Category Archives: Opinion

Spring Things 2019!

It’s summer! Not a biathlon fans favourite season is it? But it means there is only autumn between now and winter! Before the biathlon23 summer season of interviews starts it’s time to remind you what things happened in spring. That’s right -it’s Spring Things!!!

Retirements:

Well we all got a shock in May when Laura Dahlmeier announced her retirement at the age of 25! (How dare she!!) It was pretty well known that she wouldn’t be a Bjoerndalen and carry on forever but we thought we could get another Olympics out of her at least! Gabriela Koukalova who hasn’t raced for 2 seasons confirmed that she won’t be coming back and so is another biathlon pensioner!

Other retirements in spring included Henrik L’Abee Lund who joins Bjoerndalen and Svendsen in putting his feet up on the Norwegian sofa. Canada’s Erin Yungblut also ended her career as did Finland’s Laura Toivanen.

Relationships:

It was a spring of weddings this year with Eva Puskarcikova tying the knot. Russian pair Nikita Porshnev and Anastasiia Morozova also got married to each other. Monika Hojnisz married another Polish nordic star cross-country skier Maciej Starega.

Anais Chevalier will miss the season after she announced that she is pregnant with her first child. Congratulations to all of them!

In tragic news young Russian biathlete Artemii Khasankaev passed away.

Coaching carousel:

As usual we had the annual swapping of biathlon coaches. Sometimes I think they just put all the names in a hat and then the countries pick them out like a raffle!

Michael Greis left the US men’s team and is now coaching the Polish women’s team after Nadiya Bilova stepped down for health reasons. Norwegian Vegard Bitnes takes over the US men’s team.

Also in North America Mathias Ahrens is no longer coaching the Canadian national team but will coach for Biathlon Alberta.

Wolfgang Pichler retired from Sweden and was replaced by Anders Byström who will be the National Team Manager and Johannes Lukas who takes over the position of National Team Coach.

Russia have added another coach with the appointment of Maxim Maksimov as assistant to the head coach.

Simon Fourcade is the new coach of the French Junior team.

And if you have followed all that you deserve a medal! Not an Olympic one of course maybe just a bronze from a World Cup round! 😉

Injuries:

The bike strikes again this time with Erik Lesser falling off and breaking his collarbone. Vetle Christiansen had surgery to correct an issue with his left knee. Anna Magnusson also had an operation on a ligament in her left hand. Tiril Eckhoff had a rollerski accident ending with an enormous lump on her hip.

Other things of spring:

Martin Fourcade announced that he will be hosting a nordic festival over the weekend of the 31st of August in Annecy. He has ingeniously called it the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival! How did he come up with that! 😉
Most of the big stars in biathlon will be there including Johannes Boe! Imagine if he beats Fourcade in his own competition!!!

Kaisa Makarainen, Liza Vittozzi and Dorothea Wierer will be competing along with many of the French biathletes amongst others.

We also had the excitement of the Giro d’Italia finishing a stage in the Antholz biathlon arena watched on by all the Italian biathletes. It was nice to see but we don’t really want to encourage other sports that are not as good as biathlon, do we!

Dorothea Wierer also put in an appearance at the Moto GP race in Mugello getting a photo with some guy called Marquez. Better still she also got a photo with Herbert Cool the former Dutch biathlete and now biathlon commentator who is moonlighting at the Moto GP in the summer!

The IBU announced a few changes with prize money now being awarded to the top 20 finishers instead of the top 15. Why stop there? Shouldn’t it be the Top 40 – if you get a point, you get a prize!

They have also introduced a “season opening” to open the 2020/21 season in Kontiolahti. (They get their naming ideas from Martin Fourcade!) I think this is basically just an extra World Cup round that they can’t call World Cup 1 as Oestersund was already given the title!

The IBU also held a gender equality conference in Poland which is an excellent initiative. Biathlon is one of the most gender equal sports when it comes to the athletes but has a long way to go with a lack of female coaches and women in leadership positions.

