After many days of anticipation and then the opening ceremony, action finally got underway in the 2015 Biathlon World Championships in Kontiolahti. The first race took place on Thursday afternoon and saw 26 teams take part in the Mixed Relay.The conditions were really tough with warm temperatures making the snow wet and it looked like it was up to the biathletes knees!!!
The race got off to a great start with Fuyuko Suzuki taking the lead after 2 shoots for Japan. Veronika Vitkova took the Czech Republic into the lead however in the first exchange and it was then Soukalova and Domracheva who were in contention in the second leg. Domracheva handed over to Chepelin for Belarus and he managed to hold on to the lead in his leg to send Liadov out first for the final leg. Unfortunately for him he only had an 11 second lead and couldn’t hold off Moravec from the Czech Republic who came home first to win gold for his country. He was followed by Martin Fourcade who made up a lot of time to bring France home for silver and Tarjei Boe continued his brother Johannes’ good work by hanging on for bronze despite a penalty loop from Eckhoff. Belarus were fourth by an agonizing 4 seconds. The Finnish team put in a great display for the home crowd and were in with a podium shot going into leg 3. They ended in 9th which was a 7 place improvement on their start of 16th.
Saturday was the first single competition and we began as usual with the Sprint. It was tough conditions for the ladies and it was a hard race. France took gold with a fabulous performance from Marie Dorin Habert. A good time to get her first ever win! She gave birth to her daughter in September and then became a World Champion in March! Little Adele has a very inspirational mum! In second place came Poland’s Weronika Nowakowska-Zemniak. Another great performance and the only biathlete to shoot clean. Bronze medal went to the ever consistent Valj Semerenko who has had a fantastic season. There were 3 Polish ladies in the TOP 10 with Guzik in 5th and Gwizdon in 7th and 2 Germans with Dahlmeier in 4th and Hildebrand in 10th. The favourites for the race did not have such a good day however with Domracheva in 25th and Makarainen in 35th both missing 5 targets.
The Pursuit came on Sunday and had similar outcome to the Sprint. Marie Dorin Habert again skied herself to victory. She missed 3 shots but had enough time to win in front of Laura Dahlmeier by 15 seconds. Coming out of the range after the final shoot the Russian Ekaterina Shumilova was in third position after hitting 20/20. Heartbreakingly for her she fell on the downhill and Weronika Nowakowska swept past her to take her second medal of the Championships in bronze. Makarainen and Domracheva put up a better show finishing in 12th and 7th respectively.
The women had two days off to recover and it really did them the world of good as they produced one of the beat Individual races for a long time. Gabriela Soukalova set the pace and moved into first position with 1 miss. Dorothea Wierer put in a strong challenge also missing 1 and was 1.6 seconds behind Soukalova and went into second. Then came Kaisa Makarainen who put in the ski of her life in the last loop to make up for her 2 misses and just pipped Wierer to go into second, just 1.2 seconds behind Soukalova. She made up over 30 seconds from the range to the line which was absolutely remarkable. So we though that is our podium Soukalova, Makarainen and Wierer. Someone however had other ideas! Starting from bib number 93 and shooting clear Ekaterina Yurlova came through to win the race by 23 seconds. An outstanding performance by the Russian and her first ever win! What a race it was! You have to feel sorry for Wierer missing out on a medal by 0.4 seconds but it was also great to see Makarainen taking a medal at home.
From the Individual race we moved to the team race and the Women’s Relay. After a competitive start with a few changes of the lead it was on the third leg that the tables were turned in favour of one team. That team was Germany and Vanessa Hinz was fantastic shooting quickly and accurately when the others around her, The Czech Republic and Italy, missed. She gave Laura Dahlmeier a lead and she held on to it. It’s a strong young team from Germany and after a lot of criticism from their own country they did a great job. With Franziska Hildebrand and Franziska Preuss they could go on to win many more relays. In second was a valiant France adding another medal to Marie Dorin Habert’s haul! Justine Braisaz had a tough leg going on the penatly loop after her first shoot but stormed back to give the team a chance. With Anais Bescond and Enora Latuilliere they are also a team for the future. In bronze were Italy and they really deserved a medal as Dorothea Wierer, Karin Oberhofer, Nicole Gontier and Lisa Vittozzi have all had great seasons.
The final race for the Women was the Mass Start. It was a good one too with Valj Semerenko coming out on top with excellent shooting hitting 20/20 to win gold for the Ukraine. Behind her in silver came an ecstatic Franziska Preuss with her first solo medal and in third was Karin Oberhofer who ran out an exhausted Darya Domracheva for the bronze.
That’s all from Kontiolahti where the big surprise was that Domracheva failed to win a medal and Kaisa Makarainen only got 1. It just shows that competing for the Crystal Globe and trying to win World Championships is extremely difficult. It was really Marie Dorin Habert’s Championships winning 2 golds and a silver and a breakthrough moment for the young German girls. However we are not finished yet! It’s on to Khanty Mansiysk for the final World Cup round. There are globes yet to be won!
Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!