A season in bib 23! The results!

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Wow from the first, Diana Rasimovicuite, to the last, Serhiy Semenov, the bearers of “the bib” have given me a roller coaster first season in 23! From the highs of 2 wins in 1 day to the lows of the doping scandal “biathlete23” has given me more fun, excitement and disappointment than I could ever have imagined before I started all this back in November.

For those of you unfamiliar with biathlete23 I decided that as a feature on my blog I would follow whichever athlete was wearing bib 23 and record their scores and see how they did. This led to a great new way for me to watch biathlon and to get to know some of the less well known biathletes.

For the first representative to score me some points was pretty great! To most 19th position doesn’t mean a whole lot but for me it was my first 22 points! That was the only point score I got in Oestersund in fact from 4 races. In Hochfilzen I was celebrating my first podium from Irina Starykh but that was wrecked after Christmas with her positive drugs test. Fortunately the lovely Gabriela Soukalova took a 9th place in the Pursuit and Evigeny Garanichev got me 7 points in the Men’s race.

But then came Annecy, the wonderful Annecy! The first two races were Sprints and were won by Selina Gasparin and Johannes Thingnes Boe who were both wearing bib 23!!! Maximum 120 points! To say I was delighted would be the understatement of the year! Two more points finishes from Garanichev and Gregorin took my total to 169 points for the weekend! Finally I was getting some good scores!

In Oberhof 5 out of the 6 biathletes in 23 scored points; Alexander Loginov and Daniel Boehm for the men and Vita Semerenko, Weronika Nowakowska and Krystyna Palka for the women.In Ruhpolding Teja Gregorin and Simon Desthieux grabbed me 43 points from the Pursuits.The last round before the Olympics in Antholz saw 46 points scored by Franziska Preuss and Yan Savitskiy.

The Olympics was fun to watch for bib 23. I didn’t really expect a medal at my first attempt but I got very close when Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle finished 4th in the Women’s Mass Start. However like Starykh before her my joy was short lived as she too tested positive for an illegal substance and was disqualified. My best results were from Yan Savitshiy who finished 20th in the Men’s 20km Individual for the men and Veronika Vitkova who was 6th in the Women’s Individual. My favourite athlete from the Olympics though has to be the awesome Mr. Brendan Green who represented 23 in the Pursuit. He finished 35th but was kind enough to photograph his bib and send it to me and you can see it at the top of this post and on my Facebook and Twitter accounts! Thanks Brendan!

Back to the World Cup and I was keen to get back scoring some big points. Pokljuka didn’t disappoint as 98 points were added to my total from Jana Gerekova, Tim Burke, Tomas Kaukenas, Zina Kocher and Serhiy Semenov. To Kontiolahti next where a strong team of Christoph Sumann, Tiril Eckhoff, Simon Eder, Susan Dunklee, Jean-Guillaume Beatrix and Julia Dzhyma scored an impressive 114 points!

Holmenkollen was our final stop and biggest points haul of the season! I had the great privilege of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen racing in bib 23(by this time I had gotten over the fact that he won Olympic Sprint gold in bib 24 – the traitor!). The rest of the biathletes were overall winner Kaisa Makarainen who I like to think was inspired in her Pursuit performance by number 23 to get to fourth and help her win the big Crystal Globe!!! The others were Dominik Landertinger, Yana Romanova and Serhiy Semenov(he loves bib 23 -always in it!). They scored 119 points to take my grand total up to 754 points for the season, 347 from the men and 407 from the women. These put me in 25th place in the Men’s overall between Daniel Boehm and Tim Burke and 14th in the Women’s between Teja Gregorin and Franziska Hildebrand. Not bad for a debut season in biathlon!

A big thanks to all the biathletes who have been lucky enough to wear bib 23 – you have all been fantastic with some obvious exceptions! You have to take the rough with the smooth though!It has been really enjoyable supporting whoever has been in bib 23 this season. I don’t really have favourites among the biathletes so this way I can support different ones in each race and I have learned about biathletes that I previously knew little of. It’s a great way to find out more about all the biathletes and a really nice way to show support for all of them.I had no idea quite how interesting it would be to follow a bib number throughout the season but I have loved it. I can’t wait for next season to start so I can do it all over again and I hope some of you will join me along the way supporting biathlete23!! I just hope I can beat the Total Score for this season!!! GO BIATHLETE23!

