Tag Archives: Ann Kristin Flatland

Gunning for Glory Part 1: Women

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Intrigue, uncertainty, unpredictability ,mystery and suspense! No it’s not the latest thriller at the cinema- it’s the Women’s World Cup!!! This season is going to be one of the best yet. Who is going to finish with the Overall Title 2014/15? Your guess is as good as mine. Anybody could win it but there are some with a better chance than others.

There have been some big changes on the Women’s Tour this year which is why it is so exciting. Tora Berger, Andrea Henkel, Ann Kristin Flatland and Marie-Laure Brunet have retired, Selina Gasparin is pregnant and will miss the season, Marie-Dorin Habert has a new daughter and we are not sure when she will return. Olga Vilukhina has also decided to sit out the season to heal from some injuries. That means four of the Top 11 finishers in the Overall will not be on the start line this season. So we better take a look at the other eight!

Last year’s winner by 4 points was Kaisa Makarainen. An amazing end of season run saw her just pip Tora Berger and totally ruin her retirement! 😉 Can she defend her title this year? Well of course she is capable and she has more experience than her competitors but she also has a home World Championships in Kontiolahti to prepare for. It is likely to be her final year in the sport and the World Championships might mean her main focus is not on the World Cup.

In third place last season was Darya Domracheva. Her stunning performances in Sochi must make her one of the favourites to take the title this year. However I am not so sure. She can be fantastic over a race weekend but can she sustain that level over a whole season? In the last 3 years she has finished second twice, and third once in the Total Score but seems to lack just that little something to push her up to first. She seems to have sorted out her shooting issues but with all the attention she has received after her Olympic glory and all the extra engagements outside of biathlon it has brought her, will she be able to keep her focus all the way to Khanty?

This is an issue that will also affect Gabriela Soukalova who was fourth last year. She has become very popular over the last couple of seasons and that can bring it’s own pressure. The other biathletes will be watching out for her and like Domracheva she will have to try and maintain a good level throughout the season.

Sixth last time around was Anastasiya Kuzmina. She had a pretty average season but came good for the Olympics and brilliantly defended her Sprint gold. Actually sixth is her best ever position in the Total Score but her lack of consistency means to win it would be quite unlikely. Just behind her in seventh was Norway’s new sensation Tiril Echoff. Talk about pressure, taking on Berger’s mantle and the intense scrutiny of the Norwegian press will be a lot to handle for this young lady. They breed them tough in Norway though and she could be up in the Top 3 by the end of March.

In 8th and 9th places were Valj Semerenko and Veronika Vitkova. They had great seasons both finishing with their highest ever placings on the Total Score. They will be dangerous again this time round but may lack the number of podiums required to get to the very top. Outside the Top 11 are more dangers lurking to thwart the favourites. The experience of Teja Gregorin, Vita Semerenko and Olga Zaitseva could prove vital over the season. They may not win overall but they are capable of taking valuable points off the favourites by knocking them off the podium.

Then there is the raft of young talent coming on or back to the scene. Dorothea Wierer had a great season last time out and her double victory in Sjusjoen suggests she will be challenging for more podiums this time around. The young Germans like Dahlmeier, Hildebrand and Preuss will also be in the mix. Miriam Goessner is back from injury and if she has learned to shoot better in her absence she will be a real contender to win a lot of races. Elsewhere Nadezhda Skardino, Juliya Dzhyma and Susan Dunklee were really impressive last time and I am sure will take more points and get better results this season.

So basically I am saying that I have absolutely no idea who is going to win this year’s big Crystal Globe! That is why it is going to be such a great season to watch the women. The favourites have to be Makarainen, Domracheva and Soukalova but only one of these has won it before. I am really looking forward to this season to see whether one of these ladies can win it or if someone will take us by surprise and come from nowhere to claim victory. Anything could happen! I advise you to put all bets on each way because it’s going to be one hell of a season with all these outstanding women Gunning for Glory!!!

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One ‘Eck hoff a biathlete!

