Tag Archives: Biathlon Mixed Relay

Rise of the Sprinter?

No it is not the next Terminator film but it could spell the end for some! You may have noticed that recently the IBU have been testing some new race formats. The only one to reach World Cup level so far is the single mixed relay but there are races currently on the IBU Cup that could be gracing our TV screens soon at the top level.

The super sprint is one of them and it involves a short 3km sprint race followed by a short 5km mass start for the top 30 finishers. Note the entire race distance is 8km which is shorter than the 10km men’s sprint and only half a kilometre longer than the 7.5km women’s sprint.

The single mixed relay is raced over a distance of 13.5km in total with each leg being just 1.5 km. The mixed relay is 27km long, the women’s relay 24km and the men’s relay 30km.

So what am I getting at here? – biathlon races are getting shorter!

Why are they getting shorter? Well a few reasons really I suppose. The first is that these shortened events tend to be more exciting and better for the TV schedules. They are also a reaction to the fact that nowadays the modern viewer has a shorter attention span and there is a culture of wanting instant gratification.

And of course the shorter the race the closer the finish is likely to be! Less distance to race means that the faster skiers can’t build up as much of a lead and so any mistakes on the range from the front runners are more likely to be punished. It makes for great drama and compelling viewing.

So what does this mean for the sport?

Well firstly it could spell the end for some of the current races and the most likely casualty is the individual. It’s the longest race on the World Cup. It is 20km for the men and 15km for the women. It is against the clock so there isn’t the excitement and action that the head to head races bring and if there is a big field of competitiors it can take quite a long time from start to finish. However it is also the oldest event in biathlon and probably the best test of a biathletes skill. Incidentally the IBU have also introduced a shorter verion of the individual with a 45 second penalty and a 12.5km distance for women and 15km for men.

Another way that this race shortening could change the sport is with the athletes themselves. Will they need to change how they train? The newer events look more like a series of intervals rather than pure stamina events. Will they have to adjust to become sprinters rather than long distance racers? Could we see the end of training such as the bike rides up the mountains of Europe and roller skiing great distances around the countryside? Will the slow-twitch muscles have to be replaced by the fast-twitch muscles for these short speedy events?

On the other hand another of the new races is the mass start 60 which is a big version of the current mass start with 60 racers instead of the usual 30. There is no change in distance but it is reflective of the fact that head to head races are more popular with the fans. Let’s face it they are more entertaining!

What will happen in the future?

Interestingly the super sprint was on the schedule for the World Cup in Holmenkollen this season but the IBU recently announced that it would not go ahead and the traditional sprint and pursuit would be held instead. After a recent evaluation meeting involving the Technical and Athletes Committees several rule changes have been proposed and so further tests will be carried out on the IBU Cup. Despite this delay it looks like it will be heading to the World Cup at some point in the future.

So could we see a big change to the biathlon events in the next few years? Will the individual disappear? Will the sprint be replaced by the super sprint? Could they change the super sprint to a sprint + pursuit (instead of a mass start) and lose the pursuit race itself? Could the relays all be cut so that we have the single mixed relay, a short men’s and a short women’s relay instead of the long ones?

Who knows? This is all speculation but it does seem to be the way the sport is heading. Is it the right thing to do? Will the fans like it? I don’t know but it’s will be interesting to see how biathlon changes in the coming years.

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Credit to ex-biathlete Brian Halligan (USA) for the inspiration for this article. 🙂

Pokljuka 2018: The Relays!

So it has finally begun! The new biathlon season got underway on Sunday with both the mixed relays – the single and well the double I suppose! Normal service was resumed with Norway and France winning, or was it?

The Single Mixed relay went to the Norwegian pair of Thelka Brun-Lie and Lars Birkeland. They finished ahead of the Austrian team Lisa Hauser and Simon Eder in second. Ukraine took third. Not too many surprises there but there was some exceptional shooting from Anastasiya Merkushyna and Artem Tyshchenko who only used 1 spare in the whole race.

Canada were leading the race at one point and so were France but the shooting let those teams down a little. Japan were 10th and usually do well in this race.

