Tag Archives: Biathlon

No Sn-Oberhof!

oberhof

Well the World Cup is back with a bang!(and I don’t just mean from the rifles!)No snow, fog and rain,tough tracks and a difficult range made Oberhof a great stop on the tour.Emil Hegle Svendsen and Darya Domracheva both decided that now was the time to show their form winning the Sprint and Pursuit races on Friday and Saturday. Svendsen was coming off the back of a strong shooting performance in the Schalke event over the Christmas break and it seems taking WC3 off in Annecy was a good move. In fact I think it’s his plan to also skip Anholtz. His shooting and skiing are looking really good and he seems fresher and sharper than Martin Fourcade at the moment.

His big competition in the first 2 races in fact came from Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. A strong skiing performance in the Sprint meant he only lost out on first place by 0.4 of a second and 2 costly missed shots in the last standing shoot in the Pursuit meant he missed another top spot which should have been his 94th World Cup win. You would think Svendsen might have given him the victory – he is after all Emil Skywalker to Ole Wan Kenobi – Ole having mentored and helped him as a youngster! How ungrateful!;-)

Martin Fourcade took 3rd in both those races but his shooting wasn’t as good as usual and a planned break from Ruhpolding is looking like a good decision. Elsewhere in the men’s races we saw exceptional stuff in the Sprint from Artem Pyrma from the Ukraine and Kauri Koiv from Estonia who finished 4th and 5th respectively both shooting clear and getting their best results ever. The foggy and rainy conditions may have helped them but they deserve huge credit for pulling off those results in such difficult circumstances. It was good to see Sweden’s Magnus Jonsson back in the Top 20 too.In the Pursuit Andrejs Rastorgujevs of Latvia stormed to an amazing 4th place finish from a start bib of 28 and has to be a serious contender for his first podium soon.

The women’s races were pretty similar as Domracheva won both and Makarainen came second. The only change was in third which was taken by a solid outing from Olena Pidhrushna in the Sprint and a fantastic display in the Pursuit saw Synnove Solemdal finish third from a start position of 21. Other movement of note came from Vilukhina 15th to 5th, Soukalova 26th to 12th and Ringen 22nd to 13th. The Sprint also produced some some impressive results for Evi Sachenbacher 7th,Novakowska 8th,Weirer 9th and the 2 French girls Marine Boilliet and Anais Chevalier finishing 12th and 14th.

Sunday saw the first mass start races of the season and a flashback to last season’s results as Martin Fourcade and Tora Berger both won. It’s great to see Tora getting her form back on the standing shoot and just in time too with the Olympics little over a month away. Solemdal made it a Norwegian 1-2 but almost lost out to Domracheva in a close finish. Alexey Volkov shot clear to finish second in the men’s race. His best ever result giving the Russian selectors a headache for Sochi. Tarjei Boe was third despite Simon Eder’s best efforts to knock him over. In fact both Boe and Fourcade could have careers in figure skating, after fine pirouettes to save falls, should they tire of biathlon.

So now it’s off to Ruhpolding which starts on Wednesday with the women’s relay. The crowds in Germany are amazing and the fans and officials in Oberhof deserve great credit for this week end considering the miserable conditions. There may have been No Sn-Oberhof but there was certainly some great racing!Good job everyone!

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Kazar: The Crack Slovak!

kazar

Matej Kazár is one of Slovakia’s top biathletes. He was born on the 10th of May 1983 in Košice. He made his first appearance for Slovakia on the World Cup in 2002 as a member of the relay team and has been a regular since 2005. He scored his first points in 2008 in Ruhpolding by finishing 23rd(good number!) in the Pursuit.

He enjoyed a successful junior career winning gold and silver in the European Championships. However his best results have come in the Summer biathlon competitions. In 2010 he had a stellar year winning gold, silver and bronze in the Pursuit, Sprint and Mixed Relay respectively in the Summer Biathlon World Championships in Duszniki Zdrój in Poland. Not only that but he also won 2 gold medals and a bronze in the European Summer Biathlon Championships in the same year in Osrblie, at home in Slovakia, in the same events. Anyone would think he doesn’t like snow!

In fact his best results on snow have been a 17th place in last year’s Individual in Oestersund and another 17th place in the Pursuit in Kontiolahti in 2011/12.He also has another ten TOP30 finishes to his name, five of which came last year. Actually last year was probably his best season so far. He finished 48th in the Total Score by coming 45th in the Individual standings,52nd in the Sprint,44th in the Pursuit and helping Slovakia to a 12th place finish in the Nations Cup.

