World Champs 2015 Review: Women

dorin wc

After many days of anticipation and then the opening ceremony, action finally got underway in the 2015 Biathlon World Championships in Kontiolahti. The first race took place on Thursday afternoon and saw 26 teams take part in the Mixed Relay.The conditions were really tough with warm temperatures making the snow wet and it looked like it was up to the biathletes knees!!!

The race got off to a great start with Fuyuko Suzuki taking the lead after 2 shoots for Japan. Veronika Vitkova took the Czech Republic into the lead however in the first exchange and it was then Soukalova and Domracheva who were in contention in the second leg. Domracheva handed over to Chepelin for Belarus and he managed to hold on to the lead in his leg to send Liadov out first for the final leg. Unfortunately for him he only had an 11 second lead and couldn’t hold off Moravec from the Czech Republic who came home first to win gold for his country. He was followed by Martin Fourcade who made up a lot of time to bring France home for silver and Tarjei Boe continued his brother Johannes’ good work by hanging on for bronze despite a penalty loop from Eckhoff. Belarus were fourth by an agonizing 4 seconds. The Finnish team put in a great display for the home crowd and were in with a podium shot going into leg 3. They ended in 9th which was a 7 place improvement on their start of 16th.

Saturday was the first single competition and we began as usual with the Sprint. It was tough conditions for the ladies and it was a hard race. France took gold with a fabulous performance from Marie Dorin Habert. A good time to get her first ever win! She gave birth to her daughter in September and then became a World Champion in March! Little Adele has a very inspirational mum! In second place came Poland’s Weronika Nowakowska-Zemniak. Another great performance and the only biathlete to shoot clean. Bronze medal went to the ever consistent Valj Semerenko who has had a fantastic season. There were 3 Polish ladies in the TOP 10 with Guzik in 5th and Gwizdon in 7th and 2 Germans with Dahlmeier in 4th and Hildebrand in 10th. The favourites for the race did not have such a good day however with Domracheva in 25th and Makarainen in 35th both missing 5 targets.

The Pursuit came on Sunday and had similar outcome to the Sprint. Marie Dorin Habert again skied herself to victory. She missed 3 shots but had enough time to win in front of Laura Dahlmeier by 15 seconds. Coming out of the range after the final shoot the Russian Ekaterina Shumilova was in third position after hitting 20/20. Heartbreakingly for her she fell on the downhill and Weronika Nowakowska swept past her to take her second medal of the Championships in bronze. Makarainen and Domracheva put up a better show finishing in 12th and 7th respectively.

The women had two days off to recover and it really did them the world of good as they produced one of the beat Individual races for a long time. Gabriela Soukalova set the pace and moved into first position with 1 miss. Dorothea Wierer put in a strong challenge also missing 1 and was 1.6 seconds behind Soukalova and went into second. Then came Kaisa Makarainen who put in the ski of her life in the last loop to make up for her 2 misses and just pipped Wierer to go into second, just 1.2 seconds behind Soukalova. She made up over 30 seconds from the range to the line which was absolutely remarkable. So we though that is our podium Soukalova, Makarainen and Wierer. Someone however had other ideas! Starting from bib number 93 and shooting clear Ekaterina Yurlova came through to win the race by 23 seconds. An outstanding performance by the Russian and her first ever win! What a race it was! You have to feel sorry for Wierer missing out on a medal by 0.4 seconds but it was also great to see Makarainen taking a medal at home.

From the Individual race we moved to the team race and the Women’s Relay. After a competitive start with a few changes of the lead it was on the third leg that the tables were turned in favour of one team. That team was Germany and Vanessa Hinz was fantastic shooting quickly and accurately when the others around her, The Czech Republic and Italy, missed. She gave Laura Dahlmeier a lead and she held on to it. It’s a strong young team from Germany and after a lot of criticism from their own country they did a great job. With Franziska Hildebrand and Franziska Preuss they could go on to win many more relays. In second was a valiant France adding another medal to Marie Dorin Habert’s haul! Justine Braisaz had a tough leg going on the penatly loop after her first shoot but stormed back to give the team a chance. With Anais Bescond and Enora Latuilliere they are also a team for the future. In bronze were Italy and they really deserved a medal as Dorothea Wierer, Karin Oberhofer, Nicole Gontier and Lisa Vittozzi have all had great seasons.