It was the Mixed Relay where we got a surprise. France won with a strong team of Bescond, Braisaz, Martin Fourcade and Desthieux. However second place went to Switzerland with fantastic performances from the birthday girl Elisa Gasparin, Lena Hacki, Benni Weger and Jeremy Finello.

Third went to Italy, with the usual suspects, Vittozzi, Wierer, Windisch and Hofer despite a penalty loop.

Finland also had a great race with Eder(formerly Laukkanen) and Makarainen putting them in the lead but the men, Seppala and Hiidensalo, couldn’t hold it and eventually finished 5th which is still a great result.

The biggest excitement of the day however was reserved for Timofey Lapshin’s moustache. It’s amazing! Curled up at the ends and everything!

Racing continues on Wednesday with the Individual and goes right through until Sunday with the Pursuits.

Apologies to my regular readers as the blog coverage is going to be patchy before Christmas. It seems I am so busy writing about biathlon for other people that I don’t have a lot of time to do it for myself. Hopefully normal service will be resumed after Christmas!

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I(BU) got new rules, I count’em!

New things are happening in biathlon this season. They had one of those congress things back in September and the powers that be have made some changes. Even though in general we fear change, some of these aren’t so scary!

Firstly they have introduced a new event! OK so it’s not exactly new it’s just a bigger Mass Start. It means there will be 60 starters instead of 30. That’s madness I hear you cry – they will never all fit on the range! And you would be right but actually they don’t have to.

There is a sneaky way around this problem and it’s this – everyone skis the first lap together with the inevitable falls and pole breakages, but then only the first 30 stop to shoot and the second 30 keep skiing. At the end of the second lap the second 30 stop to shoot and the first 30 continue to ski. If all goes to plan most of the biathletes will have missed targets and we won’t have 60 biathletes descending on shoot two altogether! After the first two shoots are over (basically everyone’s first prone) then the race continues like a normal one and they all shoot the other prone and two stands together. Or more simply:

Bib 1-30 = lap-shoot1-lap-lap-shoot2-lap-shoot3-lap-shoot4-lap.
Bib 31-60 = lap-lap-shoot1-lap-shoot2-lap-shoot3-lap-shoot4-lap.

This will only be held on the IBU Cup this season and only in Martell at the final round. It won’t be replacing the 30 person mass start ….yet! Also it will be formally known at the Massive Start – well by biathlon23 anyway! 😉

The IBU have also made a small change to the Individual. If the conditions are bad, like rubbish weather or rubbish snow, they will have the option of shortening the races. For the men it will be 15km instead of 20km and the penalty for a miss will be 45 seconds instead of a minute. For the women it will be 12.5km and a 45 second penalty. This will make the person with the calculator at the side of the tracks job much harder when trying to work out the times! 😉

There are a few rule changes too. It seems that someone high up must read my blog as one of my Big Biathlon questions has been answered already. In the Mixed and Single Mixed Relay there is now the option of the men starting first instead of the women always starting on leg 1.

Weirdly the Juniors have all got older! The Juniors will have their own Nations Cup this season and you can be a Junior and a Youth for a year longer which means Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Samuelsson can still be a Junior. Get him on the Junior Cup Sweden!

Electronic targets are now allowed at IBU events. So exciting! 😉

Finally there has been some changes to the start quotas and wild cards for the World Cups, one of which I don’t really understand but here goes…

The Total Score winners from the IBU Cup will now get a start at the first round of the World Cup in the next season. The best Junior athletes at the Junior World Championships will get a start in the IBU World Cup finals in the same season.

The Top 8 athletes on the IBU qualifying points list who are not from a country that already has a World Cup quota will get a National Federation wildcard. A maximum of two wildcards per federation can be given in a single trimester. Got that? Yep, me neither!

Oh and they appointed a new President, Olle Dahlin from Sweden. But seeing as I was overlooked yet again it is not of interest to me!!! 😉

P.S Thanks to Dua Lipa for inspiring the title! 😉

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My Big Biathlon Questions!

