The weekend in Hochfilzen started with some biathletes voicing their concerns over climate change and it was a timely reminder that once again there is no snow in December! The races were held on limited tracks surrounded by grass and sunshine!
Still the races went ahead and first off were the Women in the Sprint. The race was dominated by the Germans which probably didn’t please their Austrian hosts very much! Franziska Hildebrand was fantastic getting her first ever win on the World Cup with some cool shooting on the range. In second was newcomer to the World Cup Maren Hammerschmidt. With a start bib of 106 she managed to push teammate Miriam Goessner into third. It’s really good to see Goessner looking back to her old self again. In fact overall the 6 Germans in the race all finished in the TOP 21. The Czech Republic’s Lucie Charvatova came 5th to get her personal best finish since changing to biathlon from cross country.
In the Men’s Sprint another German won and this time it was Simon Schempp recovering from a horrific Sprint race in Oestersund to stand on top of the podium. Second place went to Martin Fourcade with one miss denying him another victory. In third was Tarjei Boe who also looks back to his old form.
The Pursuits were held on Saturday and unsurprisingly a German won the Women’s race but this time it was a different one! Laura Dahlmeier was great on the shooting range and her third shoot is really what made the difference on the day. Maren Hammerschmidt held on to second place and in third was yellow bib wearer Gabriela Soukalova. It was a disappointing weekend for Kaisa Makarainen who was 28th in the Sprint and 23rd in the Pursuit.
For the men Martin Fourcade was outstanding on his final shoot hitting five targets so quickly that the others didn’t stand a chance, even if he tried his best to finish the race after 3 shoots! Schempp hung on for second and Anton Shipulin made his first visit of the season to the podium in third.
Other impressive displays in the Pursuit races came from Tiril Eckhoff who went from 30th to 5th, Weronika Nowakowska 41st to 26th, Teja Gregorin 44th to 27th, Elisabeth Hoegberg 59th to 17th, Benjamin Weger 40th to 24th, and Erik Lesser 43rd to 25th.
The Relays came on Sunday and provided some great racing. Both the Men’s and Women’s races were much more competitive than the Mixed Relay in Oestersund and more entertaining to watch. The Women went first and history was created as the Italian Team of Karin Oberhofer, Federica Sanfilippo, Lisa Vittozzi and Dorothea Wierer won their first ever Relay. It was a close battle with the Germans in second but Wierer beat Franziska Preuss on the last leg by only 0.2 of a second. The Ukrainian Team were third with Olena Pidhrushna fighting off Poland, Belarus and France to take the last podium position.
The Men’s race was equally exciting as Russia took victory over Norway by 3.1 seconds. It all came down to the last lap were Anton Shipulin came from behind to beat Emil Hegle Svendsen. Martin Fourcade brought the French Team home in third. This meant that over the 2 Relays there were 6 different nationalities on the podiums which is great for the sport.
Now attention turns to Pokljuka for the final World Cup round before the Christmas break. Martin Fourcade and Gabriela Soukalova continue in the yellow bibs but there are more and more people determined to chase them down. A Sprint, Pursuit and the first Mass Start of the season await us in Slovenia!
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