Tag Archives: Chrystal Globe

Gunning for Glory Part 1: Women

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Intrigue, uncertainty, unpredictability ,mystery and suspense! No it’s not the latest thriller at the cinema- it’s the Women’s World Cup!!! This season is going to be one of the best yet. Who is going to finish with the Overall Title 2014/15? Your guess is as good as mine. Anybody could win it but there are some with a better chance than others.

There have been some big changes on the Women’s Tour this year which is why it is so exciting. Tora Berger, Andrea Henkel, Ann Kristin Flatland and Marie-Laure Brunet have retired, Selina Gasparin is pregnant and will miss the season, Marie-Dorin Habert has a new daughter and we are not sure when she will return. Olga Vilukhina has also decided to sit out the season to heal from some injuries. That means four of the Top 11 finishers in the Overall will not be on the start line this season. So we better take a look at the other eight!

Last year’s winner by 4 points was Kaisa Makarainen. An amazing end of season run saw her just pip Tora Berger and totally ruin her retirement! 😉 Can she defend her title this year? Well of course she is capable and she has more experience than her competitors but she also has a home World Championships in Kontiolahti to prepare for. It is likely to be her final year in the sport and the World Championships might mean her main focus is not on the World Cup.

In third place last season was Darya Domracheva. Her stunning performances in Sochi must make her one of the favourites to take the title this year. However I am not so sure. She can be fantastic over a race weekend but can she sustain that level over a whole season? In the last 3 years she has finished second twice, and third once in the Total Score but seems to lack just that little something to push her up to first. She seems to have sorted out her shooting issues but with all the attention she has received after her Olympic glory and all the extra engagements outside of biathlon it has brought her, will she be able to keep her focus all the way to Khanty?

This is an issue that will also affect Gabriela Soukalova who was fourth last year. She has become very popular over the last couple of seasons and that can bring it’s own pressure. The other biathletes will be watching out for her and like Domracheva she will have to try and maintain a good level throughout the season.

Sixth last time around was Anastasiya Kuzmina. She had a pretty average season but came good for the Olympics and brilliantly defended her Sprint gold. Actually sixth is her best ever position in the Total Score but her lack of consistency means to win it would be quite unlikely. Just behind her in seventh was Norway’s new sensation Tiril Echoff. Talk about pressure, taking on Berger’s mantle and the intense scrutiny of the Norwegian press will be a lot to handle for this young lady. They breed them tough in Norway though and she could be up in the Top 3 by the end of March.

In 8th and 9th places were Valj Semerenko and Veronika Vitkova. They had great seasons both finishing with their highest ever placings on the Total Score. They will be dangerous again this time round but may lack the number of podiums required to get to the very top. Outside the Top 11 are more dangers lurking to thwart the favourites. The experience of Teja Gregorin, Vita Semerenko and Olga Zaitseva could prove vital over the season. They may not win overall but they are capable of taking valuable points off the favourites by knocking them off the podium.

Then there is the raft of young talent coming on or back to the scene. Dorothea Wierer had a great season last time out and her double victory in Sjusjoen suggests she will be challenging for more podiums this time around. The young Germans like Dahlmeier, Hildebrand and Preuss will also be in the mix. Miriam Goessner is back from injury and if she has learned to shoot better in her absence she will be a real contender to win a lot of races. Elsewhere Nadezhda Skardino, Juliya Dzhyma and Susan Dunklee were really impressive last time and I am sure will take more points and get better results this season.

So basically I am saying that I have absolutely no idea who is going to win this year’s big Crystal Globe! That is why it is going to be such a great season to watch the women. The favourites have to be Makarainen, Domracheva and Soukalova but only one of these has won it before. I am really looking forward to this season to see whether one of these ladies can win it or if someone will take us by surprise and come from nowhere to claim victory. Anything could happen! I advise you to put all bets on each way because it’s going to be one hell of a season with all these outstanding women Gunning for Glory!!!

