Tag Archives: Czech Republic

Ober and out!

oberhof 2015

Unlike last year when there was no snow-berhof this time we were lucky enough to have the first real snow of the season in Germany. The races got underway on Wednesday with the Women’s Relay. It was a great race which saw the Czech Republic win for the first time in 17 years. Well worth the wait though as Veronika Vitkova beat a determined Anais Bescond and the French team into second. Darya Domracheva made sure that Belarus would come third holding off valiant attempts from Norway, Italy and the Ukraine to snatch the last place on the podium. Unfortunately for the hosts they had a penalty loop on the very first shoot which put them out of contention immediately. Maybe I shouldn’t mention it but they were also beaten at home by rivals Austria!

The Men’s Relay on Thursday was horrible! Not the race but the weather. It was delayed due to fog and when it did start it was wet,windy and foggy – no fun for biathletes or spectators. The racing itself was good although marred by a large number of falls the worst coming from the Czech Republic’s Michal Krcmar who couldn’t finish his leg. In the end Russia came through to win their third relay in a row. In a close finish Anton Shipulin continued his great pre-Christmas form by sprinting away from Bjoernadalen leaving Norway in second. France took the last place on the podium showing they don’t even need Martin Fourcade as Quentin Fillon Maillet was an excellent replacement. Home team Germany were fourth and Finland were exceptional coming in 9th from a start position of 24th. Sweden were disqualified when Tobias Arwidson only shot 9 times instead of 10!

On Friday we had the Women’s Sprint. After a great race in tough conditions the Czech Republic’s Veronika Vitkova crossed the line first for the second race in a row and took her first ever World Cup win. She had to ski really well to secure the victory over Italian pair Dorothea Wierer and Nicole Gontier who were second and third respectively. In fact the Italians had five finishers inside the TOP 60. The Ukraine’s Natalya Burdyga is also worthy of a mention as the only other women apart from Gontier to shoot clean. On the other hand favourites Makarainen and Domracheva had days to forget on the range.

The Men’s race suffered again from difficult conditions with heavy overnight rain making most of the snow disappear and windy conditions affecting the shooting. In fact the race was delayed until the afternoon so they could work on the tracks and the loop was also shortened. This didn’t stop Martin Fourcade however who took the win after an extended Christmas break. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was second getting his 170th podium and Timofey Lapshin was third making it three times on the podium for him! Benedikt Doll gave the crowd something to shout about by being the best German in 8th. Benjamin Weger was 5th and Estonia’s Roland Lessing was excellent in 7th. Switzerland’s Serafin Weistner got his best career finish coming in 28th.

On Sunday we managed to get two races in one day – hurrah! They were of course the total chaos that is the Mass Start! People missing targets, others falling, great recoveries and total meltdowns! Out of the madness however emerged Martin Fourcade and Darya Domracheva to claim victory. Fourcade was followed home by Russian pair Shipulin and Malyshko and Vitkova capped of a fantastic week with second place beating Tiril Eckhoff in third. The wind played a big part in the Men’s race and Martin kept very calm especially on the final shoot and went clear. Jana Gerekova did the same in the Women’s race but didn’t have the ski speed to compete at the front. She eventually finished fifth but if there was any justice in the world she would have come first!! Krasimir Anev of Bulgaria also had the best race of his career in fourth place and Franziska Preuss 6th, Benedikt Doll 8th and Simon Schempp 10th finally gave the huge crowdd something to cheer about.

There has been a lot of criticism about Oberhof this week from the biathletes. However you can’t predict the snow conditions and all the venues have been struggling this season. The wind is always a big factor in Oberhof and they have known that for many years so they just need to get on with it. I understand that sometimes it’s just a matter of luck there who wins and loses but that’s the nature of the place. The fans love to see how the conditions can turn races on their head and give others a chance to do well. It makes it all the more exciting and as paying customers they are the most important people in biathlon. If it wasn’t for fantastic fans turning up in big numbers and in horrible weather there wouldn’t be any biathlon! So that’s all from the first installment of the German races. It’s straight off to Ruhpolding for the next World Cup round. Biathlon 23 Ober and out!

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The Swede Smell of Success!

oestersund

Well that’s Oestersund over for another year. A disrupted calendar due to high winds but pretty interesting all the same. It began what feels like about 10 years ago with the mixed relay. The Czech Republic won with a very solid performance from all 4 athletes and with a little help from Martin Fourcade who proved he is in fact human and not just a lean, mean, biathlon machine.