I have been thinking, which is both unusual and dangerous! I have come up with some questions about biathlon mainly because certain people have failed to respond to their biathlon23 interview request so I had to write something!

How will the Olympic quotas change for Beijing 2022?

You may have heard that the IOC are cutting 20 places from biathlon at the Olympics. This is supposed to be a cost cutting exercise to reduce the money spent by host cities. It will save about 10 pence! The big costs of hosting the Olympics is paying for new infrastructure like stadiums, venues and road and rail transport. Surely they should be increasing the number of athletes not decreasing it.

They are keen to increase gender equality which is a good thing but biathlon is probably one of the most gender equal sports with the same amount of races for men and women and a mixed event. So that makes no sense either!

Unfortunately for them it now falls to the IBU to decide where the cuts will have to be made. I don’t think it will be China that loses any athletes as they are the host nation. Will they cut biathletes from the top ranked nations like Norway, Germany and France? Will they cut biathletes from the smaller nations who only send one or two competitors like Great Britain?

My guess is the axe will probably fall in the middle somewhere. Who knows? I am glad I don’t have to decide.

Why did the IOC reject the Single Mixed Relay as a new Olympic event?

The IOC has approved new Mixed events in freestyle skiing, ski jumping, skating and snowboarding to promote gender balance in the Games. However they rejected the Single Mixed Relay. This is rubbish! It means the small nations will not get a chance to race in a Relay at all. It is an exciting race and shorter than the Mixed Relay and is good for TV.

I mean why do they even have other sports in the Olympics anyway. It should be a biathlon only event! ( Well I may also allow curling!) 😉

Why is the skiing distance different for men and women?

I am sure the eagle eyed among you have noticed that the male biathletes ski further than the women in every race. For example in the Sprint the men do 10km while the women do 7.5km. I have never understood this. The women can ski as far as the men. Sure it might take them longer but they are not racing each other. The women race the women so why the shorter distance? I imagine it’s because in olden times the poor ladies were not deemed strong enough to ski so far!!! In athletics everyone runs 10km or 5km, there is no difference. The men and women receive equal prize money so surely they should ski the same distances! It could either mean shortening the men’s races or lengthening the women’s races but it’s something to think about.

Why are the Mixed Relays always women first and then the men?

Again why do we have woman, woman, man, man (WWMM) in the Mixed Relay and woman, man (WM) in the Single Mixed? Why can’t the men start for a change? Or why don’t we have WMWM or MWMW or even MMWW? And like before why do they have to ski different distances?
In swimming they have Mixed Relays and each team selects when the men or the women race so you have situations where the men and women are racing each other. It’s really exciting and interesting. Imagine we could have Laura Dahlmeier racing Martin Fourcade! The differences would balance out as everyone has to race two men and two women but the teams decide the order independently of each other. Just think Johannes Boe versus Kaisa Makarainen!

I told you it was dangerous when I think! Feel free to agree or disagree but keep it nice please! And if you have any burning biathlon questions throw them out there too! 🙂

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Vladimir Chepelin!

chepelin

The Belarus Team has been getting stronger and stronger over the last few years. It is mainly the women who have been grabbing all the headlines with fantastic results from Darya Domracheva and Nadezhda Skardino in particular but the men’s team are doing well too.

Vladimir Chepelin is one of those who has stepped up his performances. He was born on the 15th of July 1988 and made his biathlon debut in 2011. Last season was one of his best so far.

On the World Cup he started the season well by coming 23rd in the opening round in Oestersund in the Individual. Overall he finished in 47th place in the Total Score. However it was in Oslo Holmenkollen at the World Championships where he really showed what a good biathlete he is.

In the Sprint race he finished in a fantastic 13th place which is his highest finish in a biathlon race to date. He dropped 10 places in the Pursuit to 23rd but another Top 25 finish is impressive. The Indiviual wasn’t as successful and he ended the race in 56th but in the Mass Start which is one of the toughest races he came back to take 13th place again equaling the personal best he set earlier in the week. Considering his top result in Kontiolahti at the last World Championships was 38th you can see he has made a significant step forward.