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One ‘Eck hoff a biathlete!

Winner of three Olympic medals at her first attempt and more importantly winner of biathlon 23’s Rising Star award 2013/14 Tiril Eckhoff has had an amazing season. Born on the 21st of May 1990 she represents Fossum IF as well as the Norwegian national team. At 24 she has been on the scene a little while but last season saw her rise to the top of the biathlon ranks and start challenging the main contenders.

She stated her intentions early on in the season by finishing 5th in the Individual in Oestersund. She backed it up with third in the Pursuit in Annecy for her first ever podium on the World Cup and then took 4th in the Pursuit in Antholz to make her one of the ones to watch in Sochi. Her perceived inexperience in the top competitions didn’t hold her back as she came away with 2 bronze and 1 gold medal from Russia.

Her performances in the relays were excellent and backed up by some very talented and experienced teammates she won gold in the Mixed Relay and bronze in the Women’s relay. To prove she wasn’t just carried by the others but was an integral part of the victories, she also bagged herself an individual bronze medal in the Mass Start behind Domracheva and Soukalova.

Her great results didn’t finish there though as on her return to World Cup racing in Pokljuka she took two 5th place positions in the Pursuit and Mass Start when the rest of the Norwegian team seemed to be a bit jaded after the Olympics. She finished 9 times in the TOP 10 and maybe the only small disappointment from the season is that she couldn’t convert her great form into a win.

She has a lot of pressure on her shoulders competing for Norway and will have even more next year after her great results last season. That coupled with the retirements of Tora Berger and Ann Kristin Flatland makes her, along with Synnøve Solemdal, one of the top 2 female biathletes in her country. She will also have a new coach next season. It just happens to be a familiar face as it is her older brother Stian Eckhoff. It seems biathlon is a bit of a family affair in the Eckhoff household as her sister Kaja is also a biathlete.

So under the guidance of big bro next season Tiril will be looking to get that first World Cup win under her belt. I think she will have bigger ambitions than that though. If she continues her consistency from last season and adds some wins she has to be in contention for an individual Crystal globe if not the overall title. She will also be looking to win some more medals in the World Championships in Kontiolahti to keep her Olympic medals company. She won’t have it easy however as the Women’s competition is extremely strong. Whatever happens we already know that Tiril is one ‘eck hoff a biathlete!

Follow Tiril on Twitter: @TirilEckhoff

* to be ‘one heck of something’ means to be really good at something eg. Messi is one heck of a footballer.

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A season in bib 23! The results!

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Wow from the first, Diana Rasimovicuite, to the last, Serhiy Semenov, the bearers of “the bib” have given me a roller coaster first season in 23! From the highs of 2 wins in 1 day to the lows of the doping scandal “biathlete23” has given me more fun, excitement and disappointment than I could ever have imagined before I started all this back in November.

For those of you unfamiliar with biathlete23 I decided that as a feature on my blog I would follow whichever athlete was wearing bib 23 and record their scores and see how they did. This led to a great new way for me to watch biathlon and to get to know some of the less well known biathletes.

For the first representative to score me some points was pretty great! To most 19th position doesn’t mean a whole lot but for me it was my first 22 points! That was the only point score I got in Oestersund in fact from 4 races. In Hochfilzen I was celebrating my first podium from Irina Starykh but that was wrecked after Christmas with her positive drugs test. Fortunately the lovely Gabriela Soukalova took a 9th place in the Pursuit and Evigeny Garanichev got me 7 points in the Men’s race.

But then came Annecy, the wonderful Annecy! The first two races were Sprints and were won by Selina Gasparin and Johannes Thingnes Boe who were both wearing bib 23!!! Maximum 120 points! To say I was delighted would be the understatement of the year! Two more points finishes from Garanichev and Gregorin took my total to 169 points for the weekend! Finally I was getting some good scores!