This season his best result so far came in the Sprint race in Annecy. He finished 26th but didn’t do so well in the Pursuit coming 39th because of 4 missed targets. Matej needs to become more consistent and try and achieve TOP 20 and 30 results on a more regular basis. This however is easier said than done as there are so many great male biathletes competing just now and more good up and coming ones to try and beat. Matej can’t afford to worry about them though, he just needs to concentrate on himself. Some TOP 20 finishes in Sochi would be a massive confidence boost and with a teammate like Anastasiya Kuzmina you never know what could happen in the mixed relay. Maybe he needs to pretend he is on rollerskis to get some good results and we will all see what The Crack Slovak is capable of!

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Kazakhs-Yan Savitskiy!

yansavitskiy

Cleverly disguised as the German team last year (the ski suits were hard to distinguish) the Kazakhstan biathlon team enjoyed a pretty good season. One biathlete in particular achieved some of his best results ever. Yan Savitskiy was born in Ridder, Kazakhstan on April the 29th 1987 and achieved a career best result in the World Championships in Nove Mesto finishing 11th in the Individual.

Last season also saw him produce his best result on the World Cup finishing 16th in the Sprint in Anholtz. He followed that up with 3 further TOP 20 finishes and 2 in the TOP 30. He finished the season in 52nd place in the Total Score up 18 places from the previous year. He was 22nd overall in the Individual event which was his highest placing from all the different disciplines.

Yan is one of few biathletes who has already won a gold medal at a major games. He won relay gold in his home Asian Games in Almaty in 2011. Having already competed at the 2010 Vancouver Games this gives him some much needed experience in preparing for and competing in Sochi in February.Almaty is also bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and so they will be looking to all their winter sports stars to try and raise the profile of Kazakhstan as an Olympic venue. Any success their athletes provide is sure to help them in their campaign.

So what does this season hold for Yan? Well his results so far in the first third of the season have been nothing to write home about.He got a 30 second penalty in the Pursuit in Hochfilzen for starting outwith the 3 second interval but still recorded his top results so far finishing 51st in both the Sprint and Pursuit. Hopefully he is saving his best form for after the Christmas break! His best event from past results would seem to be the Individual and that is probably his best chance of achieving a TOP 10 result both on the World Cup and at the Olympics. It would be an amazing result for Kazakh biathlon and Yan himself if he could do it. It would also be a boost for Asian biathlon in general.

If anyone can pull this major achievement off it has to be Kazakhs-Yan Savitsky!

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UnBølievable Annecy : Le Grand Børnand!

boannecy

World Cup round 3 in Annecy was dominated by the new “golden boy” of Norwegian biathlon Johannes Thingnes Bø. An extraordinary performance by the 20 year old saw him win the Sprint and Pursuit double by 33 and 37.5 seconds respectively.I always expected him to win a World Cup race but not this soon and not in such a dominant style! He also helped a weakened relay team to a fifth place on Friday. He has certainly announced himself as a real threat this year and I hope he can be consistent because I am really looking forward to seeing what he can do against his brother and Svendsen and a Martin Fourcade in better shape. Never short of confidence he stated after his Sprint win that “It is cool to beat Martin here.” He is a real contender now and I think the bigger names in the Norwegian team should start to worry about their places for Sochi.

Elsewhere and playing second fiddle to the Bø show was the great performance of Selina Gasparin who won her second Sprint race in a row. They are like buses those Swiss you wait ages for a win and 2 come along at once. There was also another first time winner on the women’s side. Valj Semerenko took the Pursuit race by maintaining her composure in the final shoot and finished in front of Irina Starykh and Tiril Eckhoff who both finished a career best second and third. In the Sprint race second place went to Kaisa Makarainen and third to Valj Semerenko. The women’s competition is fantastic this year mainly thanks to the amount of amazing biathletes around just now and without last year’s dominance from Tora Berger we are getting some superb racing.

Back to the men and behind Bø in the Sprint came Ondrej Moravec and Martin Fourcade. Following him in second and third in the Pursuit where Erik Lesser and Anton Shipulin. Lesser coming home for a career best finish for him as well. Another stand out result for the men has to be Canada’s Nathan Smith who finished 8th in the Pursuit after starting the year on the IBU Cup.

In the relays the German women’s team put in a great performance to win . The younger members,Preuss,Hildebrand and Dahlmeier, were especially solid on the shooting range and did well in the individual races too. Ukraine got another podium and now have to be the favourites to win gold in Sochi. Norway took third and the Canadian team did an incredible job to get their best ever result of fourth. For the men Russia came back into form with a great finish from Anton Shipulin to sprint past Schempp and take the win. It was also good to see Austria in third to put a disappointing Hochfilzen firmly behind them.

