Happy Henkel!

henkel

Finishing 3rd in the Total Score was a happy surprise for both Andrea Henkel and us last season. The 35 year old, who has been competing in biathlon since 1998, managed to reach third place overall by only making the podium 4 times and never winning a race. Experience and a coolness under pressure meant she was more consistent and scored more points than the majority of her competitors.

Andrea Henkel was born on December 10, 1977 in Ilmenau, Germany. She is the younger sister of Manuela Henkel, a successful cross-country skier and girlfriend of fellow biathlete Tim Burke. Like many biathletes she started out as a cross-country skier but changed to biathlon when it became an Olympic sport. This proved to be a wise decision for Andrea. She has won 4 Olympic medals so far; a gold in the 15km individual in 2002 and a gold, silver and bronze in successive Games in the relay event.

She has also produced some remarkable results on the World Cup. It only took until her second year of competition to win her first event and she took the overall title in the 2006/07 season. The World Championships have also been a happy hunting ground for Henkel. She was the first biathlete to become World Champion in each individual event and has a total haul of 8 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze medals. This includes the silver she won in Nove Mesto in the Individual event matching her boyfriend Tim’s result in the men’s race.

Andrea currently writes a blog on the IBU website which is a great insight into the athletes training as well as her analysis of her own performances last year and some amusing little travel stories. She also has her own website http://www.andrea-henkel.de and page on Facebook (Andrea Henkel Biathlon) making Andrea one of the most accessible and interesting biathletes around.

In her own analysis of last season she said that her skiing improved during the year but her shooting, especially the final shoot, was not up to her previous standards. Personally I think this is one of the most important parts in biathlon. How you deal with the pressure coming into the final shoot, especially in a close race, can mean the difference between finishing on the podium and dropping outside the points. In previous years Andrea was very good in the final shoot and if she can regain this skill for next season she will have a good chance of medalling in Sochi and making another Top 3 finish in the Total Score.

Andrea turns 36 before the Olympics and obviously this will make winning more difficult but it seems in women’s biathlon at least the older you get the better you become like Berger and Zaitseva. So don’t be surprised if we see a very Happy Henkel appearing somewhere on a podium in Sochi next year!

Good luck Andrea!


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Bye, Bye Berger!

berger

Rumour has it that Tora Berger is going to retire after next season. She has let it be known that after this Olympic season she will hang up her skis for good. If she does stick to her decision she will be sorely missed.

Tora Berger was born on 18 March 1981 in Ringerike, Norway but she grew up in Lesja with her older brother Lars. She married her high school sweetheart in 2010 and lives in Meråker with her husband and 2 dogs. Away from biathlon Tora enjoys hunting, fishing, knitting and reading crime novels.

Tora has been competing in biathlon as a member of the Norwegian women’s team since 1999. However it has only been in the latter stages of her career that she has been successful. Somewhat surprisingly Berger had never been a World Cup winner either overall or in any of the individual disciplines until the end of the 2011/12 season.

However last season made up for that! Winning 11 races, being on the podium 19 times, winning all the Chrystal Globes, the Nation’s Cup for the women, the mixed and women’s relay titles on the World Cup was only part of a stellar season for Tora. In Nove Mesto she became the first biathlete to win 6 medals(4 gold and 2 silver) at a single World Championships, as well as the first woman to defend the 15km individual title.

So it’s no wonder she wants to retire, it’s going to be very hard to top last season’s amazing results! Luckily for Tora her final season includes the Sochi Olympics and provides probably the only way of topping last season by winning Olympic gold. Of course Tora being Tora she already has an Olympic gold medal from Vancouver in 15km individual. I’m sure she is hoping to go out on a high by defending that title and winning some more for good measure.

She will however be another year older and faces some stiff competition from the other female biathletes. But if she keeps up the amazing consistency from this past season I wouldn’t bet against her saying “bye, bye” to biathlon with a bunch of medals in her hand.

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Simon Four-midable!

simon fourcade2

Biathlon23 tries not to show any favouritism because I really like all the biathletes but I am going to make an exception for Simon Fourcade. He has to be one of my favourite biathletes. Not because he is the fastest skier or the best shot or the most successful but because he is the most enthusiastic. Every time you see him in an interview talking about biathlon you can see the twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face and you can see how much he loves the sport. You can also tell what an incredible competitor he is when you see a very different look on his face if he performs badly. These are the type of sportsmen I like the most. Not the ones who do it for money or fame but for a genuine love of what they do.

Simon Fourcade was born in Perpignan on the 25th of April 1984. As a youngster his family moved to Céret and that is where he discovered his love of sport. He practised Judo and also ice hockey before discovering biathlon at the age of 10. He became a member of the French National team in 2001 and he is also a non-commissioned officer in the French Army.

His greatest biathlon successes to date must be winning the Chrystal Globe in the Individual event in the 2011/12 season along with a gold medal in the mixed relay in the 2009 World Championships, a silver in the Individual event in Ruhpolding and 2 silver medals in the men’s relay event at successive World Championships.