Last but certainly not least the IPC have announced that Para-biathlon will have it’s own World Championship this season for the first time! They will take place in Oestersund from the 11th to 15th March 2020 without a cross-country skier in sight!!!
(Up until now cross-country and biathlon have had combined World Championships.)

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Season 2018/19: Women’s Preview!

Three points! That’s all that separated the top two women in the Overall last season. It went down to the very last race at the final World Cup. In stark contrast to the Men’s Title no one knows who will win the Women’s Overall Title.

Kaisa Makarainen was victorious last season and she is probably just the favourite for this year but really it could go to any one of three.

Anastasiya Kuzmina was unlucky missing out on what would have been her first ever Overall victory. She had an astonishingly consistent season which hasn’t happened for her before and to lose out on the big crystal globe in her home town of Tyumen must have been heartbreaking. She decided to race again this year to try and win the one thing that has eluded her so far in biathlon.

Challenging both of these women will be Laura Dahlmeier. She had a fantastic Olympic Games but wasn’t as good as usual on the World Cup. She finished third, 92 points behind Makarainen but won’t have the big distraction of the Olympics this time around. She has already won the Overall and so knows exactly what it takes to do it. She still suffers with illness during the season however and that could make the difference between winning and losing in the Total Score. She even had to take a break this pre-season from training in October due to ill health so hasn’t had the ideal preparation.

There are other biathletes who will feature in the Top 5 or 10 of course but none of them have yet showed they have what it takes to win the World Cup. The Italians Lisa Vittozzi and Dorothea Wierer are always strong and are fantastic shots but lack the consistency for the Overall Title. Tiril Eckhoff is a great biathlete but you never know what you are going to get with her. One day she is outstanding, the next she disappears. Justine Braisaz and Anais Bescond both had good seasons in 2017/18 but the French duo are also a bit hit and miss.

The Women’s Relays will be very interesting this season. Last year the dominance of the German Team was ended with France and Belarus both taking victories. However both of those teams will be missing big guns, Dorin Habert, Domracheva and Skardino, so hopefully other teams like Italy, Ukraine and the Czech Republic will threaten the Germans.

It will also be fun to see who comes out on top in the Mixed Relays. There were three races last season and three different winners; France, Norway and Italy. This could be a really exciting event with quite a lot of strong teams around.

The season starts on the 2nd of December in Pokljuka with the Single and Mixed Relays. The programme also includes the Individual, Sprint and Pursuit races. We then head to Hochfilzen and Nove Mesto will take us up to Christmas! What an awesome present! 🙂

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Season 2018/19: Men’s Preview!

Thanks to Martin Fourcade winning 7 Overall Titles in a row my trusty thesaurus and I have run out of words to describe him. Although one we could use is predictable. Let’s face it he is going to win the Overall again this year unless some outside force like illness or injury stop him. I can’t see it being a fellow biathlete that will halt his progress.

Johannes Thingnes Boe will try to beat him but he has had a bit of a topsy turvy summer. He got married, he admitted to not being in the best shape and he was also ill for a while and had a back problem. Not the best preparation to take on the titan that is Fourcade!

It would be nice if his big brother Tarjei could get back to the form he showed when he won the Overall all those years ago. Years of illness have set him back a lot though and he doesn’t seem to have the consistency to get back to the very top.

The Germans are always in and around the Top 5 come the end of the season. However although Simon Schempp and Arnd Peiffer get a lot of Top 10 and Top 6 finishes they don’t gather enough podiums to challenge for the title.

Anton Shipulin usually finishes third in the Total Score but this summer has suffered from mononucleosis and only confirmed that he would continue racing in biathlon at the start of October. Not a recipe for success.

Lukas Hofer finished fifth last season in the Overall and maybe he could move up a place or two this year and grab a Top 3 but he is not likely to win the big crystal globe.

The Swedes had a great season with their Olympic success and you might think Sebastian Samuelsson or Freddie Lindstrom could mount a serious challenge. They wont! They have a home World Championships in Oestersund and will be looking to repeat their Olympic preparation plan to bring them medals come March. That means their main focus will not be the World Cups.