The final race for the Women was the Mass Start. It was a good one too with Valj Semerenko coming out on top with excellent shooting hitting 20/20 to win gold for the Ukraine. Behind her in silver came an ecstatic Franziska Preuss with her first solo medal and in third was Karin Oberhofer who ran out an exhausted Darya Domracheva for the bronze.

That’s all from Kontiolahti where the big surprise was that Domracheva failed to win a medal and Kaisa Makarainen only got 1. It just shows that competing for the Crystal Globe and trying to win World Championships is extremely difficult. It was really Marie Dorin Habert’s Championships winning 2 golds and a silver and a breakthrough moment for the young German girls. However we are not finished yet! It’s on to Khanty Mansiysk for the final World Cup round. There are globes yet to be won!

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World Champs 2015 Review: Men

boe wc

After many days of anticipation and then the opening ceremony, action finally got underway in the 2015 Biathlon World Championships in Kontiolahti. The first race took place on Thursday afternoon and saw 26 teams take part in the Mixed Relay. The conditions were really tough with warm temperatures making the snow wet and it looked like it was up to the biathletes knees!!!

The race got off to a great start with Fuyuko Suzuki taking the lead after 2 shoots for Japan. Veronika Vitkova took the Czech Republic into the lead however in the first exchange and it was then Soukalova and Domracheva who were in contention in the second leg. Domracheva handed over to Chepelin for Belarus and he managed to hold on to the lead in his leg to send Liadov out first for the final leg. Unfortunately for him he only had an 11 second lead and couldn’t hold off Moravec from the Czech Republic who came home first to win gold for his country. He was followed by Martin Fourcade who made up a lot of time to bring France home for silver and Tarjei Boe continued his brother Johannes’ good work by hanging on for bronze despite a penalty loop from Eckhoff. Belarus were fourth by an agonizing 4 seconds. The Finnish team put in a great display for the home crowd and were in with a podium shot going into leg 3. They ended in 9th which was a 7 place improvement on their start of 16th.

On Saturday we had the Sprint competition. Conditions were better but still far from ideal for the 129 biathletes. This didn’t seem to bother Johannes Thingnes Boe however as he went out and won! It easy to forget that this is his first ever start in an individual event in a Senior World Championships and he couldn’t have done any better on his debut. There was more good news for the Boe family as big brother Tarjei shot clean to come home to win bronze. It was guaranteed to be a good night out in Styrn, the boys home town, on Saturday! Splitting up the family however was the history making Nathan Smith. He took the silver and is the first Canadian man to win a World Championship medal. He has been getting closer and closer to the podium all year and timed his best ever result to perfection. It wasn’t a great day for some of the big favourites with Martin Fourcade in 12th, Anton Shipulin in 18th, Emil Svendsen in 36th and Simon Schempp in 77th!

Johannes went into the Pursuit as favourite but he had a total nightmare missing 8 shots and finished 31st. On the other hand Germany’s Erik Lesser had a magnificent race. He shot clear and he controlled the pace from the front after the first shoot. He showed remarkable mental strength to hold his nerve shooting not only the perfect 20/20 but he shot fast as well. He always performs well on the big occasion and can now add World Championship gold to his Olympic silver. In second was Anton Shipulin who paced the race well and shot 19/20. At the final shoot when the guys in contention for the final two places missed around him he and Tarjei Boe kept their cool and fought it out on the track for the remaining medals. It was obvious that Shipulin had the upper hand on the skis but it might have been different if Boe had been on his top ski form. Even so he won his third bronze in three races. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen produced a good race to finish in 5th as did Vladimir Iliev who was 6th.

The men had three days of rest before they had the Individual 20km. Normal service was resumed with Martin Fourcade winning yet again! He is very hard to beat at this race. Emil Hegle Svendsen tried his best to do that but he just doesn’t have the ski speed this season. Martin skied 1 minute 20 seconds faster than him as he missed 1 shot but still won comfortably. What was joy for one Fourcade was anguish for the other. Simon took the lead early in the race and shot clear to suggest a podium place would be his. It wasn’t to be however as Ondrej Moravec with 1 missed shot out skied him to take the bronze medal by five seconds. It is the second time Simon Fourcade has finished 4th at this World Championships which must be horribly frustrating for him but on the bright side this is his best season for a long while. Sergey Semenov finished 5th to secure the small Crystal Globe in the Individual for Ukraine. There were also good performances from Lee Jackson of Great Britain in 39th and Alex Almoukov of Australia in 43rd. It was also good to see Italy’s Christian De Lorenzi rolling back the years in 12th adding to his other 2 TOP 30 finishes here.

