Some of my readers and I have been wondering lately why biathlon has a World Championships every year? We have the Olympic Games every four years and in the three years between there is always a World Championships in biathlon. I had not really considered it much before last season but with the IBU deciding to have two races in North America followed by the World Championships in Norway it got me thinking.
As you will know some biathletes chose to skip one or both of the World Cups in Canmore and Presque Isle to concentrate on the chances of doing well in Oslo at the World Championships. This wasn’t very good for the hosts of these World Cups as you want as many of the best biathletes competing to give the sport more coverage and a boost in popularity in other countries. It also wasn’t good for the biathletes whose minds would no doubt wander to thoughts of gold medals elsewhere and worry that all the long haul travel might affect their preparations.
So what could be done to resolve this? Well just in case I am ever in charge of the IBU (it could happen!) I thought about what I would do. Firstly I would make the World Championships every 2 years. For example for the next cycle you would have the Olympics in 2018, the World Champs in 2019, a break in 2020, a World Champs in 2021 and then the Olympics again in 2022. Not only that I would also change the World Cup schedule itself – that’s right I would be a sweeping reformer!!
Currently we start the season in Oestersund then go to Hochfilzen and Pokljuka before Christmas. Recent years have seen a lack of snow at the start of the season so I would start in Russia. Either Tyumen or Khanty Mansiysk could host the opening round as they are more likely to have snow. It also gets the longest journey out of the way when the biathletes are freshest. The second round can go to Antholz and the third remain in Pokljuka.
After Christmas we normally go to Oberhof and then Ruhpolding followed by Antholz. Sorry Germans I know biathlon is massive there but it is growing in many other places now so you would get one World Cup rotated between Oberhof one year and Ruhpolding the next. Round 5 would go to Nove Mesto which has to become a permanent fixture on the World Cup due to its huge popularity and amazing World Cup from the season before last. Round 6 switches to Hochfilzen. All three countries border each other therefore minimising travel time and costs.
The final three rounds would be a tour of Scandinavia with Round 7 in Kontiolahti, round 8 in Oestersund and the final round in Oslo. Again all counties that border each other. I know what you are thinking. What about Canmore, Presque Isle, Annecy and the other countries that can host biathlon like Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Poland to name a few? Fear not I have a cunning plan for that!
The year that there would be no World Championships in my schedule would be the year where we could boldly go where no biathlete has gone before, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations! Oh no, wait a minute, that’s the opening to Star Trek but Captain Kirk had the right idea!
In a season without a World Championships we could probably squeeze in 3 more World Cup rounds. So you could potentially have 3 World Cups across Canada and America or even further afield in Asia possibly Korea, Japan and China. You could also mix and match the established World Cup rounds with others in for example Annecy, Otepaa, Cheile Gradistei, Bansko or Brezno-Orsblie.
You could point out that usually there are only 3 or 4 people who are capable of winning the Overall biathlon title so if there is no World Championships what incentive is there for the other biathletes. Well there is also the possibility in the free year of having a “Tour de Biathlon”-I came up with that name and idea myself, I have not copied it from anywhere!!! 😉
You could take three or four venues that are not too far apart and hold a series of races across them with a nice cash incentive for the winners of each event and the overall tour. You could even throw in some classic ski races like in olden times biathlon and also some pure shooting knockout competitions as well as team events. These are just suggestions there could be many ways of doing it.
So there you have it, an alternative biathlon season. Obviously there are probably many reasons of money, sponsorships deals and logistics that might not make such ideas feasible but as I still don’t work for the IBU (but it really could happen!) they are not my problem!! If anyone from the IBU is reading this you can copy it if you like although you will have to use the name “The Tour de Biathlon23!!”
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