Winner of three Olympic medals at her first attempt and more importantly winner of biathlon 23’s Rising Star award 2013/14 Tiril Eckhoff has had an amazing season. Born on the 21st of May 1990 she represents Fossum IF as well as the Norwegian national team. At 24 she has been on the scene a little while but last season saw her rise to the top of the biathlon ranks and start challenging the main contenders.

She stated her intentions early on in the season by finishing 5th in the Individual in Oestersund. She backed it up with third in the Pursuit in Annecy for her first ever podium on the World Cup and then took 4th in the Pursuit in Antholz to make her one of the ones to watch in Sochi. Her perceived inexperience in the top competitions didn’t hold her back as she came away with 2 bronze and 1 gold medal from Russia.

Her performances in the relays were excellent and backed up by some very talented and experienced teammates she won gold in the Mixed Relay and bronze in the Women’s relay. To prove she wasn’t just carried by the others but was an integral part of the victories, she also bagged herself an individual bronze medal in the Mass Start behind Domracheva and Soukalova.

Her great results didn’t finish there though as on her return to World Cup racing in Pokljuka she took two 5th place positions in the Pursuit and Mass Start when the rest of the Norwegian team seemed to be a bit jaded after the Olympics. She finished 9 times in the TOP 10 and maybe the only small disappointment from the season is that she couldn’t convert her great form into a win.

She has a lot of pressure on her shoulders competing for Norway and will have even more next year after her great results last season. That coupled with the retirements of Tora Berger and Ann Kristin Flatland makes her, along with Synnøve Solemdal, one of the top 2 female biathletes in her country. She will also have a new coach next season. It just happens to be a familiar face as it is her older brother Stian Eckhoff. It seems biathlon is a bit of a family affair in the Eckhoff household as her sister Kaja is also a biathlete.

So under the guidance of big bro next season Tiril will be looking to get that first World Cup win under her belt. I think she will have bigger ambitions than that though. If she continues her consistency from last season and adds some wins she has to be in contention for an individual Crystal globe if not the overall title. She will also be looking to win some more medals in the World Championships in Kontiolahti to keep her Olympic medals company. She won’t have it easy however as the Women’s competition is extremely strong. Whatever happens we already know that Tiril is one ‘eck hoff a biathlete!

Follow Tiril on Twitter: @TirilEckhoff

* to be ‘one heck of something’ means to be really good at something eg. Messi is one heck of a footballer.

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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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A RELAY great ending to the Olympics!

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Well that’s it! It’s over for another 4 years. What a great Games it has been and for Martin Fourcade, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen,Darya Domracheva, Anastasiya Kuzima and Emil Hegle Svendsen they get to say they are Olympic champion for the next 4 years until we get to Pyeongchang 2018!!!

The last races were they relays and we started with the first ever Mixed Relay to be included in the Winter Olympics. Unsurprisingly it was won by Norway and meant that Ole Einar Bjoerndalen became the greatest ever Winter Olympian winning his 13th medal. It was nice to see both him and Tora Berger take gold together in what is their last ever Olympics. Svendsen and Eckhoff also picked up their second medal of the Games. The Czech Republic were second winning their 5th Olympic biathlon medal in Sochi. It meant another silver for Moravec to take his total to three, a second medal for both Soukalova and Soukup and a first for Veronika Vitkova. Taking a well deserved bronze was Italy. Some assured performances from Wierer, Oberhofer and Dominik Windisch meant that Lukas Hofer had a pretty straight forward final leg to clinch the medal.

Next was the Women’s Relay which saw a well deserved and quite poignant, given the problems in their country, gold medal go to Ukraine. The team of Vita and Valj Semerenko, Olena Pidrushna and Julia Dzhyma were fantastic. It just shows you though how small the margins are in biathlon between winning and losing. On the third leg Valj Semerenko hit the last shot with her last spare round. If she had missed the Ukraine wouldn’t even have got a medal. She hit it under tremendous presssure and they went on to clinch gold. Russia came in second with a strong team of Yana Romanova, Olga Zaitseva, Ekaterina Shumilova and Olga Vilukhina. In third were Norway giving Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff their third medals of the Games and a first for Fanny Horn and Ann Kristin Flatland.