In Oberhof 5 out of the 6 biathletes in 23 scored points; Alexander Loginov and Daniel Boehm for the men and Vita Semerenko, Weronika Nowakowska and Krystyna Palka for the women.In Ruhpolding Teja Gregorin and Simon Desthieux grabbed me 43 points from the Pursuits.The last round before the Olympics in Antholz saw 46 points scored by Franziska Preuss and Yan Savitskiy.

The Olympics was fun to watch for bib 23. I didn’t really expect a medal at my first attempt but I got very close when Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle finished 4th in the Women’s Mass Start. However like Starykh before her my joy was short lived as she too tested positive for an illegal substance and was disqualified. My best results were from Yan Savitshiy who finished 20th in the Men’s 20km Individual for the men and Veronika Vitkova who was 6th in the Women’s Individual. My favourite athlete from the Olympics though has to be the awesome Mr. Brendan Green who represented 23 in the Pursuit. He finished 35th but was kind enough to photograph his bib and send it to me and you can see it at the top of this post and on my Facebook and Twitter accounts! Thanks Brendan!

Back to the World Cup and I was keen to get back scoring some big points. Pokljuka didn’t disappoint as 98 points were added to my total from Jana Gerekova, Tim Burke, Tomas Kaukenas, Zina Kocher and Serhiy Semenov. To Kontiolahti next where a strong team of Christoph Sumann, Tiril Eckhoff, Simon Eder, Susan Dunklee, Jean-Guillaume Beatrix and Julia Dzhyma scored an impressive 114 points!

Holmenkollen was our final stop and biggest points haul of the season! I had the great privilege of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen racing in bib 23(by this time I had gotten over the fact that he won Olympic Sprint gold in bib 24 – the traitor!). The rest of the biathletes were overall winner Kaisa Makarainen who I like to think was inspired in her Pursuit performance by number 23 to get to fourth and help her win the big Crystal Globe!!! The others were Dominik Landertinger, Yana Romanova and Serhiy Semenov(he loves bib 23 -always in it!). They scored 119 points to take my grand total up to 754 points for the season, 347 from the men and 407 from the women. These put me in 25th place in the Men’s overall between Daniel Boehm and Tim Burke and 14th in the Women’s between Teja Gregorin and Franziska Hildebrand. Not bad for a debut season in biathlon!

A big thanks to all the biathletes who have been lucky enough to wear bib 23 – you have all been fantastic with some obvious exceptions! You have to take the rough with the smooth though!It has been really enjoyable supporting whoever has been in bib 23 this season. I don’t really have favourites among the biathletes so this way I can support different ones in each race and I have learned about biathletes that I previously knew little of. It’s a great way to find out more about all the biathletes and a really nice way to show support for all of them.I had no idea quite how interesting it would be to follow a bib number throughout the season but I have loved it. I can’t wait for next season to start so I can do it all over again and I hope some of you will join me along the way supporting biathlete23!! I just hope I can beat the Total Score for this season!!! GO BIATHLETE23!

For full results and participants please see my page Biathlete23
.

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Arendz: Making his Mark!

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with Para-biathlon it is exactly the same as biathlon! ( It’s just that the para-biathletes are much better!!) They get a little bit of assistance to help them compete but essentially the format and competition is the same. One of the top para-biathletes is Canada’s Mark Arendz. He will be competing in the up-coming Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2 days time. (For more info on the games see my article Of Para-mount Importance.)

Mark was born on Prince Edward Island on the 3rd of March 1990. At the age of seven he was involved in a farming accident and had to have his left arm amputated just above the elbow. Having already showed a keen interest in sports it did not deter him and he started to compete in cross country skiing with the aid of a ski prosthetic.