Where there might be a bit of excitement on the men’s side is with the Relays. Last season we only had 2 different winners; Norway and Sweden. However the Norwegians have lost Bjoerndalen and Svendsen to retirement and there are a lot of strong teams who can get in the mix like Germany, France, Austria and Russia.

There were only two races in the Single Mixed Relay last season and they were won by Austria and France. This is a great format for the Austrians with two great shooters in Simon Eder and Lisa Hauser. It all depends on who is racing however so there are a lot of teams who could win this season.

The first round of the World Cup begins in Pokljuka this season. Be careful not to go to Oestersund by mistake! We get underway with the Single Mixed and the Mixed Relays on the 2nd of December!
FINALLY!!! 🙂

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I(BU) got new rules, I count’em!

New things are happening in biathlon this season. They had one of those congress things back in September and the powers that be have made some changes. Even though in general we fear change, some of these aren’t so scary!

Firstly they have introduced a new event! OK so it’s not exactly new it’s just a bigger Mass Start. It means there will be 60 starters instead of 30. That’s madness I hear you cry – they will never all fit on the range! And you would be right but actually they don’t have to.

There is a sneaky way around this problem and it’s this – everyone skis the first lap together with the inevitable falls and pole breakages, but then only the first 30 stop to shoot and the second 30 keep skiing. At the end of the second lap the second 30 stop to shoot and the first 30 continue to ski. If all goes to plan most of the biathletes will have missed targets and we won’t have 60 biathletes descending on shoot two altogether! After the first two shoots are over (basically everyone’s first prone) then the race continues like a normal one and they all shoot the other prone and two stands together. Or more simply:

Bib 1-30 = lap-shoot1-lap-lap-shoot2-lap-shoot3-lap-shoot4-lap.
Bib 31-60 = lap-lap-shoot1-lap-shoot2-lap-shoot3-lap-shoot4-lap.

This will only be held on the IBU Cup this season and only in Martell at the final round. It won’t be replacing the 30 person mass start ….yet! Also it will be formally known at the Massive Start – well by biathlon23 anyway! 😉

The IBU have also made a small change to the Individual. If the conditions are bad, like rubbish weather or rubbish snow, they will have the option of shortening the races. For the men it will be 15km instead of 20km and the penalty for a miss will be 45 seconds instead of a minute. For the women it will be 12.5km and a 45 second penalty. This will make the person with the calculator at the side of the tracks job much harder when trying to work out the times! 😉

There are a few rule changes too. It seems that someone high up must read my blog as one of my Big Biathlon questions has been answered already. In the Mixed and Single Mixed Relay there is now the option of the men starting first instead of the women always starting on leg 1.

Weirdly the Juniors have all got older! The Juniors will have their own Nations Cup this season and you can be a Junior and a Youth for a year longer which means Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Samuelsson can still be a Junior. Get him on the Junior Cup Sweden!

Electronic targets are now allowed at IBU events. So exciting! 😉

Finally there has been some changes to the start quotas and wild cards for the World Cups, one of which I don’t really understand but here goes…

The Total Score winners from the IBU Cup will now get a start at the first round of the World Cup in the next season. The best Junior athletes at the Junior World Championships will get a start in the IBU World Cup finals in the same season.

The Top 8 athletes on the IBU qualifying points list who are not from a country that already has a World Cup quota will get a National Federation wildcard. A maximum of two wildcards per federation can be given in a single trimester. Got that? Yep, me neither!

Oh and they appointed a new President, Olle Dahlin from Sweden. But seeing as I was overlooked yet again it is not of interest to me!!! 😉

P.S Thanks to Dua Lipa for inspiring the title! 😉

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My Big Biathlon Questions!

I have been thinking, which is both unusual and dangerous! I have come up with some questions about biathlon mainly because certain people have failed to respond to their biathlon23 interview request so I had to write something!

How will the Olympic quotas change for Beijing 2022?

You may have heard that the IOC are cutting 20 places from biathlon at the Olympics. This is supposed to be a cost cutting exercise to reduce the money spent by host cities. It will save about 10 pence! The big costs of hosting the Olympics is paying for new infrastructure like stadiums, venues and road and rail transport. Surely they should be increasing the number of athletes not decreasing it.