For full results and participants please see my page Biathlete23
.

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Season Review 2013/14: Women

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Well the season is over and for me the women provided the best competition this season. Last year was dominated by Tora Berger but this time around it was much more competitive. The Overall title was won at the last round in Holmenkollen by Kaisa Makarainen .The individual Crystal Globes went to Kaisa Makarainen in the Sprint and the Pursuit, Darya Domracheva in the Mass Start and Gabriela Soukalova in the Individual 15km.

At the start of each race it was virtually impossible to pick who would win. That’s why it has been such a great season for the women. The level of competition is fantastic with many of the women on great form and others making big improvements throughout the season. If you cast your mind back to Oestersund Soukalova won the Individual and Ann-Kristin Flatland won the Sprint. Then in Hochfilzen Selina Gasparin was amazing as she took her first ever win and then Synnoeve Solemdal won the Pursuit. Gasparin followed up her success in Annecy again taking the Sprint and Valj Semerenko got the Pursuit. That made 5 different winners in the 6 races before Christmas as apposed to 3 in the men’s races.

In Hochfilzen we had another 2 winners with Darya Domracheva taking 2 wins and Tora Berger 1 in the Mass Start.In Ruhpolding it was Soukalova’s turn to do the double and in Antholz we saw another first time winner in Anais Bescond in the Sprint and a legend secure another career win when Andrea Henkel took the Pursuit.

The Olympics of course was dominated by Darya Domracheva who took home 3 gold medals and Anastasiya Kuzima came from nowhere to make it an Olympic Sprint double gold having shown little form on the World Cup. In the Women’s Relay the Ukraine women’s team won an emotional and well deserved gold.

Back on World Cup duty in Pokljuka we had yet another first time winner in Austria’s Katherina Innerhofer but then the big guns took over as Domracheva claimed another victory and Kaisa Makarainen won the Pursuit to kick off her amazing end of season form. She took all 3 victories in her home race in Kontiolahti and set us up for a tense finale in Holmenkollen. Neither Makarainen nor Berger won any races but Kaisa did enough to win the Overall even though Tora took 2 second places. I think she deserved it as she won more races than Tora and was very consistent in scoring points. I bet Tora wishes that she had last season’s form this year as she was almost unbeatable in 2012/13. The races were won by Domracheva who took the Sprint and Kuzmina who won the Pursuit and Mass Start to take her only 2 wins of the whole season apart from the Olympic Sprint!

So the more experienced ladies took all the spoils this year but we were also treated to some fantastic new talent. The young German team look like they will do well next year. Laura Dalmeier, Franziska Preuss and Franziska Hildebrand have all shown they have what it takes to do well on the World Cup. The Canadian ladies have also stepped up a level taking 4th place in Annecy in the relay and Rosanna Crawford had some great races individually too. Susan Dunklee likewise has had a fantastic season which ended in her first ever podium.

The Italians Dorothea Wierer and Karin Oberhofer had a great Olympics and have both done really well this season and won bronze at the Olympics too. Tiril Eckhoff’s amazing form this season has softened the blow of Tora Berger’s retirement for the Norwegian team. Nadezdha Skardino has come out of Domracheva’s shadow for Belarus and achieved some great results. Teja Gregorin has also had a really good season culminating in her Olympic bronze medal.If she can improve her standing shoot by a few percent and get a little bit of luck she will surely win her first World Cup race next season.

The season wasn’t great for everyone however as the Swedish women’s team didn’t even get to go to the Olympics. Marie Dorin Habert got injured at the start of the year and so ruined most of her season and fellow French star Marie-Laure Brunet seemed to loose her amazing shooting skills a bit and didn’t get the results she was hoping for. Synnoeve Solemdal started well but the end of her season was wrecked by illness. The Russian women’s team didn’t perform as well as expected, with the exception of Olga Zaitseva and Olga Vilukhina, and will be looking to win some races next season.

