot of big names.
So now all eyes turn to Finland for the World Championships and thoughts of yellow bibs and crystal globes are replaced by gold, silver and bronze medals. It has been a good round in Oslo with up and downs for many biathletes. There were a few surprises too with Peiffer winning, Kaisa losing the yellow bib and the Norwegian team not getting any podiums. If you had told me that last week I would have said in Oslo – NO(r)WAY!
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