The coming season could be a good one for Chepelin. It would be great to see him take part in the Single Mixed Relay possibly with Skardino to see what they could do. However last season they were both in the Mixed Relay but without Domracheva they might do better in the Single as they are very capable of getting a podium. It’s much harder in the Mixed Relay to do well against the bigger nations but in the Single Mixed Relay the smaller nations have a better chance of success especially with a strong pair.

Individually Chepelin will be hoping to get his first Top Ten finish on the World Cup. He needs more consistency if he wants to improve his overall standing but I think he could break into the Top 30 overall this season. His shooting can be a bit erratic but if he can reduce the number of missed targets and stay healthy throughout the season it could be his best one yet.

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World Champs 2016: The Mixed Relay!

We are in Oslo for the first race of the 2016 World Championships! It was the Mixed Relay and it was a fantastic opening race in Holmenkollen!

The first leg was great. The USA led the race after Susan Dunklee’s excellent performance on the range and the tracks. She handed over in first place to Hannah Dreissigacker. Marte Olsbu of Norway, under a lot of pressure from the home fans, had an amazing opening leg leaving the final shoot in first place but handing over to Tiril Eckhoff in second just a small distance behind the USA. The team in third at the first exchange were the Ukraine with Valj Semerenko just ahead of Franziska Preuss in fourth and Anais Bescond in fifth.

The second leg was very close with Eckhoff, Marie Dorin Habert, Franziska Hildebrand, Dreissigacker and Olena Pidhrushna all in the hunt for the lead. Eckhoff was the poorest shot of them all missing 2 in the prone and 2 in the stand. Dorin Habert shot clean in the prone and brought herself up to the front alongside Hildebrand. Unfortunately just after she passed Hildebrand she fell on the downhill going under the bridge which allowed Hildebrand to retake the lead. Coming in to the exchange however Ukraine, France, Germany and Norway were all together.

The men took over in the third leg with Johannes Boe, Arnd Peiffer, Sergey Semenov and Quentin Fillon Maillet racing head to head. This was when I noticed the Norwegian technique of touching the skier at the exchange on the bottom to start the next leg. Interesting! This leg couldn’t seperate the four leading teams even though Fillon Maillet missed 3 in the stand he caught up again on the skis. It was surprising that none of the teams tried to break away from him as letting Martin Fourcade start his leg at the same time as the others would not prove to be a good idea.

The fourth leg as usual was crucial. Tarjei Boe, Simon Schempp and Dmtyro Pidruchnyi stayed with Fourace up to the first shoot where Boe missed 3 targets and looked like leaving Norway without a medal. The race then became between Fourcade and Schempp who both missed one target in the stand and so it came down to a ski race and you knew there would only be one winner. Schempp held on as long as he could but in the end Fourcade was too strong and just about had time to do his signature telemark landing over the bridge. Back in third Pidruchnyi missed 2 in the stand and Boe shot clean and fast to take Norway back into third position.

Special mentions to Belarus who used only 1 spare round, Austria for using 3 spare rounds and the USA who used 5.

It was a great race to start the World Championships. The French Team were excellent and deserved to win although I did feel sorry for the Ukraine who did so well up until the final shoot. I thought the others team would have done more to try and break the French Team before they got to Fourcade but they proved too strong. The Sprints are next on Saturday! I can’t wait!

As for the other teams:
Austria 5th Czech Republic 6th Russia 7th
Italy 8th Belarus 9th USA 10th
Canada 11th Sweden 12th Slovenia 13th
Switzerland 14th Kazakhstan 15th Bulgaria 16th
Slovakia 17th Finland 18th Japan 19th
Poland 20th Estonia 21st Romania 22nd
Lithuania 23rd Korea 24th Latvia 25th

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Karin: Ober the moon!

oberhofer

Last season was a very memorable one for Italy’s Karin Oberhofer. It was by far her best ever season on the World Cup and at the World Championships. At 29 Karin has found success a little later than some biathletes but she still has many years to try and improve even more.