The Relay was next up and it was won by a dominant German team to match the gold from their Women’s team. They only used 3 spare rounds and were always in the TOP 3. After Arnd Peiffer’s excellent third leg they controlled the race and no one else could catch them. The team of Erik Lesser, Daniel Boehm, Peiffer and Simon Schempp meant a very happy medal ceremony for Germany. In silver medal position came Norway with Emil Hegle Svendsen, Tarjei and Johannes Boe helping Ole Einar Bjoerndalen to his 40th World Championship medal. He was the only one of them not to use a spare round and led after his leg so he is still showing those youngsters how it’s done! I am happy to report that France were third finally getting Simon Fourcade onto the podium and preventing his nervous breakdown after finishing 4th twice already. Jean Guillaume Beatrix, Quentin Fillon Maillet and little brother Martin did a good job!

To finish we had the Mass Start which proved to be a very good race to end with. Jakov Fak took gold in a great race which went all the way to the finish line. In second came Ondrej Moravec to add silver to his gold and bronze to complete the set. Third place went to surprise, surprise Mr. Bronze himself Tarjei Boe who leaves with 5 medals. He beat teammate Bjoerndalen who was fourth but he had an excellent race shooting clean and always up at the front.

So that’s all from Kontiolahti. It has been a great World Championships and France came out on top of the medal table in front of Germany and Norway. I am sure the biathletes are glad to see the back of the “Wall” as they have been up it about a million times now but they can’t rest yet! It’s on to Khanty Mansisyk for the last World Cup of the season!


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Scott Dixon: The Interview!

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In the last of my series of interviews with Junior biathletes this season I spoke to Great Britain’s Scott Dixon. Scott was born on the 9th of July 1994 and so this is his final year as a Junior. He has already competed on the IBU and the World Cup and is currently in Finland for the Senior World Championships. He achieved his best result in the Juniors this year finishing in 18th place in the Individual 15km an improvement of 5 places from last year in Presque Isle. He is now living and training in Norway. His Dad is 6 time Olympian, biathlon coach and Eurosport commentator Mike Dixon. Scott is possibly the only biathlete who is sponsored by a castle!

Scott has a Facebook page: Scott Dixon Biathlete

Why did you become a biathlete? Did your Dad make you do it or did you have a choice?!! 😉

I was very stubborn as a teenager, never committing fully to one thing at a time. I liked to play Rugby and Football and Biathlon was just the different sport that separated me from the normality of school life. I became very passionate about Biathlon when I was 16. This is when I couldn’t miss a race on T.V and if I did I would have to watch it at the next available time. I knew then that biathlon was my passion and I had to pursue it.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

This year I have been living in Norway, trying to learn the language which has been interesting! My interests are almost entirely sport based and my plan is to take a sport psychology (open university) course this year. Balancing a social life with training, I think, is not too difficult. Many top athletes may surprise you by how often they relax and socialise. I have to plan quite carefully my visits home to the UK to visit my family and girlfriend. She lives in England and my family in Scotland. So it is important to minimise travel and expenses in this case.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

My head sponsor ‘Heaver Castle & Gardens’ contributes enormously to my expenses in Norway. The basis of this sponsorship is my personal belief that I can one day compete amongst the very best in the world. I think my current location and level of motivation is perfect for making this happen. RMA sports kindly sponsor me and help me greatly with kit. Always reliable and with the best prices on so much kit. I know without the support from this company I would not be where I am now.

What were your goals for the Junior World Championships in Raubichi? Did you achieve them? Were you happy with your overall performances?

At the end of last season (2013/14) I decided that I am capable of achieving a top 10 at this year’s Junior World Championships in Belarus. I had to improve my overall game but most specifically, my ski speed. I was training along side some of the top Norwegian Juniors as part of team ‘Statkraft Lillehammer’ and felt like I was improving dramatically on the shooting range and on the skis. Sadly, in mid October I got ‘Compartment Syndrome’ in my lower abdominal muscles by simply running gently down a mountain after a hard session. A very rare and freak occurrence that put me out of training at a crucial time for over 120 hours of planned training. I spoke with my coach Sverre T. Roiseland to discuss/manage my expectations and figure out what I could expect from myself when I got back into full training and what to expect at the Junior World Championships. My goals did not change (perhaps this was naive) but I had to be prepared for a slower ski speed than initially anticipated and therefore try not to be disappointed if I do not achieve this goal.