Last season was disrupted by an operation for compartmental syndrome on his leg and so we didn’t see his best results until the end of the season where he again got to share a podium with his younger brother Martin. 2013 also saw his acting debut playing James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Biathlon. He’s done a bit of modelling and showed off some of his dance moves at the end of season parties so he has plenty of options post biathlon!

But back to the present. This season we have the Olympics in Sochi but for someone who lists kebabs among his likes on his website I’m not sure how good Simon’s chances will be!!Joking aside his best chance of a medal may again come in the relays but I have a feeling he could do something in the Individual event too. Whatever happens next season the other biathletes will find him four-midable, Simon Four-midable!

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“Dash”ing through the snow!

dasha

It might feel like she has been around forever but Belarusian biathlete Darya “Dasha” Domracheva is still only 26 years old! She has been competing in the Biathlon World Cup since 2005 and is therefore one of the most experienced female biathletes currently competing.

She was born in Minsk in 1986 and when she was four Darya moved to Nyagan, in Siberia. In a newly created town there was little fun to be had apart from cross-country skiing, and so Darya took up the sport. Darya later changed sport to biathlon and has won an Olympic bronze medal in the Individual event, 2 gold medals, 3 silvers and 1 bronze in the World Championships including her victory in the Mass Start in Nove Mesto.

This has led to her becoming quite the celebrity in Belarus and this year she was given the honour of presenting the voting results in the Eurovision song contest. That’s when you know you have made it! Apart from presenting Dasha has also turned her hand to movie making. She documented all the biathletes from 2008 until after the 2010 Olympics showing them training, competing and relaxing which gave all the fans an amazing insight into the life of a professional biathlete. She also starred in “The Spy Who Loved Biathlon”, and as a self-confessed lover of dance, is there nothing this woman can’t do?!!!

This year Dasha will be competing in the Olympics in Sochi, Russia which I suppose will be the closest she can get to a home Olympics and I’m sure she will have a lot of Belarussian fans there to cheer her on. She produced a great performance there this year finishing first in the Individual event. She has a consistently good shooting record and she is a strong skier. Even though she seems like such a nice girl don’t be fooled as she is also a fierce competitor.

The main problem for Dasha and all the other female biathletes is of course Tora Berger. Darya has managed to finish second in the Total Score 2 years in a row. She was also second in both the Sprint and Mass Start standings last season. When she is on top form Darya is very difficult to beat but she needs to find some more consistency over the season if she is going to topple Tora from the top spot.

So will we see her dashing through the snow this season to Olympic glory? Well she has as good a chance as anybody and so hopefully we will see her dancing on the top step of the podium next season!

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Ant – holz Shipulin!

shipulin

Anton Vladimirovich Shipulin not only has the best name for a bond villain ever but is also a fantastic biathlete! He was born on August 21, 1987 in Tyumen, Russia and shares the biathlon limelight with older sister Anastasiya Kuzmina.

Last year was pretty successful for Anton. He won 2 medals at the World Championships in Nove Mesto, a silver in the mass start and a bronze in the pursuit. He was named Russia’s top male biathlete for helping them to Nation’s Cup victory as well as finishing 3rd in the pursuit standings and in the top ten of the total score.

He lists his favourite event as the mass start but recently he has picked up better results in the pursuit and sprint races. I don’t know what his favourite track is but I would hazard a guess at it being Antholz- Anterselva in Italy. Why do I think this? Well his results there have always been good. Last year he won both the sprint and pursuit races, the year before he was 2nd in the mass start and the year before that he took another victory in the sprint.

So what is it about Antholz that makes Anton produce these great results? The area is at altitude so maybe he performs better in those conditions. The Russian team often train there too, sometimes in between World Cup events and so that’s another reason why he is so good there. Or maybe it’s just that different athletes perform better on certain tracks and Antholz is his. I bet he wishes the Olympics were being held there as he would have a great chance of winning medals.

However they are being held in Sochi and as a Russian biathlete there is huge pressure on Anton and the rest of the team to be successful at their home Olympics. Last year seemed like a big training run for them to prepare for this season. I really hope the home team can get some good results in Sochi as I know biathlon is really popular in Russia and the biathletes have put a lot of work in to prepare for it already. For Anton it’s a great chance to take a medal in front of his home fans. All you need to do is pretend you are in Antholz, Shipulin!

I know a few Russians read the blog so большое спасибо!

Selected Results:

1st Pursuit 2012/13 Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
1st Sprint 2012/13 Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
1st Sprint 2010/11 Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
2nd Mass Start 2012/13 Nove Mesto (CZE)
2nd Mass Start 2011/12 Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
3rd Pursuit 2012/13 Nove Mesto (CZE)

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Four-gone conclusion?

fourcade

Martin Fourcade is arguably one of the best biathletes ever. He won the overall title last year and all of the individual Chrystal globes. Born 14 September 1988 in Céret, Martin is a French biathlete and non-commissioned officer in the French Army. He has won several medals at the World Championships including four golds. He is also an Olympic silver medalist and winner of the 2011–12 World Cup as well as last season’s title.