All in all it has been a stellar year for Women’s biathlon. They have had the closest and most competitive racing and the titles all went down to the final weekend. We have seen fantastic individual displays and also some amazing team performances. I hope that it will be equally unpredictable and exciting next season. Enjoy your rest and your summer ladies as you have certainly deserved it! Thanks for all the entertainment, see you in November!

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Season Review 2013/14: Men

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Before starting to write this I thought I would take a look back at my season preview and maybe just remove the “P” and so save myself a lot of time writing another! Alas it is not so as somewhat surprisingly not all of my predictions were right! 😉

Well it didn’t take a genius to predict Martin Fourcade being at the sharp end again and he duly delivered winning 4 out of the 5 Crystal Globes including the Overall title for the third year in a row. He was only prevented from another clean sweep by Emil Hegle Svendsen who won the globe for the Individual 20km. He also took 3 medals at the Olympics in Sochi. He won gold in the Pursuit and Individual and silver in the Mass Start once again being denied by, you guessed it, that pesky Emil Svendsen!

The other big winner in Sochi was of course Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who became the greatest ever Winter Olympian by winning the Sprint title and the Mixed Relay. Obviously enough to change his mind about retiring and in the process ruin my post about his last ever season! Thanks Ole Einar! The Russian men’s team brought the Olympics to a fine end winning the relay in their home Games.

Back on the World Cup tour a young and confident(slight understatement there!) Johannes Thingnes Boe was winning 5 World Cup races. He won 2 in Annecy and then all 3 in Kontiolahti.
Simon Schempp and Lukas Hofer shared their first ever wins in Antholz and Jakov Fak kept us waiting to the end to grab his win in Holmenkollen. Way back in November Martin Fourcade won both races in Oestersund recovering from his first day breakdown on the range in the Mixed Relay. Lars Berger came from nowhere in Hochfilzen to win the Sprint but Fourcade was again victorious in the Pursuit. Svendsen took 2 wins in Oberhof and in Ruhpolding. Bjorn Ferry surprised everyone after the Olympics by winning twice in Pokljuka and Anton Shipulin took his only victory of the season there too. In the last 2 races the spoils went to Simon Eder finally winning another race and Martin Fourcade who I think likes to win the first and last race of the season!

The year also saw some great improvement from a lot of men. Lowell Bailey achieved his first ever podium in Kontiolahti. Andrejs Rastorgujevs has been threatening the podium for most of the season but his shooting keeps letting him down. Canadians Nathan Smith and Brendan Green have being showing that life after Jean-Philippe Le Guellec won’t be so bad with their excellent performances. France’s Jean-Guilliame Beatrix has really stepped up his game winning Olympic bronze and Simon Desthieux looks a real talent making up for disappointing seasons for Simon Fourcade and Alexis Beouf. The Czech guys have been amazing this year with Jaroslav Soukup and Ondrej Moravec both winning multiple Olympic medals. Dominik Landertinger for Austria had a successful if quiet season. He won silver and bronze in Sochi and was solid on the World Cup without really setting the world on fire.

On the other had it was a season to forget for the likes of Tarjei Boe who never really got going and Andi Birnbacher who finished early due to his lack of form. Fredrik Lindstroem stared well in Oestersund with a second place but couldn’t better it during the rest of the season. The Russian team have been in and around the Top 10 but have only taken one win on the World Cup, although young Alexander Loginov looks like he could help them improve that statistic next season.

So that’s it for another season and next year will hopefully see some more new faces on the podium and more first time winners. It should be intriguing to see if Fourcade can make it 4 in a row or if the likes of Johannes Boe can give him a real run for his money. Whatever happens I hope that the Globes and titles can get spread out a little more. Don’t get me wrong I am a great admirer of Martin Fourcade but it can get a bit boring having to write his name all the time!!!(I can type it in my sleep!) Help me out guys! We want to see an epic battle for the Overall next season now that there are no Olympic Games to distract everyone. Enjoy your (short!)rest, put in a great Spring/Summer training and we will see you in November!