The best relay was saved for last however as on the final shoot of the Men’s Relay there were still 4 teams in contention for gold. Russia, Norway, Germany and Austria all came in to the range together. If you were going to put your house on who would hold their nerve between Svendsen, Shipulin, Schempp and Landertinger you would go for Svendsen every time. However he was the one who buckled under the pressure and allowed the other three to fight it out for gold while he went on the penalty loop. In the end Anton Shipulin took gold for the home nation in a fitting end to an amazing Olympic Games for biathlon. Along with Alexey Volkov, Evgeny Ustyukov and Dmitry Malyshko they final gave the great crowds in the Laura stadium what they had been waiting for – a Russian victory. The silver went to the German team of Erik Lesser, Daniel Boehm, Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp. Bronze went to a deserving Austrian team of Cristoph Sumann, Simon Eder, Daniel Mesotitsch and Dominik Landertinger.

That is the Olympic Games in Sochi over as far as biathlon is concerned. It has been fantastic with great racing, great crowds and great biathletes. We only have another 4 years to go until the next one in South Korea but it is a little sad that we are saying goodbye to some fantastic biathetes like Bjoerndalen, Berger, Henkel, Ferry, Bergman, Zaitseva, Mesotitsch and Sumann who have either announced their retirement or are very unlikely to compete in another Olympics. They still have the rest of the season to go and I am just happy we had a RELAY great end to the Olympics!

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Sochi so far: Biathlon Royalty!

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Phew! A rest day for biathlon today and just in time for me to calm down a bit from my ridiculous over excitement and keep you up to date with what’s been happening. We have had 4 races so far – 2 Sprints and 2 Pursuits. Unless you have been on a trip to the moon or deep under the ocean you will have heard by now that the King of Biathlon Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won the Men’s Sprint race on Saturday. His highness claimed his 12th Olympic medal and equalled the record of his fellow countryman Bjorn Daehlie. The Women’s Sprint was won by Queen Kuzmina who successfully defended her Olympic title from Vancouver.

The Prince and Princess of Pursuit were Martin Fourcade and Darya Domracheva who both showed amazing ski speed and backed it up with highly accurate marksmanship to take their first ever gold medals. The other medallists so far have been Dominik Landertinger and Jaroslav Soukup who took silver and bronze in the Sprint. Soukup’s achievement was all the more amazing after recovering from an arm injury that doctor’s thought might mean he would never ski competitively again. Well he showed them!

In the Women’s Sprint silver and bronze went to Olga Vilukhina, who pleased the home crowd, and Vita Semerenko. The other Pursuit medals went to Ondrej Moravec and Jean Guilliame Beatrix and for the women Tora Berger and Teja Gregorin who won Slovenia’s first ever medal in Olympic biathlon.

The Czech Republic are having a great games so far with 2 medals for the men in 2 races and are looking very good to win more in the relays. Gabriela Soukalova looks back on form in the Pursuit coming from 29th to finish 4th. France have also done well again with 2 medals from 2 races and a very good Pursuit performance from young Simon Destheiux who went from 46th to 21st. They will be difficult to beat in the Men’s Relay.

On the other hand Norway’s Crown Princes, Svendsen and the Boe brothers, have been a little bit off the pace. They haven’t raced competitively since Ruhpolding but will no doubt come in to form for the latter races. The German team haven’t performed very well either with the exception of Schempp but will still be in with a chance especially in the relays.