The Junior World Championships approached very quickly and I felt like my ski form was approaching at the right time, which was good! My shooting had taken a positive turn for the best at the British Championships where I cleared my first ever Individual 20/20 and the next day the sprint 10/10. This was a good confidence boost for Minsk. However, shooting is a cruel game. If you think about it too much everything can change.

Minsk arrived and I was delighted with many aspects of my performance. If someone told me I would hit 38/40 in the Individual and Pursuit I probably wouldn’t have believed it. So this was an enormous achievement for me. Also being able to identify why I had 4 errors in the Sprint and then act on it for the next day was a big achievement. My 18th place was emotional. It is a personal best but we had some difficulties with our skis on the day and the entire British teams form on the skis really took a beating. With one mistake I knew it is possible to make a top 10! I was gutted.

The Sprint saw me failing to stick to my routine in the range. Almost a valuable lesson worth having, even at this crucial time because I was able to rectify this for the pursuit the next day. Starting the pursuit in 49th and moving up 18 places to 31st was a fantastic experience, missing 1 target again. This is another big achievement for me. What a shame I didn’t do better in the sprint.

What did you learn from the Championships? What do you need to improve and what are your plans to do it?

I learned a great deal about discipline on the shooting range. How so many factors can influence your shooting and how you have to focus on yourself, shutting out all distractions. Knowing this and implementing it are two very different things. It will take years to master but I think I am on the right path.

The British team are on a small budget and we certainly can’t expect to compete for the best skis on the field every event. We couldn’t bring a wax man with us to the Championships. (We have a wax man on the World Cup) I need to learn to accept this until our budget increases and strive to do everything I can personally to make the best of my situation rather than acting emotionally on it. I allow this to use up far too much mental energy.

I will improve my skiing speed. I have a fantastic coach and I know that with his advice I will make big leaps in my ski speed for next year. Hopefully I will avoid injury and see a good improvement come next season.

You have already raced on the World Cup. What is it like racing against the likes of Bjoerndalen and Fourcade? Is it inspirational or a bit nerve wracking or maybe both?

I love it, however I am always gutted to miss watching these races because I enjoy them so much. I can’t complain really because I get to compete against the athletes I love watching compete. I am looking forward to the day I can begin making an impression on the World Cup circuit.

You had a bit of an unusual injury earlier in the season. Can you tell me what happened and is the problem solved now?

I had Compartment Syndrome in my lower abdominal muscles. It is normally an injury people suffer in the lower legs or forearms and is extremely rare in the abs. In the Norwegian hospital, of four Doctors (one of which was a physio for a national Ice hockey team) only one of them had seen this specific injury before in this area of the body. He must have called me a ‘Rare Bird’ a thousand times.

I was running innocently down a mountain after a pretty crazy hard 6 x 5 minute running interval session up it. I felt a slow onset of pain, like a stitch, in my abs above my groin and ignored it for quite some time. I got back to the car after the session and from there until I got back to my house, I concluded something was seriously wrong as I couldn’t lift my leg to use the clutch any more.

I was taken to hospital by my coaches who looked after me very well. I am lucky to be a part of such a positive team. After being treated for my injury that evening I went home to recover in England and Scotland for quite some time. I was very sad to miss out on the training camp that week.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

I am young and doing exactly what I want to do with my life. Maybe it isn’t always a smooth ride but I enjoy it. I feel that I should take advantage of my situation and continue to enjoy it while there is good progress. Some times, things that are out of your control have a massive influence on your performance. This is frustrating, especially when you work so hard for your goals.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

A tough question, I think I want to earn all my characteristics and add my own unique touch to them. I think that Andrejs Rastorgujevs is the best example of a hungry athlete. He wants to win and he is an underdog from an under funded nation like mine. Seeing people like him making it to the top reinforces my belief that I can do it.

Can you describe your routine on a race day? When do you get up, eat, warm up, what you do after the race etc.

Race days used to be so stressful, I was never organised. But now I always make a list of what I need to take to the course, what times I need to be there etc. This way I don’t get stressed! I always start my day with a 5-15minute jog to get the body and mind ready for action. I try and eat a good amount in the morning, hopefully porridge is on the menu but I settle for near enough anything with carbs. It isn’t necessary to over eat before the race, just enough not to be hungry on the start line so this depends on my start time as to what I eat that day.