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“Going Holm”-enkollen!

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Well that’s it! The end of the World Cup season. Not only is it sad that there are no more World Cup races this season but for some biathletes there are no World Cup races ever again. This weekend saw Tora Berger,Ann Kristin Flatland, Andrea Henkel, Sara Studebaker, Bjorn Ferry,Carl Johan Bergman and Christoph Sumann hang up their rifles for good 😦

On a happier note we had a great last round of racing which began on Thursday with the Women’s Sprint. Darya Domracheva glided over the tricky snow conditions to take first place with home favourite Tora Berger in second. In third place was a mightily impressive Susan Dunklee who reached the podium for the first time ever emulating her American teammate Lowell Bailey from last week. Other top results came from Rosanna Crawford who came home in 11th and Andreja Mali who finished 8th. Kaisa Makarainen needed to finish no worse than 23rd to secure the Sprint title and she did just that! She finished 23rd (who says it’s not lucky!) to finish ahead of Tora Berger.

In the Men’s Sprint Jakov Fak won the race quite easily with an outstanding ski. He had a little scare late on from Evgeniy Garanichev but he couldn’t match the ski speed of Fak and was second.In third came Bjorn Ferry again, putting together one of the best runs of his career just before he retires. Others who performed well were basically all the French team having 4 men in the Top 15. Simon Desthieux was 7th beating Martin Fourcade 11th, Quentin Fillon Maillet 13th and Jean-Guilliame Beatrix 14th. Their World Cup debutant Antonin Guigonnat also did well finishing 44th and qualifying for the Pursuit. Another man who got his best ever result by some margin was David Komatz who was 16th.

The Pursuit races on Saturday saw Martin and Kaisa wrap up the Crystal globes in that event. Kaisa finished 4th in bib 23(YEAH!) and Martin came home in 5th. The winner of the Women’s race was Anastasiya Kuzmina who won her first World Cup race of the season and she was joined on the podium by Tora Berger and Olga Vilukhina. The big movers in the race were Marie Dorin Habert who went from 33rd to 7th,Vita Semerenko 34th to 8th,Andrea Henkel 31st to 12th and Jana Gerekova 36th to 13th.

Simon Eder won the Men’s race and achieved his second career win after taking the Mass Start in Khanty in the 2008/09 season! It’s been a long wait to get back on the top step but he shot clear and it was a well deserved victory. In second place was Alexander Loginov and in third Bjorn Ferry. More good performances came from Carl Johan Bergman who moved from 17th to 4th,Alexey Volkov 24th to 6th,Arnd Peiffer 20th to 7th,Fredrik Lindstroem 32nd to 13th,Lars Helge Birkeland 34th to 15th and Julian Eberhard 39th to 17th.

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Finally on Sunday we had the last races of the season. The Women’s Mass Start was a tense affair as it was the showdown for the Overall title between Makarainen and Berger. The first shoot didn’t go well for Kaisa but she came through in the end and won the Crystal Globe. Kuzmina took her second race in a row and Teja Gregorin got second with Marie Dorin Habert in third. It was a remarkable race from Marie as she has just announced she is 3 months pregnant.Rosanna Crawford also deserves a mention as 8th place was her best ever result. In the Men’s race Martin Fourcade finished the season where he started – first! He was followed home by Dominik Landertinger and Jakov Fak. In 4th was Simon Desthieux who recorded his best career result too. David Komatz also managed to improve his result from the Sprint by finishing 12th.

So after all the excitement it’s time to hang up the skis and the rifles. Actually it’s not as there are some National Championships and the Moscow City biathlon left but for the World Cup everything is finished. Congratulations to Martin and Kaisa and all the biathletes who made this a great season. It’s been long and hard but amazing to watch. They all deserve a rest and I’m sure they are glad to be Going “Holm”enkollen!

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Like father like Arwid-son!