He soon put all that behind him though by winning the Individual by over 2 minutes with an “in your face doubters” kind of display. What’s most remarkable about this guy is that after a disaster in the relay and 4 days to sit and dwell on it he comes out and shoots clear. His mental strength is unbelievable and you can’t help but be impressed by the way he handled the situation. We know his physical ability but to have that mental toughness is why he will be so hard to beat this season. Many people would have crumbled after the relay but he comes out even stronger and wins the Sprint too just for good measure. Four-midable!

On the women’s side Tora Berger didn’t get off to a great start either. She also had a bit of a shocker in the relay. Like Fourcade she worked her way back on to the podium finishing 3rd in the Sprint.Elsewhere Gabriela Soukalova started where she finished last season with an impressive performance in the Individual and Ann Kristin Flatland had a great race to win the Sprint. It was great to see Marie-Laure Brunet get the podium that her amazing shooting deserves and Olga Zaitseva making it in there too after a rocky start for Team Russia. Slovakia also earned a podium through Kuzmina.

Special mentions have to go to the French men’s team especially Jean-Guillame Beatrix for his 4th place in the Sprint and Baptiste Jouty for an amazing 13th place in the same race.In fact the French men had 5 finishers in the TOP 40. Also to Fredrik Lindstrom for restoring some home pride in a tough meet for the Swedes. What might have been if he hadn’t fallen we will never know but I like to think he would have won. Tim Burke also hit some early season form in the Sprint and his fellow North American JP Le Guellec proved that he must really like Oestersund by getting a 4th place in the Individual to follow his Sprint win last year. The Austrian men also performed very well in the Individual with Eder in second, and Mesotitsch in third after competing in Idre in the IBU Cup.

The Italians also had some great results from both the men and women. Oberhofer and Weirer both finished in the TOP 10 -a first for Italy and Hofer and De Lorenzi repeated the feat for the men. Kadri Lehtla was the only woman to shoot clear in the Individual and earned her a career best 15th place. Andorra’s Laurie Soulie was also having the race of her life in that event right up until the final shoot.If she hadn’t missed 3 targets she could have made the TOP 5.

On the other hand it was a bit of a disappointing weekend for the big guns from Norway and Russia especially on the men’s side with no podiums for either team.If you are a fan of theirs though you shouldn’t worry too much. I think they both have a master plan that involves peaking in time for the Olympics and if last season’s World Championships are anything to go by the Norwegians at least will be bang on form for Sochi.

It was unfortunate that both the Pursuits were cancelled. It seems my powers of weather forecasting are brilliant as I did predict a hurricane in my last post! Not to worry though the fun starts again in Hochfilzen on Friday. Fourcade, Soukalova, Flatland and the Czech relay team leave Oestersund with the Swede smell of success but can they repeat it in Austria? You’ll have to wait and see!

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Soukalová: Sing when you’re winning!

soukalova

Singing sensation and biathlete, Gabriela Soukalová proved what a great competitor she is and the excellent progress she is making in her career by winning all 3 events on the final stop of the World Cup last season. Taking top spot in the Sprint, Pursuit and Mass Start in Khanty-Mansiysk really put Soukalová in the spotlight for next year’s World Cup and Olympic Games.

Her results earlier in the season were an indicator of what was to come. Three podiums in Pokljuka, a win in the Sprint, 2nd in the Pursuit and a 3rd in the Mass Start, mean that when she is on form there is no stopping her. It also means these must be her 3 favourite events!

Gabriela Soukalová was born on the 1st of November 1989 in Jablonec in the Czech Republic. She started to compete in biathlon in 2005. She topped of a great season last year by helping the home nation to a mixed relay bronze medal in Nove Mesto at the World Championships. Having recovered from illness last summer and again around Christmas it is not surprising that her best form came towards the end of the season.

She is becoming increasingly known for her singing as well as biathlon. She provided the soundtrack for biathlonworld TV’s ‘The Spy Who Loved Biathlon’ with her version of ‘For Your Eyes Only’. She has also sung at press conferences –‘summertime’ being one example from last year. She also performed at the Closing Ceremony in Nove Mesto with her version of No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak’. A video also exists of her wandering through a forest singing ‘Scarborough Fair’.

A beautiful girl with a beautiful voice but what can we expect of her on the World Cup this season and for the Sochi Games? If she can produce the same form she showed in Pokljuka and Khanty she is a serious contender for a medal in one or more of the individual events. As football fans often say ‘you only sing when you’re winning’ I get the feeling we will be hearing many more songs from Gabriela both next year and well into the future.

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