Before zero starts (45 minutes before the race starts) I normally test the skis I have been given for that day to determine which are running fastest. The reason being that each ski has a different ‘grind’ in the base and therefore runs differently in different snow conditions. Once selected I am then free to Zero my weapon for the days conditions.

I then take my start time and subtract about 40 minutes from it and this is when I will start my warm up. Once complete, I am ready to unleash the beast! Which hopefully is ready to go!

Your Dad used to be your coach. How did that work in practice? Can you separate training and parenting? Does he start a lot of sentences with “Well when I was a biathlete we used to….” or “we didn’t do that in my day son” !! 😉

It was fantastic. I know his raw positivity and natural hard working attitude was a brilliant guide in my early years as a Biathlete. Something I am extremely thankful for and perhaps grateful enough for it in my early days. In my middle teenage years I was stubborn and difficult to manage like most teenagers but my Dad was always positive, supportive and understanding despite my difficult nature at times! In the last two years I really hope I have learned to appreciate the fantastic opportunity I have been given and learn from the mistakes I have made, am making and will make in the future.

When my Dad starts a sentence like that, he is normally right anyway to be honest!

Does your rifle have a name?

I’m afraid not!

Describe yourself in three words.

Motivated, Hungry (mostly for food but also for success from time to time) and Content.

Quick fire Questions:


Favourite biathlon track
: Idre – Sweden, followed closely by Raubichi, Belarus.
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Andrejs Rastorgujevs!
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): I like the Individual, it is a brain game! To spectate – the mass start!
Favourite/best race of your career so far? The 12.5km Pursuit at the Junior World Champs. I had a terrible Sprint the day before. I started the Pursuit in 49th position but managed to have one of my best races ever in the shooting range, moving me up 18 places. It was such fun going past people on the penalty loop having shot 1 – 0 – 0 – 0.
Favourite food: I love salmon, Mushrooms (creamy sauce) with rice!
Favourite singer/band: Imagine Dragons
Favourite film: I love mind twisting films, Inception is pretty great! Source code is also up there with Cloud Atlas… This list goes on.
Favourite sports team: I don’t really watch football so I guess team Sky. Based on their incredibly professional attitude.
Favourite TV show: Family Guy

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The ‘Wall’ of Champions!

kwall

Picture the scene dear reader. You have just come out of the final standing shoot in first place. As you leave the stadium you can still hear the shots of your competitors and the roar of the crowd. All that stands between you and victory is one final lap of the track. Out on course you can hear the swish of your rivals skis a little way back. Up ahead there it is. The Wall. The Kontiolahti Wall. One more time up there in the lead and you are back into the stadium and on to the finish line where you will be crowned World Champion.

In reality it’s not as tough as it seems. You have climbed worse in training but at the minute it resembles the 700 feet ice wall from Game of Thrones! Your legs are burning and your lungs are gasping for air. Just one more big push that’s all it will take to claim victory. The only comfort you can take is that you know everyone else is facing the same hill. You are in a world of pain but suddenly it breaks, you’re at the top, you’ve done it, you’re there and into the stadium to take the applause of the crowd. You are a World Champion!

Compelling stuff there eh! Well that’s exactly what’s going to happen to a few lucky biathletes who will go through that soon in the World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland starting on the 3rd of March. Yes it’s time for the preview! Eight new individual champions will be crowned here and 3 teams will come out on top in the Relays, but who will they be?

If we look at the women first there are obviously two favourites, Darya Domracheva and Kaisa Makarainen. Both have enjoyed periods of good form and also bad so far this season but if they are in good shape and shoot well there are few others who can beat them. However if they are off form there are plenty of ladies waiting in the wings to take the medals. Veronika Vitkova is having her best ever season and she has to be one of the favourites to make the podium. Valj Semerenko has been incredibly consistent and if anyone slips up on the range she will be there to capitalise. Tiril Eckhoff is also capable of medalling like she did in Sochi and you can not rule out Gabriela Soukalova even though she is not on top form. Elsewhere the young Germans have had an excellent season and the likes of Preuss and Dahlmeier could do well. The Italians also have the possibility of success with Wierer and Oberhofer enjoying their best ever form. You can never rule out the Russians either so keep an eye out for Glazyrina and Podchufarova. Mari Laukkanen is a potential medal winner too as she tends to perform well in at home in Kontiolahti.