Karin was born in Brixen on the 3rd of November 1985. She is currently Italy’s second best ranked biathlete behind Dorothea Wierer. Last season she finished 10th in the Total Score which was a huge 30 place jump from 40th the season before.

The improvement is mainly due to the fact that Karin is now a regular in the Top 10 on the World Cup and had started to make appearances on the podium. In Hochfilzen she got her career best result of second in the Sprint race. She backed that up with 7 more Top 10 finishes and pushed herself up the rankings.

It’s not just on the World Cup where she has been finding success however. Back at the Olympics in Sochi she came 4th in the Sprint and took a bronze medal in the Mixed Relay with teammates Wierer, Dominik Windisch and Lukas Hofer. At the World Championships in Kontiolahti she went one better and managed to get onto the podium by winning the bronze medal in the Mass Start and was able to repeat bronze but this time in the Women’s Relay again with Wierer, Lisa Vittozzi and Nicole Gontier.

She does have another bronze medal from the Women’s Relay in Nove Mesto at the 2013 World Championships. She is probably getting a bit tired of bronze now and must be desperate for a change of colour to silver and most of all gold!

That could happen for Karin if she continues her great form from last season. With Domracheva missing it opens up the possibility of biathletes like her to upgrade their medals and also to take a position on the podium in the World Cup. She will face tough competition to do this and not least from her own teammates. The Italian Women’s team were great last season and hopefully they will all improve again this time round.

Medals are a definite possibility for Karin in the World Championships in Oslo and not just in the Relays. She has always been quite a reliable shooter and has improved her ski speed a lot over the last year. In fact she was one of the top ten fastest skiers in 2014/15 and if she can continue her progress she could have an even better season to come. If she does this I am sure Italy and Karin will be Ober the Moon!

You can like Karin’s Facebook page: Karin Oberhofer
You can look at her website(in German/Italian): http://www.karinoberhofer.com/

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SMR: The reaction is Mixed!

smr

Last season saw the first ever Single Mixed Relay on the World Cup. The format has been tested before and we have the World Team Challenge in Germany between Christmas and New Year but this was the first time that it was an official World Cup event and worth points to the competing nations. In this article I wanted to review just how that went by exploring the purpose of the event and how successful it was.

Firstly though we need to understand exactly what the Single Mixed Relay is. Two biathletes from each country, one male and one female, form a team to take part in the relay. It is raced over a distance of 6km for the women and 7.5km for the men. It is very similar to the Mixed Relay where the biathletes each shoot in the prone and standing position before handing over to their partner. The penalty loop is shorter in this race at only 75 metres. The race is started by the women and finished by the men. The women will do 4 laps in the race and the men 5 as they must complete a whole lap after the final shoot.

So what is the purpose of this new race? It is the first new event to be added to the World Cup since the Mixed Relay was introduced in 2003. There are several different reasons why it has now been included as an event. The first is simply that it adds something new for the spectators and is a short and exciting race. The World Team Challenge has always been very entertaining to watch and now we can enjoy that excitement on the World Cup too. The second reason was, to quote IBU Race Director for the World Cup Borut Nunar, “to present one more team event where nations with only one good male and female athlete could have a strong chance for top rankings”. In other words to give some of the smaller teams a chance to get more Nation’s Cup points.

The first event was held in Nove Mesto and was won by Russia with a team of Volkov and Romanova. Second was Norway with Olsbu and L’Abee Lund and in third came the Ukraine with Dzhyma and Tyshchenko. The smaller teams had mixed fortunes. Japan did really well finishing 10th but Lithuania were 19th and Great Britain were 20th. Estonia didn’t enter a team, neither did Italy or The Netherlands.

Why was this? Well mainly because the event was scheduled on the same day as the Mixed Relay! The small teams don’t have enough biathletes to compete in both relays on the same day and in fact Nerys Jones and Kevin Kane of Great Britain and Fuyuko Suzuki of Japan were forced to compete in both events. So instead of being an event to help the smaller nations it actually became a hindrance! The teams prioritised the Mixed Relay and so couldn’t use the opportunity to gain any extra ranking points.