Speaking of disappointment it was a rough weekend for the French team with only Martin Fourcade’s third place to cheer about. However they have a great venue in Annecy. The tracks and the shooting range may not be the most difficult on tour but they make for great close racing that I personally love to watch. It was an UnBølievable weekend for Johannes Bø but it was also a successful one for Annecy. I can’t wait to go back!

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year! We will catch up again in Oberhof!!

P.S For new readers or anyone who is unfamiliar with the blog- a)what’s wrong with you? and b) no seriously, what is wrong with you?- I always keep an eye on whoever is wearing bib 23 and this weekend bib 23 won the men and women’s Sprint races!!!!YES!!!

LEHT’s go KADRI!

lehtla

Estonia has only been a country in its current form since 1993. It has a population of around 1.3 million, one of the least-populous in the EU, and yet it is producing some quality biathletes. Kadri Lehtla is one of these.

Born in Tallinn on the 3rd of May 1985 she has been competing in biathlon since 2006. She has managed to break into the TOP 30 at least once every single year since 2007 which is an amazing feat in itself and she finished 18th in the Pursuit in Kontiolahti in the 2011/12 season. Already an Olympic athlete she achieved some respectable results in Vancouver finishing 18th in the 4×6 km relay, 45th in the 15 km individual and 64th in the 7.5 km sprint.

This summer she has spent time training in Estonia, Finland and Austria. She trained alone away from the rest of the Estonian team in Obertilliach to help her prepare for Sochi. Estonia is not a very mountainous country, it can be described as hilly at best, so it is important to do some training at higher altitudes. Kadri suffered a minor setback with her rifle this summer when she got it caught under her rollerskis and snapped a piece off. Fortunately she has a very handy brother who stuck it back on with glue and tape so she could carry on shooting!

Kadri’s big goal for this season is to break into the TOP 10 and obviously to perform well in Sochi. She needs to improve by around 10-15 places to achieve this and it will be difficult considering the competition but she definitely has the potential to do it. If she can remain illness free for a whole season there is no reason why she can’t be up there with the top biathletes. In biathlon if you can shoot clear anything is possible.

At 28 Kadri is probably now getting to her peak years. With plenty of experience behind her now is the perfect time to try and push on and attain the high goals she has set for herself. She has started this season well with a career best 15th place in the Individual in Oestersund shooting clear. If she does break into the TOP 10 it will be a massive boost both for herself and Estonian biathlon. If she can keep her rifle in one piece she has a great chance – LEHT’s go KADRI!

Kadri’s website: http://www.kadrilehtla.com
You can find her on Facebook too.

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HO HO HOchfilzen!

hochfilzen

It’s close enough to Christmas to get away with that title,right? Well either way we got a few pre-Christmas treats from the biathletes this weekend in Hochfilzen. It all kicked off with the women in the Sprint which saw Selina Gasparin taking her and Swizerland’s first win on the World Cup with a great skiing and shooting performance. Some great shooting also saw Veronika Vitkova match her best result so far in second and Irina Starykh taking her top result finishing third. I was especially pleased about Irina Starykh as she just happened to be wearing bib 23!

It was followed by the men and Lars Berger stormed back onto the World Cup by winning the Sprint with an amazing skiing performance after starting out on the IBU Cup.He managed to beat Martin Fourcade into second and a resurgent Ole Einar Bjoerndalen into third. It’s great to see Berger doing well again for his fun personality if nothing else. I would also like someone to check Bjoerndalen’s birth certificate to make sure he really will be 40 next month.I don’t know how he does it! Whatever his parents fed him when he was young I want some of it!

On Saturday we had the first men’s and women’s relays of the season. The Ukrainian women’s team put in a stellar performance to win. All of their athletes did a great job but Julia Dzhyma stands out for her overall performance over the weekend. They were followed by Germany and France but Norway were noticeably absent from the podium. Over on the men’s side however the Norwegian men won with a dominant display and a characteristically great last leg from Svendsen. Sweden took a great second place with Bergman striking like a cobra into the stadium to fight off the Russian charge and leave them in third.