As for the men well we have the usual favourite Martin Fourcade and it’s up to everyone else to beat him. However there are plenty of candidates to do just that. His eternal nemesis of course is Emil Hegle Svendsen who will be looking to win more medals in a sprint finish 1 centimetre victory like he usually does! His teammate Johannes Thingnes Boe will be a big favourite to win medals here too. Kontiolahti is one of his favourite tracks and he won all three races here on the World Cup last season. On this season’s form Anton Shipulin has to be in contention for medals as does Simon Schempp. Then there are the experienced campaigners like Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Simon Eder who can never be ruled out. Other possibles include Dominik Landertinger, Jakon Fak and Ondrej Moravec who are all capable of winning races. It would also be nice to get a few surprises on the podium so lets hope some of the youngsters can get in the mix to like Quentin Fillon Maillet and Benedikt Doll.

The relays are always hard to predict. In the women’s the red hot favourites have to be the Czech Republic but they will face stiff competition from Belarus, Germany, Norway and Italy. For the men Russia are probably the form team but you can never write off Norway. France and Germany will be going for victory too and the Czech Republic also have a chance. In the Mixed Relay the same teams will be fighting it out for gold. There have only been 2 Mixed Relays all season in Oestersund and Nove Mesto. The first was won by France followed by Norway and Germany and in Nove Mesto Norway won in front of The Czech Republic and the Ukraine. It really is anyone’s race and there are many possible winners.

Whoever wins the medals it should be an exciting two weeks in Finland and I just hope we get some close racing and everyone has fun! One thing is for sure there will be some new names to add to the “Wall” of Champions!

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In Oslo – NO(r)WAY!

oslo2015

Well after a million pictures of the Holmenkollen jump on the biathletes social media pages and an equal amount of beautiful Oslo sunrises/sunsets we started the Women’s Individual race in a cloud of fog!!! That’s right the World Cup is back in Norway for the last round before the World Championships come along in March. Missing in the Oslo fog was most of the Norwegian men’s team with Svendsen and Tarjei Boe sick and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen choosing to skip the round!

Kaisa Makarainen got bib number 2 for the race and she crossed the line in first blowing away all the competition with 20/20 on the range and super fast skiing. It made the rest of the race a little predictable as you knew no one could beat her. Darya Domracheva missed one target which meant that she could only finish second and in by now what is becoming quite a familiar looking podium Veronika Vitkova was third. The conditions on the range were good when the fog cleared and so there was some excellent shooting from the field. Along with Makarainen there were another 9 scores on the range of 20/20 from Vitkova, Juliya Dzhyma, Iryna Varvynets, Megan Heinicke, Audrey Vaillancourt, Laura Dahlmeier, Monika Hojnisz, Jialin Tang and Emma Nilsson.

The men’s race turned out the same! Martin Fourcade stared in bib number 1 and won the race with clean shooting and so we knew no one could beat him! In second place was Evgeniy Garanichev and in third was Sergey Semenov who both also shot the perfect score. Jakov Fak skied the fastest of everyone but 2 missed shots meant he couldn’t challenge Fourcade for the win. He did come in fourth which was a great effort with 18/20. Seven men in all hit all the targets. Joining the TOP 3 were Benjamin Weger, Maxim Tsvetkov, Poland’s Lukasz Szczurek who set a personal best of 51st and Peppe Femling who achieved his personal best result of 21st.

There was a rest day on Friday and so the Sprints took place on Saturday. The women went first and Darya Domracheva did the perfect race to come home first. Laura Dahlmeier got her 4th podium in a row finishing in second ahead of Marie Dorin Habert who got her first podium of the season and is going in Kontiolahti in fantastic form. Kaisa Makarainen unfortunately missed 3 shots and could only finish 24th which means that Domracheva takes over the yellow bib and leads Makarainen by 10 points. The USA’s Hannah Dreissigacker got her PB in the race in 16th place as did the Ukraine’s Iana Bondar who was 14th.

In the men’s race Martin Fourcade thought he had another victory in the bag but he was beaten by 3 seconds by Germany’s Arnd Peiffer who won his first race since the 2011/12 season and relegated Fourcade into second. Less telemark landings off the bridge and more sprinting for the line Martin – lesson learned! It didn’t cost him any points in the overall as he finished ahead of Shipulin in third and Schempp who was 13th. Lars Helge Birkeland was the best of the home team coming in 5th and elsewhere there were personal bests for Switzerland’s Mario Dolder in 16th and Estonia’s Kalev Ermits in 20th.

