The season is still over 4 months away but already there is trouble brewing over the World Cup schedule for the year. This season marks a return to racing in North America with World Cup 7 in Canmore, Canada and World Cup 8 in Presque Isle, USA. Great news for North American fans of biathlon but the decision hasn’t gone down quite as well with everyone.
Firstly we heard from World Cup holder Darya Domracheva who said she would be skipping the events to concentrate on the World Championships in Oslo. This basically means she won’t be defending her title and after having been recently diagnosed with mononucleosis she is unlikely to change her mind.
Next we heard from the three Top Norwegian men who are considering missing the two World Cup rounds to concentrate on their home World Championships. There is a two and a half week break between Presque Isle and Holmenkollen but it seems that this isn’t enough for them. Emil Hegle Svendsen wishes the races were in Europe and Tarjei Bø hates the way that it has been set up so there is a strong chance that they will remain at home. Johannes Thingnes Bø is of a similar opinion saying that not everyone is going to go to the North American rounds. With coach Egil Gjelland describing it as a “headache” the likelihood is that they won’t be the only ones thinking about their participation.
Do they have a point? Is the schedule a bad one? Well there was some discussion about putting the North American rounds at the start of the season so there has been concern about it for some time. This was deemed unworkable however as the first 2 stops in Oestersund and Hochfilzen can guarantee snow whether from the sky, storage or stolen from the mountains. It wouldn’t be great if everyone went to Canada at the start of the season and then the races were cancelled. There is also the matter of money. Quite a few of the smaller nations will probably not be able to afford to attend these rounds due to travel and accomodation costs and so holding them at the start would be a disadvantage to them.
In reality there is not another space on the calendar for these events. It’s not as if you could go there another year instead as the future World Championships are also in Europe. So what then is the point of going at all? Well there are many reasons. The Canadians and Americans have to come over to Europe and stay there for anything up to six months which incurs huge accommodation costs. They can’t go home for the weekend! If they are lucky they might get home over Christmas but then they have to suffer jet lag when they come back. They are also doing very well at the moment and deserve some home races.
Usually the World Cup goes to North America once every 4 or 5 years so it is only right and fair that they get the opportunity to grow the sport there by hosting events. Not to mention the great facilities and amazing scenery that they can boast. The IBU have also decided to put Canmore first because of the great access to Calgary airport with many flights from Europe and then Presque Isle second to make the return flight to Europe shorter. So they have tried really hard to make the transition back to Europe as easy as possible which in reality they didn’t have to do.
On the other hand you can understand some of the Norwegians concerns. It is a long journey and the different time zones not only between Europe and Canada but also between Canmore and Presque Isle mean it will be hard on the body clock. Their main worry of course is being in the best shape possible for the World Championships. It is not often you get to race those at home and let’s face it they do have very good chances of winning medals! However they might change their minds closer to the time if one of them is in with a chance of winning the Overall Title.
No one has officially pulled out of the race yet as it is far too early to do so. However if they do it will be a real shame for the North American spectators not to see such great biathletes racing. On the other hand it might increase the chances of the home biathletes like Nathan Smith, Rosanna Crawford, Tim Burke and Susan Dunklee winning or making the podium at their home races!!!
In an ideal world everyone would go to race in Canada and the US. I am afraid however that there will be some absences and the Norwegians are the likeliest to skip the rounds. They should be careful though because if they are not competing at the top level before the Championships they might not arrive in Holmenkollen in top race condition. I am sure Martin Fourcade, if he is fit and healthy, will be in North America and he could also go to Oslo and make Svendsen and the Bø brothers regret their decision. It would be nice if a Canadian or American wins a medal in Norway too just to show it can be done!! There is still a long time until we get to these races but I don’t think it will be last we hear of the Trans-Atlantic turmoil!
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