The Olympics can bring out the best in people. Even thought they might not win a medal for it some of the biathletes have been performing really well. JP Le Guellec finished 5th in the Sprint an improvement on 6th place in Vancouver and he was leading the Pursuit race up until his unfortunate fall on that treacherous corner. Tobias Arwidson of Sweden outperformed his much more experienced countrymen Ferry and Bergman by being one of only two men to shoot clear in the Pursuit – the other being silver medallist Moravec. You also have to feel for Anton Shipulin who came so close to a medal in the Sprint at his home games. Hopefully he will get something from the remaining races.

For the women Karin Oberhofer and Dorothea Weirer of Italy did exceptionally well in the Sprint finishing 4th and 6th. Anais Bescond had a great race finishing in 5th and Switzerland’s Elisa Gasparin finished 8th beating her big sister Selina. In the Pursuit Ann Kristin Flatland made up a lot of places finishing 9th from a start bib of 24 and Olga Zaitseva showed some encouraging form coming from 28th to finish 11th. Sunsan Dunklee has also been breaking all kinds of US records finishing 14th in the Sprint and 18th in the Pursuit.

Tomorrow is the Men’s Individual and then it’s the Women’s turn on Friday. I am not even going to try and predict any medallists as it’s a difficult one to call with the 1 minute penalty per missed target. The gold medals in Sochi so far have been dominated by biathlon’s royalty but can anyone beat them in the next races? You will just have to watch and see!

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There’s no Ru-hpolding back now!

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World Cup 5 is finished already! Where did the time go? We only have one more WC round before the Olympics start in February! Ruhpolding as usual did not disappoint. Huge crowds, decent conditions and some exceptional performances by the competitors saw to that! It started on Wednesday with the Women’s Relay followed by the Men on Thursday,then we had the Individuals and finally the Pursuits.

The Women’s Relay was great entertainment. It was won by a strong Russian Team, Germany took second and Norway third. The result tells you nothing about the race though. Franziska Preuss had a disaster in the first leg which ended with a penalty loop but her teammates Sachenbacher, Dahlmeier and Hildebrand were all amazing to pull Germany up to second. Tiril Eckhoff had a similar meltdown on the first leg and again her team of Flatland, Solemdal and Berger pulled off a brilliant third place. However you can’t beat a Russian team of Glazyrina, Zaitseva, Starykh and Vilukhina who are shooting so well by going on the penalty loop and they got a well deserved victory.

The same type of things actually happened in the Men’s Relay the next day. Johannes Boe has more than likely shot himself out of a starting place in the Olympic Relay team by missing 6 shots out of 8 in the first prone shoot and leaving his team with an impossible task. They did however finish a respectable 9th with Tarjei Boe, Christiansen and Svendsen having great races individually. The winners after five long years of waiting were the Austrian team of Sumann, Mesotitsch, Eder and Landertinger. A thrilling final lap saw Landi just pip Germany and Simon Schempp into second and Russia finished a solid third. Elsewhere Slovenia met their qualification for Sochi finishing 7th, Italy again did well in 6th and Sweden laid down their medal winning credentials finishing 4th with some great shooting performances.

Onto the Women’s Individual and Pursuit which were both won by the on form Gabriela Soukalova who must be a strong favourite for the Olympic titles. Second went to Darya Domracheva continuing her great form from Oberhof and Veronika Vitkova finished an impressive third. The stand out performances though came from Andorra’s Laure Soulie who took her best ever result of ninth, Germany’s Franziska Hildebrand in fourth her highest place finish and Japan’s Fuyuko Suzuki who claimed 13th also a career best. Second and third in the Pursuit went to Berger and Makarainen who are both getting better and better especially in terms of their skiing right in time to go to Sochi. Other impressive movers in the Pursuit were Preuss 16th to 4th,Eckhoff 25th to 7th,Brunet 21st to 10th and Bescond 29th to 11th!