They are keen to increase gender equality which is a good thing but biathlon is probably one of the most gender equal sports with the same amount of races for men and women and a mixed event. So that makes no sense either!

Unfortunately for them it now falls to the IBU to decide where the cuts will have to be made. I don’t think it will be China that loses any athletes as they are the host nation. Will they cut biathletes from the top ranked nations like Norway, Germany and France? Will they cut biathletes from the smaller nations who only send one or two competitors like Great Britain?

My guess is the axe will probably fall in the middle somewhere. Who knows? I am glad I don’t have to decide.

Why did the IOC reject the Single Mixed Relay as a new Olympic event?

The IOC has approved new Mixed events in freestyle skiing, ski jumping, skating and snowboarding to promote gender balance in the Games. However they rejected the Single Mixed Relay. This is rubbish! It means the small nations will not get a chance to race in a Relay at all. It is an exciting race and shorter than the Mixed Relay and is good for TV.

I mean why do they even have other sports in the Olympics anyway. It should be a biathlon only event! ( Well I may also allow curling!) 😉

Why is the skiing distance different for men and women?

I am sure the eagle eyed among you have noticed that the male biathletes ski further than the women in every race. For example in the Sprint the men do 10km while the women do 7.5km. I have never understood this. The women can ski as far as the men. Sure it might take them longer but they are not racing each other. The women race the women so why the shorter distance? I imagine it’s because in olden times the poor ladies were not deemed strong enough to ski so far!!! In athletics everyone runs 10km or 5km, there is no difference. The men and women receive equal prize money so surely they should ski the same distances! It could either mean shortening the men’s races or lengthening the women’s races but it’s something to think about.

Why are the Mixed Relays always women first and then the men?

Again why do we have woman, woman, man, man (WWMM) in the Mixed Relay and woman, man (WM) in the Single Mixed? Why can’t the men start for a change? Or why don’t we have WMWM or MWMW or even MMWW? And like before why do they have to ski different distances?
In swimming they have Mixed Relays and each team selects when the men or the women race so you have situations where the men and women are racing each other. It’s really exciting and interesting. Imagine we could have Laura Dahlmeier racing Martin Fourcade! The differences would balance out as everyone has to race two men and two women but the teams decide the order independently of each other. Just think Johannes Boe versus Kaisa Makarainen!

I told you it was dangerous when I think! Feel free to agree or disagree but keep it nice please! And if you have any burning biathlon questions throw them out there too! 🙂

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Season Review 2017/18: Women

Well the women have done it again! Providing some of the best racing of the season and taking the Overall Title down to the very last race! Amazing!

Victory in the end went to Kaisa Makarainen after a quite astonishing final race in Tyumen. It came down to a head to head between herself and Anastasiya Kuzmina in the Mass Start. They were together after the final shoot but Kaisa was stronger on the tracks eventually finishing 6th and taking the title by just 3 points. It is Kaisa’s third overall title and definitely the hardest!

It was also a fantastic season for Anastasiya Kuzmina. Her best ever. She won 5 World Cup races and also a gold medal in the Olympic Mass Start race. She also won the small crystal globes for the Sprint and Pursuit and was second overall on the World Cup.

Nadezhda Skardino won the Individual title taking her first crystal globe. Kaisa Makarainen won the small globe for the Mass Start to add to the big one.

Darya Domracheva finished the season in third place in the Overall after a great season winning 6 races on the World Cup. Last year’s champion Laura Dahlmeier had to settle for fourth. Dorothea Wierer finished fifth overall and young teammate Lisa Vittozzi was in sixth with 3 podium finishes to her name.

Other women who won races this season were of course Skardino, Denise Hermann, Justine Braisaz, Dorothea Wierer, Tiril Eckhoff and Vanessa Hinz.

At the Olympic Games Laura Dahlmeier won the Sprint and the Pursuit gold medals. Hanna Oberg surprised everyone with a magnificent performance to win the Individual and Kuzmina took gold in the Mass Start. The Women’s Relay went to Belarus with Domracheva, Skardino, Dzinara Alimbekava and Iryna Kryuko. The Mixed Relay gold went to the French team of Marie Dorin Habert, Anais Bescond, Simon Desthieux and Martin Fourcade.