To this day he still competes as a cross country skier but after watching in the biathlon in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics he decided to take it up too.A wise decision! Mark competes in the standing races in para-biathlon and made his Olympic debut at home in Vancouver 2010, but he really made a big step up in his biathlon career in 2011 when he finished second overall in the IPC Biathlon World Cup. He repeated that feat the next year again finishing second but finally won the overall title in 2013 taking the Chrystal Globe for the first time.

That was an amazing year for Mark as he won gold in the Sprint event at the IPC World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden and also two bronze medals in the Individual and the Biathlon Middle (12.5km). He ended the year in great form too when he took part in the IPC World Cup round in his adopted home town of Canmore. He finished second in the men’s 15-kilometre para-biathlon standing race but was later promoted to first when officials disqualified Russian winner Vladislav Lekomtchev for having his coach on the range providing instructions. In the same competition he was sixth in the Short and second in the Middle distance races.

So now it’s on to Sochi for Mark and the rest of the Paralympians. He will be competing in both cross country and biathlon. It will be tough for Mark in Sochi as the Russians have an exceptionally strong biathlon team and of course the full support of the home crowd. That being said he is still one of the favourites to win medals in all of the biathlon events so watch out for Arendz making his Mark in Sochi!

You can follow Mark on Twitter.

Mark’s website:
http://www.markarendz.com/

For more info see: http://www.paralympic.org/Events/Sochi2014

All the biathlon races take place on the 8th,11th and 14th March.
See here for more details:
http://www.sochi2014.com/en

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Targeting success! Season Preview: Women

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Calm yourselves people! I know the season starts on Sunday but there is still time for a little preview of the women’s competition. These kinds of seasons only come around every four years so there is a lot to get excited about and there will be a lot of focus on the Olympic Games in February. However there is still the small matter of the World Cup Tour to get on with first.

This year we find ourselves kicking off in Oestersund again and unlike last year I am hoping it will throw up some unexpected results. Tora Berger won all 3 races and went on to dominate the entire season. Obviously she is again the favourite to do so and to win medals in Sochi. While I am a huge fan of Berger and her amazing achievements I would like to see the prizes shared around a bit!

So who can we expect to challenge her in her final season? Well last year’s runner up Darya Domracheva could certainly give her a run for her money. A little more consistency for Dasha would really give Tora something to worry about. Veteran Andrea Henkel showed that age is no barrier to success with a fantastic season last year and Zaitseva also has a wealth of experience and a home Olympics to motivate her.

Don’t forget the young guns who are hot on Berger’s heels. A great end of season from Soukalova made a lot of people sit up and take notice of her and of course Germany’s Miriam Gossner is still a contender despite her pre-season injury problems. If that isn’t enough consider the double pronged attack from the Semerenko twins,and not forgetting their Ukrainian colleague Pidhrushna. Then there is Kuzmina, Mäkäräinen, Dorin Habert and Teja Gregorin to throw into the mix. Not to mention the successors to the Norwegian throne Synnøve Solemdal and Ann Kristin Flatland.

There is a lot of talent in women’s biathlon at the moment. It’s going to be a great season to follow and somehow I don’t think Berger will have it all her own way this time around. The unpredictable nature of the sport due to the shooting element means that nobody quite knows what’s going to happen and this year has the potential to be one of the best yet. I suggest you sit back and enjoy the fireworks – 2013/14 is going to be cracker!

Good luck ladies!

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Targeting success! Season Preview: Men

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It’s that time of year again folks! After an eternity (well just summer and autumn really) biathlon is back! The season kicks off on Sunday in Oestersund with the mixed relay followed by the Individual,the Sprint and finally the Pursuit. So the boys will be back on track with all guns blazing-literally! It’s a big season for everyone with the Olympics starting in a mere 3 months so what can we expect form the men’s side this year?

Well as you might have guessed the big favourite has to be Martin Fourcade. Five Chrystal globes last season and a handful of medals from the World Championships makes him the guy they will all be gunning for. Unfortunately for the others like a French wine he seems to be getting better with age.