In the end it seemed to be more of a useful event for the top nations. It gave their biathletes that couldn’t get into the Mixed Relay team the chance to have a race and get even more ranking points for the Nation’s Cup. As we saw Russia won and Norway who were second went on to win the Mixed Relay later in the day. The problem lies in the scheduling of the event. If you can’t have it on the same day as the other relays though, when can you have it?

Well it wouldn’t be possible on the same day as the Sprint or the Individual as nearly all of the biathletes compete in these. That leaves the same day as a Pursuit or a Mass Start where just the TOP 60 or 30 biathletes take part. That would seem to be a better solution but then you have the issue of the tracks. That would mean 3 races in one day on the tracks and as we have seen in the last couple of years the venues are having difficulty providing good tracks because of the lack of snow and 3 races in a short space of time wouldn’t help the skiing conditions. Ideally the Single Mixed Relay would take place on a day with no other races but then it doesn’t last as long as the other relays and so might not be value for money for the spectators.

Overall the Single Mixed Relay serves the first purpose very well. It is new and exciting and something a bit different for fans and biathletes. The second purpose of helping countries gain more ranking points has yet to be seen. We have 2 Single Mixed Relays on the calendar this season in Oestersund and Canmore which are both scheduled on the same day as the Mixed Relays again. The strength of the big teams and scheduling problems mean that it won’t help the smaller teams much to improve their ranking. It is the same with all sports though. The bigger, richer teams will always have more money and be more successful than the smaller ones. Having said all of this we have only had one official race so far!! There is plenty of time to see just how well the event progresses over the next few seasons. We like new things in biathlon but in regards to this relay the reaction is Mixed!

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World Champs 2015 Review: Women

dorin wc

After many days of anticipation and then the opening ceremony, action finally got underway in the 2015 Biathlon World Championships in Kontiolahti. The first race took place on Thursday afternoon and saw 26 teams take part in the Mixed Relay.The conditions were really tough with warm temperatures making the snow wet and it looked like it was up to the biathletes knees!!!

The race got off to a great start with Fuyuko Suzuki taking the lead after 2 shoots for Japan. Veronika Vitkova took the Czech Republic into the lead however in the first exchange and it was then Soukalova and Domracheva who were in contention in the second leg. Domracheva handed over to Chepelin for Belarus and he managed to hold on to the lead in his leg to send Liadov out first for the final leg. Unfortunately for him he only had an 11 second lead and couldn’t hold off Moravec from the Czech Republic who came home first to win gold for his country. He was followed by Martin Fourcade who made up a lot of time to bring France home for silver and Tarjei Boe continued his brother Johannes’ good work by hanging on for bronze despite a penalty loop from Eckhoff. Belarus were fourth by an agonizing 4 seconds. The Finnish team put in a great display for the home crowd and were in with a podium shot going into leg 3. They ended in 9th which was a 7 place improvement on their start of 16th.

Saturday was the first single competition and we began as usual with the Sprint. It was tough conditions for the ladies and it was a hard race. France took gold with a fabulous performance from Marie Dorin Habert. A good time to get her first ever win! She gave birth to her daughter in September and then became a World Champion in March! Little Adele has a very inspirational mum! In second place came Poland’s Weronika Nowakowska-Zemniak. Another great performance and the only biathlete to shoot clean. Bronze medal went to the ever consistent Valj Semerenko who has had a fantastic season. There were 3 Polish ladies in the TOP 10 with Guzik in 5th and Gwizdon in 7th and 2 Germans with Dahlmeier in 4th and Hildebrand in 10th. The favourites for the race did not have such a good day however with Domracheva in 25th and Makarainen in 35th both missing 5 targets.

The Pursuit came on Sunday and had similar outcome to the Sprint. Marie Dorin Habert again skied herself to victory. She missed 3 shots but had enough time to win in front of Laura Dahlmeier by 15 seconds. Coming out of the range after the final shoot the Russian Ekaterina Shumilova was in third position after hitting 20/20. Heartbreakingly for her she fell on the downhill and Weronika Nowakowska swept past her to take her second medal of the Championships in bronze. Makarainen and Domracheva put up a better show finishing in 12th and 7th respectively.