The final day of competition on Sunday was for the relays. In the women’s race The Czech Republic won yet again and are red hot favourites for the World Championships. They are an impressive team and are solid on each leg with each women doing their very best for their country. Second was Italy who did a great job especially in legs 2 and 3 with the less experienced members of the team Gontier and Sanfilippo keeping them in touch with the leaders. France were third with top shooting in legs 3 and 4 as Varcin and Dorin Habert used no spares. Germany had the chance to win with Miriam Goessner doing a great job on leg 3 and showing fantastic mental strength on her standing shoot to hand over to Dahlmeier in second place. She couldn’t keep that position however and the Germans were 4th. The Estonian team had an exceptional race and used only 1 spare round between all four women and saw them take 12th place.

The men’s race gave us some fabulous entertainment where Shipulin and Schemmp treated us to yet another sprint finish! This time Shipulin won to give Russia the victory by 0.2 seconds. In third were an impressive Austrian team with Landertinger hitting good form in time for Kontiolahti. The Canadian team were 5th which is their best ever finish in a relay but home team Norway were a disappointing 9th missing a lot of big names.

So now all eyes turn to Finland for the World Championships and thoughts of yellow bibs and crystal globes are replaced by gold, silver and bronze medals. It has been a good round in Oslo with up and downs for many biathletes. There were a few surprises too with Peiffer winning, Kaisa losing the yellow bib and the Norwegian team not getting any podiums. If you had told me that last week I would have said in Oslo – NO(r)WAY!

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The Countdown to Kontiolahti!

kontiolahti

It’s not long to go until the World Championship in Kontiolahti, Finland. The fifth of March will see the first event take place which is the Mixed Relay and continue for two weeks until the last race on the fifteenth. It has been 16 years since Kontiolahti last held the World Championships which was watched by over 40 million people on TV. They are very excited to be hosting the event and have made a lot of improvements to the facilities since the last time.

The stadium is located 15km North of Joensuu which is in Eastern Finland in the North Karelia region. It has played host to many top class events both in biathlon and cross country skiing. To update the facility they had a budget of 3.7 million euros to spend over a period from 2011 to 2014 to be ready in time for the World Championships. In that time they have implemented a new lighting system in order for TV to broadcast in the evening and they have extended both the Main Building and Media Centre.

Kontiolahti is probably most famous for its track. It is a one of the toughest that the biathletes race on all year and the painful part comes when you reach the now infamous Kontiolahti wall. The steep hill comes cruelly near the end of each circuit just before you get to the finish line. Some athletes love it like Johannes Boe who won all three races there last season and Darya Domracheva who won her first World Cup race there and also 2 Junior WC gold medals. Others find it really hard to pace themselves over the course to leave them enough energy at the end to get up the hill. The shooting range also comes at the highest point on the course and so can be affected a lot by the wind. You can be sure that this World Championships is going to be a tough one!

The Finnish team have some chances of getting some medals at their home Championships. Kaisa Makarainen will be a big favourite to take a medal if not multiple medals. It’s her home track and she won all three races there last season on the World Cup. They also have Mari Laukkanen who came an impressive third in the Sprint behind Makarainen in Kontiolahti and will also benefit from home advantage. There are also opportunities in the Relays but it will probably require mistakes from other nations to let the Finns have a chance of a medal. With the home tracks and home crowd though anything can happen.

Back in 1999 when Kontiolahti last held the World Championships the German team dominated proceeding and won 6 golds including two for Sven Fischer. For the women the Ukraine’s Olena Zubrilova won 3 golds. In the Men’s Mass Start a certain Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won bronze and I bet he didn’t think he would be back 16 years later with a chance of winning yet another medal to add to his enormous tally.

I am really looking forward to the Championships. It will be interesting to see who can handle the pressure and if any of the home heroes can step up and deliver medals for the home crowd. Hopefully it won’t be as cold as the last time either when temperatures ranged from -29 to -37 degrees Celsius! After Oslo everyone will be heading out to Finland to start their preparations. It’s time to start the Countdown to Kontiolahti!

For more information on Kontiolahti and the World Championships see:
http://www.kontiolahtibiathlon.com/
Follow @KlahtiBiathlon on Twitter.

