Tag Archives: biathlon women’s 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. 🙂

Karin: Ober the moon!

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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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Selina: On a “Swiss roll”!

selina

Switzerland’s Selina Gasparin has had the best season of her career so far. She has claimed the first ever victory for her country and followed it up with the second just for good measure.Both of these victories came in the Sprint event, the first historic win in Hochfilzen and hot on it’s heels the second win in Annecy just one week later.

Selina was born in Samedan, Switzerland on the third of April 1984. She is the eldest of the Gasparin sisters who all compete together in the relay team. She is also part of the Swiss Border Police. Coming from an alpine county she lists her hobbies as mountaineering and the slightly less dangerous knitting. Useful if you need a jumper to keep you warm on the mountain! She speaks 5 languages, German, English, Italian, Romansh as you would expect but also Norwegian! Now the last time I looked Norwegian isn’t an official language of Switzerland!

There is a very good reason for this however. Switzerland is much more famous for alpine skiing than other winter sports and so there coaching and facilities are not as developed as in countries. For this reason Selina decided to move to Norway where she immersed herself in the world of biathlon and cross country skiing. She then returned home with this knowledge to pass on to her fellow athletes. It was a great move for her but also a brave one as it’s not easy to leave your country and family to go to a foreign place and it shows what a strong character she has.

Prior to this season her best result was a fourth place in the Individual race in Oestersund in 2012. To make the jump onto the podium is not as easy as you might think and Selina has proved what a great biathlete she is by doing it. Especially considering the competition around in female biathlon with the likes of Berger, Domracheva,Soukalova and Makarainen and a host of others to compete with. By backing it up with another win straight away she proved it was no fluke. Where she might be disappointed is with her subsequent performances in the Pursuits. Unused to the pressure of being chased down in the lead was probably an explanation for this but she can only improve by using these experiences to learn and grow as a biathlete.

She has also helped the Women’s Relay team qualify to compete in Sochi which is a huge achievement both for Swiss biathlon and the Gasparin family. As it makes up 75% of the team Mr and Mrs. Gasparin must be so proud of Selina along with her sisters Aita and Elisa. Their chances of a medal in the games are slim with extremely strong competition at the front but you never know. A Top 6 finish I think would be like a medal for them(ok maybe not exactly like a medal but you know what I mean!!). Individually however Selina has a great chance of getting a medal especially in the Sprint event which seems to be her best. Being in great form going into the Olympics is always a good thing and she is certainly on a Swiss roll!

Good luck Selina!

You can follow Selina on Facebook and Twitter and she has her own website:
http://www.selinagasparin.ch/

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