Season 2014/15 has come to an end and there is no surprise about who came out on top in the Men’s field. Yes for the fourth time in a row France’s Martin Fourcade has won the overall title and gets another big Crystal Globe to put on his already overcrowded mantlepiece. It didn’t start out that way though. We all got a bit excited in the first race of the season way back in Oestersund in the Individual 20km.
It was won by Fourcade’s main rival at the start of the season Emil Hegle Svendsen and with Martin having a total nightmare and finishing in 81st place we thought we might see the title go elsewhere. Of course we we entirely wrong because Fourcade popped up and won the very next race, the Sprint, by 28 seconds and went on to win the Pursuit too. After the first World Cup round it was business as usual with Fourcade and Svendsen setting the pace.
That didn’t last long though as two new contenders appeared to chase Fourcade. Germany’s Simon Schempp started putting in some fantastic performances with two second places in Hochfilzen. In Pokljuka Russia’s Anton Shipulin emerged as a real challenger for the overall with 2 wins and a second place. At this point Svendsen was still going along nicely picking up wins and podiums to stay in the hunt.
After Christmas we had the two German races in Oberhof and Ruhpolding. Oberhof went well for Fourcade where he won both races but in Ruhpolding he started to have some problems. Both Schempp and Shipulin gained points there with Schempp getting a win and a second place. Antholz was next and that’s where Schempp did even more damage. With Fourcade under the weather he won both races just as he did the year before to make a big dent in Fourcade’s lead in the yellow bib. It was around this time that Svendsen’s title challenge faded away as he failed to get on the podium or even into the Top 10. Schempp again beat Fourcade in Nove Mesto but not by much as he was second twice while Fourcade was third and fourth.
By now Shipulin’s charge was slowing and while he still made the podium and TOP 10 in Holmenkollen Fourcade’s win and second place gave him the advantage. Schempp didn’t have a great round in Norway either which left Fourcade with a lead of 78 points going into the World Championships where the results also counted towards the overall title. His rivals didn’t fare too well in the points department but Shipulin and Schempp did medal. Martin won the Individual and was competitive enough in all the other races to give him a lead of 111 points to take into the final round.
We found ourselves in Khanty-Mansiysk for round 9 and in the first race, the Sprint, Martin won convincingly and also won the small Crystal globe. Shipulin was second but it left a deficit of 117 points going into the final 2 races. He was also second in the Sprint standings ahead of Simon Schempp in third. In the Pursuit race Martin did enough to win the Overall Title finishing fourth just one place behind Shipulin. This means he has won the total score for 4 years in a row the first person to do so. The final race saw Shipulin claiming the small Crystal Globe for the Mass Start.
Outside of these guys there have been other impressive performances. Ukraine’s Sergey Semenov won the Individual 20km competition with some great shooting and consistent results and did enough in Kontiolahti to hang on to beat Fourcade and Svendsen to the title. Jakov Fak put up a late charge coming into great ski form towards the end of the year winning World Championship gold as well as 3 other races. This put him into third place in the overall standings.
Johannes Thingnes Boe didn’t get as many World Cup wins as last year but he is the World Champion in the Sprint. He is also relatively inexperienced on the World Cup which is obviously a worry for all the other biathletes! His big brother Tarjei made up for a slow start to the season troubled by illness to win 5 medals in Kontiolahti. The German team were stronger than they have been in a while with Schempp but Arnd Peiffer also got back to winning ways in Holmenkollen and with Lesser becoming Pursuit World Champion and Andi Birnbacher getting back to his old form they are a formidable team. They also have Daniel Boehm and Benedikt Doll who collected his first 2 podiums in Khanty Mansiysk.
Simon Fourcade enjoyed a better season than last year finishing 4th in every race!!;-) The French team also have a new star in Quentin Fillon Maillet. He has finished in the TOP 10 nine times with his best result of second place coming in the Ruhpolding Mass Start in a photo finish. Benjamin Weger has shown more consistency this season and has had 4 Top 10 finishes. The Czech team had a good season too with Michal Slesingr in great form and Ondrej Moravec performing well at the World Championships. Evgeniy Garanichev did well too for Russia and finished 6th in the total score.
The Canadians have done really well with Nathan Smith winning silver in the World Championship Sprint, taking 6 TOP 10 finishes and his first ever win in Khanty Mansiysk to finish the season on a high. Brendan Green got a personal best result of 5th too. For the Americans Leif Nordgren outshone his better known colleagues Burke and Bailey with 4 TOP 30 results and a personal best of 16th in the Nove Mesto Sprint. The Bulgarians Krasimir Anev and Vladimir Iliev have been a breath of fresh air this season both shooting really well and getting 14 Top 20 finishes between them, 9 for Iliev and 5 for Anev. Anev achieved a PB of 4th and Iliev 6th.
It has been a very enjoyable season watching the men’s races. I would like to have seen a closer challenge to Fourcade but it sets up next season very nicely. It’s not a two horse race anymore between Fourcade and Svendsen. There are other opponents who can stop Fourcade achieving 5 in a row! However they will find it very tough. It was nice to see the small globes shared around too with Semenov taking the Individual title, Shipulin the Mass Start and the Sprint and Pursuit going to Fourcade. The Nation’s Cup went to Norway. Well we have a long summer ahead of us to digest this season and look forward to the next one. One thing is certain for Monsieur Fourcade season 2014/15 has been a Global Success!
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