On to Sunday and the Pursuit. A great race from Solemdal gave her a second victory in Hochfilzen and made up for another difficult day on the shooting range for Tora Berger. Dzhyma took a fantastic second place thanks to some great shooting and Poland’s Palka made up 8 places to finish third. Unsurprisingly Martin Fourcade won the men’s race followed by Svendsen and Boe. Just a little tip for the Norwegians you can’t give Fourcade a 40 second lead in a Pursuit if you want a chance of winning it! Having said that both the Norwegian guys have stepped up a gear from Oestersund and it’s just a pity they won’t be competing in France this coming weekend.

For the home crowd Cristoph Sumann gave them something to cheer about getting 5th in the Sprint and 7th in the Pursuit. They got 4th in the men’s relay too but unfortunately Simon Eder couldn’t carry on his form from last week in Oestersund and Dominik Landertinger didn’t perform as well as he would have hoped at home. The large home crowd was swelled by Biathlon Fans Hungary on their first outing of the season and I am sure their blog and Facebook page will be full of great photos and interviews.

Standouts for me from Hochfilzen have to be Simon Schempp and the German team in general. Schempp finished 8th in the Sprint, 6th in the Pursuit and 6th in the relay. Daniel Boehm and Arnd Peiffer got 2 TOP 20 finishes and the women were second in the relay. Julia Dhzyma as I mentioned before had a good weekend all round finishing first in the relay, second in the Pursuit and fifth in the Sprint. The big movers in the Pursuit were Alexis Boeuf and Benjamin (Darth) Weger gaining 20 and 34 places respectively and the Semerenko twins and Gabriela Soukalova(Bib23) who started 22,23 and 24 and finished 7,8,9.

So after HO HO Hochfilzen now all thoughts turn to France and a first visit to Annecy. None of the Norwegian top guns are attending which is a big disappointment but Martin Fourcade and the French team will be there so the crowds will be happy. What awaits the biathletes in Grand Bornand? We will just have to wait and Annecy!

P.S Has anyone else noticed the interviewer in the IBU official Press Conference always asks a question with the word “surprise” in it. I can’t watch them properly because it makes me laugh everytime I hear it! Listen out for it in Annecy!

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Dutch courage!*

chardine

It’s flat. It doesn’t have a lot of snow. It’s more famous for windmills, tulips and clogs and a liberal attitude to just about everything. The Netherlands is not a place you would readily associate with biathlon. You would however be wrong! Not only do they have biathletes, they have a whole family of them!

All born in Waddinxveen the Sloof family comprising of brothers Joël and Luciën and sister Chardine are taking the biathlon siblings thing to a whole new level! Especially as their coach just happens to be their dad, Eddy! Despite being the youngest, the most successful and probably best known of the three is Chardine. She burst onto the scene in 2012 at the Junior World Championships in Kontiolahti winning two gold medals in the Individual and the Pursuit. In doing so she made history by becoming the first Dutch athlete to win a World Championship.

JoelSloof

Moving to Sweden in 1999 obviously helped all of the Sloofs in biathlon as The Netherlands neither has the weather conditions or facilities to support professional biathletes. Torsby is the location the family chose and it has paid off as all three children have done well in biathlon. The eldest brother Joël born on the 15th of November 1988 has had most experience on the IBU and World Cup. He has had some good results in the past year finishing from around 50th to 95th on the World Cup and a 51st place in the World Championship Individual in Nove Mesto was a great achievement. Luciën born on the 7th of June 1990 is obviously slightly less experienced but has produced some good Top 50 results in the Junior World Championships and also in the European Championships.

luciensloof

However the Sloof family don’t have the monopoly on Dutch biathlon. The recently retired and brilliantly named Herbert Cool had a good career and there is another up and coming biathlete Jarl Hengstmengel, who placed a credible 48th and 68th in the Individual and Sprint respectively in the Junior World Championships in Obertilliach this year. He trains in Germany and has set a goal of becoming one of the Top 50 in the World. As an 18 year old he has great ambition and also the time to try and achieve it. He is aiming high and there is nothing wrong with that unless you are on the shooting range of course!

jarl

So there you have it, The Netherlands has quite a few good young biathletes coming through. It just shows you that you don’t need hills or snow to be good at winter sports. A little help is required of course in these cases from Sweden and Germany but a bit of Dutch courage can take you a long way.

Good luck to all of them!

You can follow all The Sloofs and Jarl on Twitter and Chardine, Luciën and Jarl on Facebook. I strongly recommend you do so – they need your support!

You can find out more info at: http://www.sloofbiathlon.com
(It’s in Dutch but you can translate it easily with an online translator.)

*just so we’re clear I mean Dutch courage as in brave people who are Dutch. I am not advocating drinking alcohol for courage(as the saying means in English) before doing biathlon!Although……


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