Category Archives: Opinion

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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Season Preview 2017/18: Women

It’s almost time for the Women’s biathlon season to start. The first race is the Women’s Individual in Oestersund on the 29th of November. Last season was more or less a straight fight between Laura Dahlmeier and Gabriela Koukalova with Dahlmeier coming out on top winning the Overall Title for the first time.

It could be a similar situation this season but with the Olympics Games on the horizon the World Cup will not be the main focus for the majority of the biathletes. They will be concentrating on peaking for PyeongChang in February and we could even see some of them skipping World Cup races preferring to train for the Olympics.

It also means we could be losing a few of our favourites at the end of the season as the end of an Olympic cycle is a favoured time among sportspeople to retire.

Last season’s Total Scored ended like this:
1.Dahlmeier
2.Koukalova
3.Makarainen
4.Dorin Habert
5.Wierer
6.Braisaz
7.A.Chevalier
8.Dzhima
9.Hildebrand
10.Dunklee

Dahlmeier was impressive all year and crucially managed to stay fit and healthy for the entire season. She was a deserved winner of the big crystal globe and will start as favourite this season. However she didn’t have it easy.

At some points last season the top four were very close and Gabriela Koukalova pushed Dahlmeier the hardest. She is also a contender again this season but I fear she will be aiming solely for the Olympic medals and she has some health problems that could see her miss the first round in Sweden and possibly more.

It could be Kaisa Makarainen’s final season. She has spoken about retiring in the past and this may be the one she chooses to call it a day. Hopefully not but she also has a chance at the overall if she gets back some of her old consistency. Last season wasn’t her best but if she can sort out her shooting then it’s tough to beat her on the skis.

Marie Dorin Habert and Dorothea Wierer are very talented biathletes but I am not sure either can put together enough consistent performances to win the World Cup.

The French women’s team in particular had a great season with Justine Braisaz and Anais Chevalier also in the Top 10. They can’t win it yet but look for them to continue moving up the standings.

None of the other ladies have produced enough points scoring finishes over the whole season to win the overall but the likes of Yuliia Dzhima, Franziska Hildebrand and Susan Dunklee can certainly win races and take podiums when they are on form.

Outside the Top 10 we found Tiril Eckhoff and Marte Olsbu in 11th and 12th place. Eckhoff has been pretty disappointing since she won the Sprint gold at the Oslo World Championships. She has struggled to put together a good season but she is still young and can hopefully make the Top 10 this year.

I would expect improvement from Anais Bescond and now also Mari Laukkanen after her great end to last season. Selina Gasparin has shown glimpses of getting back to her best and we should look to see her moving up the rankings.

Franziska Preuss had a season disrupted by injury and she will also be in the mix for podiums if she returns on good form. The Italian women like Lisa Vittozzi and Alexia Runggaldier will also be hoping to build on their successful seasons last year.

There is of course a dark horse in the women’s side. A certain Darya Domracheva. She was 24th in the Total Score but missed a lot of the season after having her baby. If she regains her form from the Sochi Olympic year she will be a massive challenger to Dahlmeier and the others.

One nation that has had a terrible time lately is Russia. Their women’s team is not nearly as good as it has been and their top performer last season was Tatiana Akimova in 16th. They will be hoping to step up their game in this very important season.

One person who will be missing from the start line in Sweden is Teja Gregorin. The Slovenian has been suspended by the IBU after retesting of her samples from the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 came back as positive for a banned substance. A growth hormone was discovered in her blood and there will be a hearing at the end of this month to deal with it.

However we will concentrate on those who are racing and the action gets underway very soon. If this season is anything like last year on the women’s World Cup you will not want to miss a single race!

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