As a child he took part in many sports like judo, swimming, athletics and mountain biking. In the end he followed his big brother Simon into Nordic skiing and biathlon. (So for all the other biathletes – you know who to blame!)Meeting Thierry Dusserre was a big moment for Martin. It was he who focused his attention on biathlon and instilled the necessary discipline and importance of training well. (You can blame Thierry too!)

Last season was amazing for Martin. To wear the yellow bib from start to finish and win all the individual events is an outstanding feat especially when you consider the competition he was facing. Great consistency coupled with some of the fastest skiing I have ever seen meant he thoroughly deserved all the titles and all the plaudits he received. However the World Championships in Nove Mesto didn’t go quite to plan mainly thanks to some missed targets and a certain Mr. Svendsen. He still won a gold and 4 silvers which for most biathletes would be a dream result but I can’t help feeling that Martin was disappointed that he didn’t take home more golds.

If he has a weakness it has to be his shooting. He tends to be slower than some of his main rivals to settle on the mat before he takes his first shot and has missed a few targets when the pressure is on. However he is still a great shot! And his ski speed is so good he can usually make up for it but I wouldn’t want to rely on that in the big races. The great competitor that he is I am sure it’s something he will be working on over the summer. Like the other biathletes he was back in full training by May for next season and I am sure he will be totally focused on making sure what happened in Nove Mesto doesn’t happen again in Sochi. The Olympics only come round every 4 years so it’s crucial to be able to peak at the right time as well as maintaining form for the World Cup.

Being one of the top performers in biathlon it is nice to see the good relationship he seems to have with his closest rivals. Housing hunting with Tarjei Bø and the now obligatory hugs at the end of races with Svendsen is very good to see. His relationship with his brother Simon also seems to help Martin. I’m sure having him as a roommate and teammate is both great support and motivation and maybe Simon can give him some shooting tips too!

So is it a four-gone conclusion that Martin Fourcade will win the World Cup again and Olympic gold next season? Nothing is ever certain in biathlon, there is a lot of competition but he has a fantastic chance of doing it. The one thing that I do know is he will give it his best shot!!!
Allez Martin!

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It’s all relative!

brothers

Biathlon is unique in the numbers of siblings who compete in the sport. You can find examples of other brothers and sisters competing in the same sport like the Williams sisters and Murray brothers in tennis, the Marquez and Espargaro brothers in Moto GP and the Ferdinand and Neville brothers in football and in cross-country skiing we have the Cologna and Northug brothers too.

However for the sheer volume of siblings competing together I don’t think any other sport can compete with biathlon. Currently we have the Fourcade brothers, the Windisch brothers, the 3 Gasparin sisters, the Bø brothers, Shipulin and Kuzmina, and even the Semerenko twins from the Ukraine to name but a few. Not forgetting top brother and sister combination Lars and Tora Berger.

gasparin

Why is this? Several reasons come to mind. Firstly the family. If you grow up in family who enjoy winter sports or in an area where winter sports are popular then of course the chances of all the children taking part are greater. Secondly if you have an older sibling who is good at a sport then maybe the younger child would like to copy them or maybe it’s just easier to take all the kids to the same training lessons. Another reason is that if for example if the children are twins or very similar in physique or character it may be that they are all suited to excelling in the same sport. Whatever the reasons are biathlon seems to have benefited from the amount of siblings taking part in the sport. The Fourcades and Bergers in particular have been very successful.

But what is it like competing against your brother or sister? On the plus side you have someone you know very well who you can train and travel with. Biathletes spend a lot of time away from home and it’s nice to take your family with you. You have a great support system on hand, someone who knows when to help you or to leave you alone. There is also an increased sense of competition as everyone loves to beat their brother or sister at something so it can be a great motivator. The relays provide an opportunity to compete together and I can imagine it would be an amazing feeling to win a gold medal with a member of your family.

On the other hand you have to spend a lot of time together and depending on how good your relationship is that could be a strain. It’s also a lot easier to take out feelings of frustration on your family rather than your teammates which could cause problems both for your family and the team. There is always one sibling who will do better than the other one. For a brother and sister this wouldn’t cause too many problems as they are not competing directly against each other. But what about brothers or sisters? Martin Fourcade is more successful than Simon but whenever they are on the podium together Simon has always finished ahead of his brother. Something he seems extremely happy about! It cannot be easy to see a sibling, especially a younger one, outperform you in a sport that you did first.

Personally I like the fact that there are so many siblings in Biathlon. It gives the sport a family feel and whether you are successful or not it’s all relative – brothers and sisters are for life not just for biathlon!

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