Over on the Men’s side a certain Mr. Svendsen comfortably won both races before he goes home and continues his Olympic training. Shame he won’t be in Anholtz but Fourcade and Bjoerndalen will be there. Russian’s Volkov and Ustykov took second and third in the Individual and are making it hard from them not to be selected for Sochi. Jakov Fak returned to form after injury and illness finishing 4th and Simon Fourcade seems to be back on track finishing 7th. Tobias Arwidson achieved a career high 17th place and Johannes Boe bounced back from the relay by finishing 8th. In the Pursuit Fak took second and Garanichev not wanting to be overshadowed by his Russian teammates was third. Tarjei Boe did yet another amazing race taking 6th from a start bib of 37! Other big moves came from Eder 16th to 4th and Sumann 27th to 8th continuing their good form from the relay.

So after 2 fun weekends in Germany the World Cup circus heads to Anhotlz-Anterselva. It’s the last World Cup round before the Olympics and it’s where the final teams will be decided to get on the plane to Sochi. For many biathletes it’s their last chance to impress the selectors so there’s no Ru-pholding back now! Go for it everyone and good luck!

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The Swede Smell of Success!

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Well that’s Oestersund over for another year. A disrupted calendar due to high winds but pretty interesting all the same. It began what feels like about 10 years ago with the mixed relay. The Czech Republic won with a very solid performance from all 4 athletes and with a little help from Martin Fourcade who proved he is in fact human and not just a lean, mean, biathlon machine.

He soon put all that behind him though by winning the Individual by over 2 minutes with an “in your face doubters” kind of display. What’s most remarkable about this guy is that after a disaster in the relay and 4 days to sit and dwell on it he comes out and shoots clear. His mental strength is unbelievable and you can’t help but be impressed by the way he handled the situation. We know his physical ability but to have that mental toughness is why he will be so hard to beat this season. Many people would have crumbled after the relay but he comes out even stronger and wins the Sprint too just for good measure. Four-midable!

On the women’s side Tora Berger didn’t get off to a great start either. She also had a bit of a shocker in the relay. Like Fourcade she worked her way back on to the podium finishing 3rd in the Sprint.Elsewhere Gabriela Soukalova started where she finished last season with an impressive performance in the Individual and Ann Kristin Flatland had a great race to win the Sprint. It was great to see Marie-Laure Brunet get the podium that her amazing shooting deserves and Olga Zaitseva making it in there too after a rocky start for Team Russia. Slovakia also earned a podium through Kuzmina.

Special mentions have to go to the French men’s team especially Jean-Guillame Beatrix for his 4th place in the Sprint and Baptiste Jouty for an amazing 13th place in the same race.In fact the French men had 5 finishers in the TOP 40. Also to Fredrik Lindstrom for restoring some home pride in a tough meet for the Swedes. What might have been if he hadn’t fallen we will never know but I like to think he would have won. Tim Burke also hit some early season form in the Sprint and his fellow North American JP Le Guellec proved that he must really like Oestersund by getting a 4th place in the Individual to follow his Sprint win last year. The Austrian men also performed very well in the Individual with Eder in second, and Mesotitsch in third after competing in Idre in the IBU Cup.

The Italians also had some great results from both the men and women. Oberhofer and Weirer both finished in the TOP 10 -a first for Italy and Hofer and De Lorenzi repeated the feat for the men. Kadri Lehtla was the only woman to shoot clear in the Individual and earned her a career best 15th place. Andorra’s Laurie Soulie was also having the race of her life in that event right up until the final shoot.If she hadn’t missed 3 targets she could have made the TOP 5.

On the other hand it was a bit of a disappointing weekend for the big guns from Norway and Russia especially on the men’s side with no podiums for either team.If you are a fan of theirs though you shouldn’t worry too much. I think they both have a master plan that involves peaking in time for the Olympics and if last season’s World Championships are anything to go by the Norwegians at least will be bang on form for Sochi.

It was unfortunate that both the Pursuits were cancelled. It seems my powers of weather forecasting are brilliant as I did predict a hurricane in my last post! Not to worry though the fun starts again in Hochfilzen on Friday. Fourcade, Soukalova, Flatland and the Czech relay team leave Oestersund with the Swede smell of success but can they repeat it in Austria? You’ll have to wait and see!

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