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With his hometown in Lima, Peruvian biathlete Tobias Arwidson now races for Sweden. Not really I am just messing with you!!! It turns out there is in fact a place called Lima in Sweden too. Tobias was actually born in Mora, Sweden on the 7th of June 1988 but grew up in Lima in Dalarna County in the west of Sweden. He is the son of double Olympic bronze medal winner Lars-Göran Arwidson and currently lives in Oestersund which as it happens is also in Sweden! (I bet he hasn’t even been to Peru!)

Following in his father footsteps Tobias took part in his first Olympic Games this year in Sochi. His Dad actually represented Sweden (not Peru!) in 3 Olympic Games in 1968, 1972 and 1976. In 1968 in Grenoble, he won a bronze medal with the Swedish relay team in the 4 x 7.5 km relay and in 1972 in Sapporo, he won a bronze medal in the 20km Individual. Tobias is also a medal winner although unfortunately for him not in the Olympics –yet! He won a silver medal in the European Championships in 2013 in the Individual event in Bansko, Bulgaria.

Tobias warmed up for the Games by achieving his two best ever results on the World Cup. Firstly in Oestersund in his home race he was 22nd in the Individual and then in Ruhpolding he came 17th also in the 20km Individual. (Anyone would think he and his Dad like that event!!) His previous best results were all outside the TOP 30. He was also part of the Swedish Men’s Relay team who came second in Antholz, together with Bjorn Ferry, Carl Johan Bergman and Fredrik Lindstrom.

In Sochi he finished an impressive 28th in the Pursuit, from a start number of 42 where he finished in the Sprint, beating his more experienced colleagues Bergman and Ferry. In the Individual he came 41st but the Swedish Men’s relay team couldn’t repeat their podium in Sochi and they finished 10th. I think Tobias gets his best results from the Individual events because he is an excellent shot. At the Olympics he only missed 2 shots in 4 races. If he can increase his ski speed (which is easier said than done I know) it could propel him into the TOP 20 more often and I am sure he will be appearing inside the TOP 10 soon! Unfortunately it won’t be this season as he is too sick to race in Oslo but hopefully he will back fit and illness free next season!

So even though he is not actually from Peru I am sure all the residents of Lima and his Dad are proud of his achievements so far. He is still just 25 years old so has the potential to compete in 2 more Olympic Games and maybe he could win something in those. After all he is like father like Arwid-son!

If you follow any biathlete on Twitter make it Tobias! He has a keen eye for comedy!:-)

Check out his website too:
http://www.tobiasarwidson.com/


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FIN-spirational ladies!

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I always like to see home biathletes do well in their home races. It’s not an easy thing to do as there is more pressure to do well in front of your home crowd and also your friends and family. However both Kaisa Makarainen and Mari Laukkanen managed just that in Thursday’s first Sprint race. Kaisa came home in first and Mari was third with Russia’s Olga Zaitseva separating them in second. Kaisa skied amazingly well as she missed a shot while the others were clear. Elsewhere Magdalena Gwizdon appeared in the TOP 10 where we haven’t seen her for a while finishing ninth and a double Slovak attack saw Paulina Fialkova and Jana Gerekova finish tenth and eleventh.

In the Men’s Sprint Johannes Boe claimed his third win of an extremely impressive debut season on the World Cup although skiing two legs just behind second placed Martin Fourcade surely helped his cause a little. Having said that he shot incredibly fast and clean and seems to like the tracks. One to watch out for in next year’s World Championships in Kontiolahti. In third place was Arnd Peiffer who will be rueing his 1 missed shot as a clear shoot would have seen him win comfortably. His fellow countryman Benedikt Doll looked really good finishing in ninth and Serafin Weistner scored his first World Cup points by coming 29th.

Saturdays Sprints ended up the same as Thursday with Johannes and Kaisa winning again! The rest of the podiums were different though with Alexander Loginov and Lowell Bailey on the men’s side and Tora Berger and Gabriela Soukalova on the women’s. For Loginov and Bailey it was their career best results with Loginov taking significantly less time than Bailey! I was really happy to see Lowell finally get up on the podium and now he has broken his duck I hope we will see him there again soon.