The title of Rookie of the Year was won by Russia’s Svetlana Mironova with her highlights being a 9th place in the Hochfilzen Sprint, 18th in the Tyumen Sprint and 24th in the Tyumen Pursuit.

There were two victories each in the Relays for Germany and France but the Germans won the Relay title overall. France were second and Italy third.

The nations cup also went to the German team.

The Mixed Relay title was won by Italy with Wierer and Vittozzi in the team alongside Lukas Hofer and Dominik Windisch.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Marie Dorin Habert, Julia Ransom, Weronika Nowakowska and Hilde Fenne who have all decided to end their biathlon careers.

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Season Review 2017/18: Men

Finally we got a World Cup season where the Overall Title went to the final round! Thank you Johannes Thingnes Boe! Obviously it wasn’t enough to stop Martin Fourcade winning his seventh Total Score in a row but it created a lot more excitement for the fans.

Mr. Fourcade also won the small crystal globes for the Sprint, Pursuit and Mass Start and shared the Individual with Johannes. The Frenchman is incredible. He almost finished on the podium in every single World Cup race he started just missing the final one in Tyumen. How he can achieve such a level of consistency in this sport is beyond belief. Biathlon is one of the hardest sports in the world and he makes it look easy.

I do have a suspicion that he is actually a machine. Something like that one from Terminator 2 that used to turn into a silver puddle and then reform again. WADA should be checking for that! 😉

Johannes Boe did have a great season even though he couldn’t topple Fourcade. He had a few races where he seemed to get his pacing wrong going too fast on the first loop and letting it affect his shooting. He also played around with his shooting style too which lost him points along the way. He is still young though and he will learn and improve meaning next season could be amazing!

Third place in the Overall went to Anton Shipulin. It was a tough season for the Russian with all the things going on off the track and not being able to compete at the Olympics. He showed however that on his day he is a still a match for anyone.

Arnd Peiffer was the top German finishing fourth overall, Lukas Hofer had a great end to the season and finished fifth with Jakov Fak coming sixth.

There were only another five guys who managed to win a race this season. Tarjei Boe, Anton Shipulin, Julian Eberhard all took victories and Henrik L’Abee Lund and Maxim Tsvetkov won their first ever World Cup races.

There were some big improvements on the men’s side this season too. Antonin Guigonnat especially made a huge leap from someone who was drifting between the IBU Cup and the World Cup to a podium finisher. He got two third places and was 20th overall this season.

Fellow Frenchman Simon Desthieux had a solid season finally getting his first podium and was 8th overall. Andrejs Rastorgujevs has improved his shooting dramatically. It led to his second World Cup podium finish and 13th place overall. His first win won’t be far away.

The Olympic gold medals went to Arnd Peiffer in the Sprint, Johannes Boe in the Individual and Fourcade took the Pursuit and the Mass Start titles. Sebastian Samuelsson also had a great Olympic Games taking a silver medal in the Pursuit and gold in the relay. If he continues like this he will be a thorn in Martin’s side next season!

The men’s relay went to a stunning performance by the Swedish team that included Samuelsson as well as Peppe Femling, Jesper Nelin and Freddie Lindstroem.

The Rookie of the Year also went to France and Emilien Jacquelin. It was well deserved after his performances in Antholz particularly, finishing 5th in the Sprint and 6th in the Pursuit. He also got a spot on the French Olympic team which is very hard to do!

Norway won the Relay World Cup. Sweden were second and France third. The Norwegians also took the Nations Cup title.

The fun surprise of the season came from the Belgian relay team. Michael Roesch, Florent Claude, Thierry Langer and Tom Lahaye-Goffart provided a lot of excitement leading a couple of races and doing really well for a new team.

The sad part of the season came with the announcements of biathletes deciding to end their careers. Jean Guillaume Beatrix, Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke and Jaroslav Soukup have all hung up their rifles for good and we wish them well for the future. They will be missed.

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