The women had two days off to recover and it really did them the world of good as they produced one of the beat Individual races for a long time. Gabriela Soukalova set the pace and moved into first position with 1 miss. Dorothea Wierer put in a strong challenge also missing 1 and was 1.6 seconds behind Soukalova and went into second. Then came Kaisa Makarainen who put in the ski of her life in the last loop to make up for her 2 misses and just pipped Wierer to go into second, just 1.2 seconds behind Soukalova. She made up over 30 seconds from the range to the line which was absolutely remarkable. So we though that is our podium Soukalova, Makarainen and Wierer. Someone however had other ideas! Starting from bib number 93 and shooting clear Ekaterina Yurlova came through to win the race by 23 seconds. An outstanding performance by the Russian and her first ever win! What a race it was! You have to feel sorry for Wierer missing out on a medal by 0.4 seconds but it was also great to see Makarainen taking a medal at home.

From the Individual race we moved to the team race and the Women’s Relay. After a competitive start with a few changes of the lead it was on the third leg that the tables were turned in favour of one team. That team was Germany and Vanessa Hinz was fantastic shooting quickly and accurately when the others around her, The Czech Republic and Italy, missed. She gave Laura Dahlmeier a lead and she held on to it. It’s a strong young team from Germany and after a lot of criticism from their own country they did a great job. With Franziska Hildebrand and Franziska Preuss they could go on to win many more relays. In second was a valiant France adding another medal to Marie Dorin Habert’s haul! Justine Braisaz had a tough leg going on the penatly loop after her first shoot but stormed back to give the team a chance. With Anais Bescond and Enora Latuilliere they are also a team for the future. In bronze were Italy and they really deserved a medal as Dorothea Wierer, Karin Oberhofer, Nicole Gontier and Lisa Vittozzi have all had great seasons.

The final race for the Women was the Mass Start. It was a good one too with Valj Semerenko coming out on top with excellent shooting hitting 20/20 to win gold for the Ukraine. Behind her in silver came an ecstatic Franziska Preuss with her first solo medal and in third was Karin Oberhofer who ran out an exhausted Darya Domracheva for the bronze.

That’s all from Kontiolahti where the big surprise was that Domracheva failed to win a medal and Kaisa Makarainen only got 1. It just shows that competing for the Crystal Globe and trying to win World Championships is extremely difficult. It was really Marie Dorin Habert’s Championships winning 2 golds and a silver and a breakthrough moment for the young German girls. However we are not finished yet! It’s on to Khanty Mansiysk for the final World Cup round. There are globes yet to be won!

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World Champs 2015 Review: Men

boe wc

After many days of anticipation and then the opening ceremony, action finally got underway in the 2015 Biathlon World Championships in Kontiolahti. The first race took place on Thursday afternoon and saw 26 teams take part in the Mixed Relay. The conditions were really tough with warm temperatures making the snow wet and it looked like it was up to the biathletes knees!!!

The race got off to a great start with Fuyuko Suzuki taking the lead after 2 shoots for Japan. Veronika Vitkova took the Czech Republic into the lead however in the first exchange and it was then Soukalova and Domracheva who were in contention in the second leg. Domracheva handed over to Chepelin for Belarus and he managed to hold on to the lead in his leg to send Liadov out first for the final leg. Unfortunately for him he only had an 11 second lead and couldn’t hold off Moravec from the Czech Republic who came home first to win gold for his country. He was followed by Martin Fourcade who made up a lot of time to bring France home for silver and Tarjei Boe continued his brother Johannes’ good work by hanging on for bronze despite a penalty loop from Eckhoff. Belarus were fourth by an agonizing 4 seconds. The Finnish team put in a great display for the home crowd and were in with a podium shot going into leg 3. They ended in 9th which was a 7 place improvement on their start of 16th.

