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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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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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Is it a bird?Is it a plane?No,it’s Michal Šlesingr!!!

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If you look up an see something hurtling towards you out of the sky it’s probably this guy!Full time adrenaline junkie,skydiver,and biathlete Michal Šlesingr is one of the Czech Republic’s best known winter sports stars. Born on the 3rd of February 1983 in Ústí nad Orlicí he started training in biathlon at the age of ten. He graduated in 2004 by which time he had already won medals at Junior World and European level.

He has taken part in the World Cup since 2002/03 where he finished 78th overall in his first season and his highest overall position came in the 2010/11 season where he finished 9th. His only World Cup victory came in 2007 in Holmenkollen in the Mass Start and is one of eight podium finishes in his career so far. He enjoyed a successful World Championships in Antholz, Italy in 2007 winning a silver medal in the 10 km Sprint and bronze medal in the 20 km Individual. He didn’t have the best individual performances at his home World Championships in Nove Mesto. The mixed relay team won bronze but unfortunately he wasn’t in it.

This season has been disrupted by illness for Michal. He got the flu and then a bacterial infection which meant he only just came back to the World Cup in Oberhof.It was a great return though as he took 12th place in the Sprint, 5th in the Pursuit and 19th in the Mass Start. Some training in Pokljuka and Obertilliach probably helped with the first 2 results and lack of competition would account for the third. Coming back to race 3 hard races in 3 days is not easy for anyone let alone someone who is just back from illness.

As a baby Michal was described as “a little hyperactive”. A huge understatement if ever there was one! He has continued this hyperactivity into adulthood and includes among his many passions skydiving, scuba diving, climbing, white water kayaking and base jumping. Some quiet little sports there to fill in the time when he isn’t doing biathlon or looking after his daughter! In fact I think biathlon may be a bit tame and boring for Mr.Šlesingr.

What he needs to do is start a bit of extreme biathlon! Skydive out of a plane, land on the top of a ski slope, ski down to a river, kayak down over the rapids, get out at the biathlon track,hit the targets and head for the finish line!!! That would liven up his weekend a bit! Actually biathlonworld tv missed a trick not using him as a stuntman in their “Bond adventure”. Remember that scene from “The Spy Who Loved Me” when Bond skies of the cliff and parachutes down. See the clip here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvv2lv2s_gM
Michal could have done that easily! He might have used a Czech flag though!

So after his biathlon career he has plenty of things to keep him busy but we are a long way from that I hope. With another Olympics coming up Michal will be hoping the Czech team can reproduce their form from Nove Mesto and hopefully he will be able to beat his best Olympic performance of 16th in the Mass Start in Vancouver and 6th and 7th place in the relays. Having missed the start of the season he may be fresher than the others and has a good shot at an individual medal in one of the events at least. I really hope he can do it but he always has his adrenaline fuelled sports to keep him busy. So next time you see something in the sky and it’s not a bird or a plane,it’s probably Michal Šlesingr!!!

You can like Michal’s Facebook page or get more info on him from his website in Czech and English:

http://www.slesingr.com

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Antholtz: Ital never be forgotten!

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Wow what a World Cup round we had in Antholz-Anterselva! Round six on the tour did not disappoint and we saw 3 new winners and a host of other biathletes recording their best ever results. Not a bad time to do it seeing as the Olympics are coming up and some places in the teams are still up for grabs.

This round started with the Women’s Sprint event which was won by Anais Bescond of France. Her first ever win on the World Cup came in front of Andrea Henkel and Darya Domracheva. It was a great boost for French women’s biathlon especially with the injury to Dorin Habert and a loss of shooting form for Brunet. Fourth place was taken by a fantastic Susan Dunklee who recorded her best finish ever too and was really close to getting on the podium herself.

The pressure of such good results and leading the Pursuit was too much for Bescond and Dunklee as they didn’t continue their form in the Pursuit race. Instead it was the cool head and experience of Andrea Henkel who got the win. It was her 22nd win on the World Cup her first one coming in 1998. What an amazing biathlete she is!Second place went to another biathlete getting a career best result Nadezhda Skardino of Belarus who performed really well and beat Tora Berger into third position. Tora produced a storming last lap to overtake her own teammate Tiril Echhoff who also put in a great performance moving from 14th to 4th but couldn’t match Berger’s skiing on the final leg.

Other movers in the Pursuit race were Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier who started bib 21 and finished 7th, China’s Chaoquig Song who stared 30th and made up 20 places with some immaculate shooting to finish 10th.Poland’s Weronika Nowakowska also did well finishing 15th from a starting bib of 36. The women’s races overall where great to watch in Antholz and have definitely wet the appetite for Sochi as anyone could win there!

The men’s races were no less exciting! In the Sprint Simon Schempp and Lukas Hofer shared the win after some initial confusion with the timing. A first win for both of them but sweeter for Hofer as it was his home race. They beat Arnd Peiffer into third and it’s great to see him back on the podium after a tough season last year. Bjorn Ferry returned to the Top 10 finishing in 6th and Krasimir Anev also got back in there with a season’s best result to take 7th and followed up with 5th in the Pursuit. Canada’s Brendan Green produced an amazing result to finish 8th his best ever finish in the World Cup.

In the Pursuit Schempp held his nerve and made it two wins out of two with an impressive display of physical, and particularly mental, toughness. Hofer was not able to match this and dropped down to 20th.Second place saw Jean-Guilliame Beatrix of France achieve his best result ever and he could have taken the win but for a missed target on the last shoot. Third went to Norways Henrik L’Abee-Lund who produced his best finish this season. I just hope it’s not too late for Olympic selection. Fourth place went to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who made up 16 places from a start number of 20 in a terrific display.Other noteworthy performers were France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet who moved up from 32nd to 14th and Norway’s Martin Eng who started 53rd and finished 34th.

Unfortunately on Sunday the Women’s Relay was cancelled on the second shoot due to thick fog, that appeared as if from nowhere, with the Russian team in the lead. It’s a shame as there were still some decisions to be made and places to be won on the Olympic teams but the coaches will just have to decide based on previous races. It is the third cancelled race this year. The men were luckier and faced only a 30 minute delay before the start. France took the victory with a strong team and Sweden finished second improving from 4th last time out. Germany were third, a penalty loop from Andi Birnbacher of all people cost them any chance of victory. Canada finished a very impressive sixth rightly described as “frickin awesome” by JP Le Guellec! Belarus finished 7th from a ranking of 21st and had a great race too.

So that concludes all the World Cup rounds before the Olympics.The next races will be in Sochi! Antholz-Anterselva was again a fantastic round with great crowds and great tracks if not the great weather we usually expect there. This top venue provided some unforgettable moments for all the biathletes who achieved their career best finishes. For Simom Schempp, Anais Bescond and especially Lukas Hofer it means this season’s Antholz : Ital never be forgotten!!!

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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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Ant – holz Shipulin!

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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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