What about his main competition this season. Well the top two on his tail have to be the Russian ladies favourites from Norway Emil Hegle Svendsen and Tarjei Bø. These boys will be very hard to beat as illness hit seasons for both of them last year were still better than most others full seasons.

Beyond these three who else is left to challenge. There is a whole team from Russia who can do well but with their main aim the home Olympics in Sochi I can’t see them putting too much effort into winning a Chrystal Globe. Elsewhere we have the Germans. A poor season last year by their own high standards should see a highly motivated Peiffer, Birnbacher and co. launch a major attack on the podiums this year.

We should also see continually improving athletes like Jakov Fak and Dominik Landertinger being a challenge to Fourcade’s dominance and closer to home he will have to watch out for his French teammates and of course his own brother. Have I forgotten someone? Oh yes – young Ole Einar Bjørndalen! You can never count him out for a race win but a Globe will be much more difficult.

What I like best though about the opening round of the IBU World Cup is that no one really knows what shape they are going to be in at the start and it can throw up some unexpected results. Take the first Sprint podium last year which saw JP Le Guellec win his first race and Alexis Boeuf and Cristoph Sumann take second and third.

So who is going to win the prizes this time round? Well looking into my Chrystal Globe I can see victory for……now that would be telling!!! All I know for sure is that it’s going to be one hell a season with so many male biathletes at the top of their game and all competing for the few Olympic medals on offer. My advice – just sit back and enjoy the show and whoever wins the Globes and medals will thoroughly deserve them all!

Good luck guys!

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Kaisa:So close to the Finnish!

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Will they ever let Kaisa Mäkäräinen retire from biathlon? She has been trying but with the Winter Olympics tantalisingly close and the World Championships in Finland next time round she is being tempted to continue again and again.

Born January 11, 1983 in Ristijärvi, Finland Kaisa-Leena Mäkäräinen has been competing internationally since 2005. She was a cross-country skier up until the age of 20 when she changed disciplines to biathlon. She has won 3 World Championship medals; gold and silver in 2011 and a bronze in 2012. In fact the 2010/11 season has been Kaisa’s best so far as she also won the Overall World Cup and Pursuit Chrystal Globes. This success led to her being named Finnish athlete of the year in 2011.

She currently has 5 World Cup wins to her name and as 3 of them came in the Pursuit it’s no wonder that she considers this her favourite event along with the Mass Start. With 8 years of experience competing at the top level Kaisa has to one of the favourites to medal in Sochi and after an unsuccessful Olympics in Vancouver ( her best result was 45th in the Pursuit) she will be more determined than ever to make this a reality.

Unusually for biathletes these days Kaisa can normally be found training alone rather than with her teammates. This summer she spent her time training between Italy, Austria and her home in Joensuu, Finland. However this doesn’t seem to have bothered her one bit as she has been training like this for many years and it has done her no harm. In fact it has resulted in her becoming one of Finland’s best ever biathletes and this summer she has already won the race up the Lysebotn Opp and the Mass Start event at the Blinkfestival in Norway.

Kaisa has always had a pretty good shooting record and her ski speed is also up there with the other top female biathletes. She finished inside the Top Ten in both events in this year’s World Cup round in Sochi and has generally performed well on her other visits to Russia in Khanty- Mansisk. Hopefully Kaisa can maintain her form throughout the coming season and the next and take home some medals from the Winter Olympics and the World Championships in Finland and go happily in to her retirement now that she is so close to the Finnish!

We will miss you when you go! Good luck Kaisa!

Kaisa’s website : http://www.kaisaleena.com/main/

Watch Kaisa at the Blinkfestival : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAeoNCOEmZI

Update: This year Kaisa has said she will take each year as it comes and will retire when she is ready. Maybe she is not so close to the Finnish afterall!:-)

As of April 2015 Kaisa has decided to compete for 1 more season at least! Hurrah!

Mass Start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2azqxvxSCE

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