An eleventh place finish from Martin Fourcade was enough to win him the crystal globe for the Sprint. That man must have a huge mantelpiece to fit all his globes on!! Carl Johann Bergman got into the TOP 5 and Lars Helge Birkeland finished in the TOP 10. Another great race from Susan Dunklee saw her finish in eighth and Anna-Karin Stroemstedt came in 19th.

I am getting slightly bored of writing this but on Sunday in the Pursuits Johannes Boe and Kaisa Makarainen won again! To be fair young Johannes tried his best to worry us by missing 4 targets in the final shoot but he had enough time in hand and mistakes from others meant that victory would be his. These two have been far and away the best biathletes in Kontiolahti and thoroughly deserve their massive points haul.

Second was sufficient for Martin Fourcade to take the Overall title for the third year in a row which is quite outstanding. Bjorn Ferry was third and must be wondering why he is retiring at the end of the year. All other biathletes take note-announce you are retiring at the end of next season and you will win lots of races! Look what it did for Bjoerndalen. Now he isn’t retiring his results are getting worse.(Although that could also be a tough season and he is no spring chicken!)

The women’s podium was completed by Darya Domracheva and Olga Zaitseva. Domracheva came from 20th to second but looked too tired to try and outski Kaisa. Other performances of note in the Pursuits came from Anais Chevalier 30th to 8th, Marte Olsbu 43rd to 11th, Magdalena Gwizdon 36th to 12th and Yana Romanova 33rd to 13th. For the men it was Andrejs Rastorgujevs 41st to 6th, Christoph Sumann 45th to 11th, Freddie Lindstrom 29th to 13th, Benedikt Doll 22nd to 7th and Simon Schempp 21st to 9th.

Now we are going to Norway for the last three races of the season 😦 The men’s titles are pretty well wrapped up but the women’s are all to play for. The races in Kontiolahti were great and well attended, a good sign for the World Champs next year and hopefully we will see more home glory there for the FIN-spirational ladies!

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Solo Soulié!

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What a season Laure Soulié has been having! In Ruhpolding she achieved her two best results ever on the World Cup finishing 22nd in the Pursuit and an incredible 9th in the Individual. These result also meant she qualified for the Olympics in Sochi. It seems that being Andorran is working out better than being French for Soulie.

Born in Andorra la Vella in Andorra on the 28th of April 1987, Laure originally competed for France through her French mother. This was mainly due to the fact that there was no Andorran biathlon team to compete for at the time. She studied Sports studies in the French Alps and went on to win a bronze medal for France in the Youth/Junior World Championships in Presque Isle in 2006.To this day her best friends remain from the French team, Marie-Laure Brunet and Marine Boillet. She is also lucky enough to be able to continue training with the French women’s top team.

However in she was offered the chance by her home country Andorra to compete for them and so became their only biathlete. An easy decision to make but maybe a difficult one to live with. We all know the struggles that small nations can have in terms of funding and facilities and so it is not as easy as it might have been to stay with France who have more athletes, coaches and sponsors to work with.

It seems so far that this decision has paid off. A fantastic season this year has seen Laure claim her first ever Top 10 result which is a big step up for an athlete whose previous best result was 26th and most of her other finishes were outside the TOP 30. It isn’t an easy feat in biathlon to make it into the Top 10 especially if you are the only biathlete from your country. Hopefully these performances will inspire the young people of Andorra to become more involved in the sport. After her qualification for the Sochi Olympics they definitely have a great role model to look up to.

She also had a great role model as her brother Francois Soulie represented Andorra in the Olympics in cross country skiing. Her Olympics however didn’t go as well as her form suggested they might. She finished 67th in the Sprint in Sochi and 48th in the Individual.
She has done remarkably well though because it’s difficult to be your country’s sole representative. She is lucky to still enjoy the support of the French team but she has proved that it’s not so bad being Solo Soulie!

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