Category Archives: Opinion

Season Preview 2019/20: The Women!

The women’s World Cup is the best, isn’t it?! Year after year it has been producing the best racing and the closest title fights of any sport around. The last two seasons have both gone down to the final races and this season could well be the same.

Maybe the fact that it is so tough is why our ladies keep retiring! This year we will be without Anastasiya Kuzmina and Laura Dahlmeier who leave a big gap in the field. Luckily there are plenty of people to fill it!

Last year it was Dorothea Wierer who came out on top of an epic battle with fellow Italian Liza Vittozzi. Vittozzi faded at the end of last season but that experience will have made her stronger and more dangerous this time around. This season seems to be on course for another Italian head to head but for one thing – the World Championships! They are being held in Antholz and of course both women would dearly love to do well there. It could take their focus off the big crystal globe and on to home gold medals.

Looking to take advantage of this will be Marte Olsbu Roeiseland. Since adding a new surname she has gone from strength to strength having the best season of her career last year. She finished in fourth place but only 69 points behind the winner.

Hanna Oberg and Paulina Fialkova were fifth and sixth and will also be hoping to move up the ranking although they lack the consistency of the Italians for now. A good season for Fialkova would be taking her first World Cup win.

Obviously we have to mention Kaisa Makarainen. A three time champion she has the experience and the skiing ability to win the overall once more but she wasn’t at her best last season finishing seventh. Denise Herrmann is the surprise package. We knew she could ski fast but she has picked up the shooting very quickly and is a fierce competitor. Whether she can put it together over the course of an entire season remains to be seen.

There is a lot of talent in the women’s side just now so here are some biathletes to look out for as potential first time race winners or podium finishers.

Ingrid Tandrevold got two second places last season including a silver medal at the World Championships so could this be the year she makes it into first place? Monika Hojnisz’s best finish is a second place and she also came 4th twice so could she improve to get her first taste of victory? She married in the summer and is now Monika Hojnisz-Starega so maybe she can emulate Marte Olsbu by having extra surname success! Clare Egan had the season of her life last year getting her first podium finish in the Mass Start in Oslo and three top ten finishes in total. Hopefully she can make it to the top of the podium this year.

Looking to get on any step of the podium this season will be Mona Brorsson. She was so close to winning a gold medal in Oestersund at the World Championships and hopefully she now knows it is possible if she executes a race perfectly. Celia Aymonier was close to a first podium last season coming 4th in the Oslo Sprint. She has a home World Cup in Annecy to look forward too and it would be a great place to break into the top three. Lena Haecki achieved two fifth place finished last season so she is not far from claiming a podium either.

However as we know with the Women’s World Cup anything could happen and anyone could win or get a podium! That’s why it is so exciting.

The ladies start the season on the 1st of December with the Sprint race in Oestersund. The World Cup opens on the 30th of November with the single and mixed relays.

Follow biathlon23 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Season Preview 2019/20: The Men!

The light bulbs in the floodlights have all been replaced in Oestersund, the fog machines have been serviced in Oberhof (you didn’t think that was real fog ,did you?) and the Kontiolahti Wall has been made a little bit steeper. All of which can only mean one thing – the biathlon season is about to start!

The schedule is a little different this year with Oestersund, Hochfilzen and Annecy before Christmas. Then comes Oberhof, Ruhpolding and Pokljuka. The World Championships are in Antholz and then we have three more World Cup rounds in Nove Mesto, Kontiolahti and Oslo.

The big question on everyone’s mind on the men’s World Cup is which Martin Fourcade is going to show up in Sweden? Will it be 7 times champion Martin Fourcade or 2018/19 Martin Fourcade? Fingers crossed it’s the former. It’s about time we had a proper head to head clash on the men’s World Cup.

Last season was fantastic for Johannes Boe. He won the big crystal globe with 1262 points which was 408 points ahead of his closest challenger Alexander Loginov and almost double the tally of Fourcade. Fourcade had many issues last year but he still had a great season by “normal biathlete” standards. However he is not a normal biathlete as we know and if he comes back with his old form we could have a battle between himself and Boe the likes of which we haven’t seen since Troy.

Of course there is an “Achillies Heel”! Johannes Boe is set to become a father for the first time in January. Obviously baby Boe has priority so it could mean him missing some races which could impact a close title fight. And there is Trojan Horse of injury and illness that could sneak up unexpectedly!

Won’t there be any other challengers for the title I hear you ask? No, probably not! There are many biathletes who ski as fast as Boe and Fourcade and many who shoot as well as them too. However there are none who can do both on such a consistent basis as our two favourites.

It is shaping up to be a fight between Norway and France not just via Boe and Fourcade but also with the rest of the guys too. Last season Quentin Fillon Maillet was excellent and finished third overall and Simon Desthieux was fourth. Tarjei Boe was sixth and Vetle Christiansen took a big step forward winning his first World Cup race. Antonin Guigonnat had a great season and Erlend Bjoentegaard will be looking to impress. So the relays could get very exciting as well as the individual races.

Who else should we be looking out for to do well this season? Who could taste victory for the first time and who could make the jump up onto the podium?

There is always a lot of attention on Sebastian Samuelsson after his Olympic successes but he is yet to win a race. I think people forget that he is still a biathlon “baby” aged just 22. He got his first World Cup podium last season and it would be great to see him make the jump up to the top step.

Johannes Keuhn had a great start last season getting a second place in the first race. However he faded a bit after the initial glory but it could be his chance this time to take a maiden victory.

Remember Michal Krcmar? He disappeared last season along with the rest of the Czech men’s team. The year before though he excelled so if he can get that old form back a win could be his for the first time. And let’s face it his rifle deserves a victory!

A surprise winner at the World Championships, it would be good to see Dmytro Pidruchnyi bring that confidence and attitude with him on to the World Cup this season and hopefully gets some more wins under his belt.

Johannes Dale is one to watch for possible podiums this season. He did really well debuting on the World Cup last year and has the ski speed to get among the top finishers. It would also be good to see Sean Doherty live up to the potential he showed as a Junior. 10th is his personal best so far but after joining the army this summer maybe a bit if discipline and a good haircut can propel him up the field! Attention!

Tero Seppala didn’t have the best season in 2018/19 but he had good results the year before so hopefully he can also take a step forward. Christian Gow had a fantastic season with two Top 10 finishes and he could be a good bet to grab Canada a podium this time round.

The men’s season for the Overall Title begins with the Sprint race in Oestersund on the 1st of December. The World Cup opens on the 30th of November with the single and mixed relays.

Follow biathlon23 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

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.)

Follow biathlon23 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

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! 🙂

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

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!!! 🙂

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

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! 😉

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

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! 🙂

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!