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Nove Mesto: Czech it out!

novemesto15

The World Cup is back after a weekend off and what a place to start again. Nove Mesto is fast becoming a top destination for the Biathlon World Cup. The spectators there over the weekend were amazing with huge crowds giving raucous but good natured support to not only the home team but to all the nations. If this continues hopefully it will soon become a permanent fixture on the biathlon calendar.

“Nove” in Czech means “new” and so it was the perfect place to showcase biathlon’s new format. The Single Mixed Relay had it’s official debut on Friday. It involved a man and woman from each team competing together in a format similar to that held in Schalke over Christmas. The men complete 7.5km and the women 6km with the usual prone and standing shoots. The penalty loop is half the size at just 75 metres.

While the format was new the winners were not. Russia won the first ever race with a team of Yana Romanova and Alexey Volkov. They won by over 21 seconds from Norway who fielded a team of Marte Olsbu and Henrik L’Abee Lund. Juliya Dzhyma and Artem Tyshchenko came in third for the Ukraine. The best thing about it for me was the fact that Japan came in 10th! When is the last time you saw them in the Top Ten of a relay event! It is a great opportunity for the smaller nations to compete more often and with more possibilities to do well.

Later on Friday we had the normal Mixed Relay. This time Norway went one better and won the race. The Bø brothers brought home the victory with some good shooting and fast skiing. The home nation were 4 seconds behind in second place and Ukraine completed the podium in third consigning Russia to fourth. The USA finished in 7th which was excellent for a team without Tim Burke or Lowell Bailey. The team did very well and anchorman Sean Doherty just missed out on 6th by a tiny margin just pipped at the post by Germany’s Benedikt Doll. France started off very well with Anais Bescond and Marie Dorin Habert putting them in the lead at the half way point but Simon Fourcade had a leg to forget which put them out of contention.

On Saturday we moved on to the Sprint races. In the Women’s race some outstanding shooting and a good ski time saw Laura Dahlmeier take her first ever World Cup victory. The 21 year old held her nerve and managed to beat her teammate Franziska Hildebrand by just 1 second. It may have helped that she was wearing bib 23!!! Hildebrand had a fantastic race and second was a personal best for her. In third was home favourite Veronika Vitkova who gave the crowd even more reason to cheer loudly!

In the Men’s race Jakov Fak finally did what he has been threatening to do for a while and won the race! Behind him came the super consistent Simon Schempp and in third getting on the podium for the first time this season was Jean Guillaume Beatrix. There were also some great perfomances by Nathan Smith 7th and Leif Nordgren 16th who both got their best results to date and Coline Varcin 8th and Lisa Vittozzi 19th did likewise in the Women’s race.

The Pursuits were the last races of the weekend and provided the crowd with a great show. The Women’s Pursuit was hotly contested and in the end Darya Domracheva came through to win with her main rival for the Overall title Kaisa Makarainen behing her in second place. Third went to Laura Dahlmeier who has been on the podium in the last three races. Gabriela Soukalova had a great chance to win when leading into the final shoot but she missed two and finished 5th. Hildebrand shot on Vitkova’s target on the final shoot due to the heavy snow that was falling and the wind on the range. She lost alot of time but got it back after the race and was given 11th place. Vanessa Hinz and Iryna Kryuko both got their best results on the World coming in 4th and 10th. Romania’s Eva Tofalvi had an amazing race coming from 24th to finish in 8th place and similarly Luise Kummer went from 29th to 12th.

In the Men’s race we had a similar podium to the Sprint with Fak holding on to his lead to win with Schempp again in second. Martin Fourcade finished 4th to gain points over rival Shipulin but gave them away to Schempp. Nathan Smith again produced a great race to improve his personal best to 5th, Simon Desthieux came from 34th to 15th and Sven Grossegger moved from 37th to 18th. Antonin Guigonnat made up 20 places from 45th to 25th as did Svendsen going from 43rd to 23rd.

Nove Mesto has turned into a fantastic venue for biathlon. With crowds of over 30,000 everyday and challenging tracks it is fast becoming a favourite venue for biathletes and spectators alike. The success of the Czech team obviously helps fill the stadium but the whole weekend was a great success from the new format Single Mixed Relay to the excitement of the final Pursuit races. We now move from the new to the old and head to Norway and Oslo Holmenkollen. The race for the yellow bib is hotting up with Domracheva and Schemmp continuing to catch up to Makarainen and Fourcade. It will be a very interesting round of the World Cup but if you missed Nove Mesto you should really consider going next year to Czech it out!

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