On Saturday we had the Sprint competition. Conditions were better but still far from ideal for the 129 biathletes. This didn’t seem to bother Johannes Thingnes Boe however as he went out and won! It easy to forget that this is his first ever start in an individual event in a Senior World Championships and he couldn’t have done any better on his debut. There was more good news for the Boe family as big brother Tarjei shot clean to come home to win bronze. It was guaranteed to be a good night out in Styrn, the boys home town, on Saturday! Splitting up the family however was the history making Nathan Smith. He took the silver and is the first Canadian man to win a World Championship medal. He has been getting closer and closer to the podium all year and timed his best ever result to perfection. It wasn’t a great day for some of the big favourites with Martin Fourcade in 12th, Anton Shipulin in 18th, Emil Svendsen in 36th and Simon Schempp in 77th!

Johannes went into the Pursuit as favourite but he had a total nightmare missing 8 shots and finished 31st. On the other hand Germany’s Erik Lesser had a magnificent race. He shot clear and he controlled the pace from the front after the first shoot. He showed remarkable mental strength to hold his nerve shooting not only the perfect 20/20 but he shot fast as well. He always performs well on the big occasion and can now add World Championship gold to his Olympic silver. In second was Anton Shipulin who paced the race well and shot 19/20. At the final shoot when the guys in contention for the final two places missed around him he and Tarjei Boe kept their cool and fought it out on the track for the remaining medals. It was obvious that Shipulin had the upper hand on the skis but it might have been different if Boe had been on his top ski form. Even so he won his third bronze in three races. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen produced a good race to finish in 5th as did Vladimir Iliev who was 6th.

The men had three days of rest before they had the Individual 20km. Normal service was resumed with Martin Fourcade winning yet again! He is very hard to beat at this race. Emil Hegle Svendsen tried his best to do that but he just doesn’t have the ski speed this season. Martin skied 1 minute 20 seconds faster than him as he missed 1 shot but still won comfortably. What was joy for one Fourcade was anguish for the other. Simon took the lead early in the race and shot clear to suggest a podium place would be his. It wasn’t to be however as Ondrej Moravec with 1 missed shot out skied him to take the bronze medal by five seconds. It is the second time Simon Fourcade has finished 4th at this World Championships which must be horribly frustrating for him but on the bright side this is his best season for a long while. Sergey Semenov finished 5th to secure the small Crystal Globe in the Individual for Ukraine. There were also good performances from Lee Jackson of Great Britain in 39th and Alex Almoukov of Australia in 43rd. It was also good to see Italy’s Christian De Lorenzi rolling back the years in 12th adding to his other 2 TOP 30 finishes here.

The Relay was next up and it was won by a dominant German team to match the gold from their Women’s team. They only used 3 spare rounds and were always in the TOP 3. After Arnd Peiffer’s excellent third leg they controlled the race and no one else could catch them. The team of Erik Lesser, Daniel Boehm, Peiffer and Simon Schempp meant a very happy medal ceremony for Germany. In silver medal position came Norway with Emil Hegle Svendsen, Tarjei and Johannes Boe helping Ole Einar Bjoerndalen to his 40th World Championship medal. He was the only one of them not to use a spare round and led after his leg so he is still showing those youngsters how it’s done! I am happy to report that France were third finally getting Simon Fourcade onto the podium and preventing his nervous breakdown after finishing 4th twice already. Jean Guillaume Beatrix, Quentin Fillon Maillet and little brother Martin did a good job!

To finish we had the Mass Start which proved to be a very good race to end with. Jakov Fak took gold in a great race which went all the way to the finish line. In second came Ondrej Moravec to add silver to his gold and bronze to complete the set. Third place went to surprise, surprise Mr. Bronze himself Tarjei Boe who leaves with 5 medals. He beat teammate Bjoerndalen who was fourth but he had an excellent race shooting clean and always up at the front.

So that’s all from Kontiolahti. It has been a great World Championships and France came out on top of the medal table in front of Germany and Norway. I am sure the biathletes are glad to see the back of the “Wall” as they have been up it about a million times now but they can’t rest yet! It’s on to Khanty Mansisyk for the last World Cup of the season!


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