Tag Archives: Franziska Hildebrand

Holmenkollen 2017: The Mass Starts!

Say it isn’t so! The final races of the 2016/17 biathlon World Cup season! I’m afraid it is so. Hopefully you can all read this through the river of tears but it’s over again for another year! 😦

We ended the season in Holmenkollen with the two Mass Start races. They were exciting and full of incident. You know it’s the last day of biathlon when a squirrel and an asterisk take centre stage!

The Women raced first and it was another great race to finish of a fantastic season on the Women’s World Cup. First we had a faller. Celia Aymonier fell on the fast downhill and basically ruined her rifle and her chances of doing well in the race. We had Susan Dunklee in the lead after the first prone. She also came out of the range first after the second prone. Unfortunately she missed 3 in the first standing.

Between shoot 2 and 3 we had a squirrel run across the tracks at the start of the uphill and it almost took out Justine Braisaz. It’s lucky she didn’t take her rifle off and shoot it after the shock she got! The squirrel will now be known as Squirrel Eckhoff after the eventual winner! 😉

Franziska Hildebrand took over in the lead after the third shoot going clear. The final shoot decided the race with Hildebrand missing 1 and Eckhoff going clean. She took off in front of Gabriela Koukalova who also hit the final 5 targets. Eckhoff went fast until the end so Gabi had to settle for second but she did win the small crystal globe for the Mass Start after Laura Dahlmeier finished down in 9th.

Third place went to Kaisa Makarainen and Mari Laukkanen was 6th to wrap up a difficult weekend for the Finnish team after the death of their shooting coach. They have honoured his memory in great style this weekend.

Veronika Vitkova was 4th with her best result this season and Hildebrand was 5th.

The Men’s race in the afternoon was a bit confusing! We got to the first prone shoot and up went Martin Fourcade’s hand. He had forgotten to reload his magazines! How in the world do you win 14 races, get 22 podiums from 26 races, win 6 World Titles in a row and forget that!!! Anyway his coach threw him a new one and he cleared the targets with amazing mental fortitude.

Eighteen other biathletes also shot clean at the first prone. Even though he lost time on the range the first time around Fourcade was first in for the second prone. This time there was an official waiting to give him new magazines. He again hit all the targets.

We were now down to 13 people who shot clean including Lowell Bailey and Anton Shipulin who were at the front. The third shoot was were Fourcade made his break. He shot clean along with Jean Guillaume Beatrix and Michal Slesingr and left those three in the podium positions.

In the meantime the asterisk had appeared next to Fourcade’s name for all the range problems. No one knew what was going on though. However Fourcade shot the perfect 20/20 despite all the problems and easily won the race. Or did he? Well yes he did after some discussion between the officials. They decided that his coach throwing him the magazine in the first prone, although against the rules, was the coach’s mistake and not Fourcade’s.

Second place went to Andrejs Rastorgujevs who shot clean at the final shoot and skied past Simon Eder on the tracks to get his first ever podium on the World Cup. Simon Eder held on to third with Emil Svendsen in 4th, Arnd Peiffer 5th and Michal Slesingr 6th.

With Simon Schempp finishing down in 20th it meant that Martin Fourcade also won the crystal globe for the Mass Start.

That concludes all the races for season 2016/17 with Martin Fourcade champion for the men and Laura Dahlmeier for the women.

There are still 3 season reviews and a certain awards ceremony to come from biathlon23 this week so it’s not all over yet!

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PyeongChang 2017: The Relays!

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It was the final day of racing in PyeongChang and also the final men’s and women’s relays of the season. There are reports going around that after his record equaling 6 Overall Titles in a row and 12 wins in a season that Martin Fourcade was using his big crystal globe to drink soju from! Soju is like the Korean version of sake. We thought he might miss the Relay but as these reports were from an American source it’s possible that it was fake news! 😉

Laura Dahlmeier did miss the women’s relay which is real news! The German’s lined up with their ‘H’ team (like the A team but further down the alphabet) of Horchler, Hammerschmidt, Hermann and Hildebrand! The absence of Dahlmeier didn’t prevent them from winning their fifth relay in a row and every relay this season. A fantastic achievement.

At one point it looked like it wasn’t going to happen though. Nadine Horchler had a solid first leg with just one spare needed handing over to Hammerschmidt in third place behind Chevalier of France and Crawford of Canada.

Hammerschmidt moved Germany into the lead after her leg using 2 spares but staying ahead of France’s Anais Bescond and Canada’s Julia Ransom. Ransom had an amazing leg shooting 10/10 and handing over to Megan Tandy still in contention for the lead.

Denise Hermann was confident on the prone hitting all five. However in the standing shoot she had a lot of trouble and ending up on the penalty loop. This meant that Justine Braisaz of France could take the lead handing over in front of Hermann. Then came Tiril Eckhoff of Norway who had a stunning leg making up for Hilde Fenne’s penalty loop on leg 2. Megan Tandy was brilliant in 4th using just 1 spare.

Celia Aymonier took over for France and was up against Franziska Hildebrand, Marte Olsbu and Emma Lunder. After a solid prone she had a horrible stand ending up with 2 penalty loops and so France were out of the picture. Hildebrand was excellent with just one spare meaning she had a comfortable final loop to victory.

The race was still on for the podium and it came down to a sprint finish on the line between Marte Olsbu, Gabriela Koukalova and Anna Magnusson. Some excellent shooting from these three put them all in with a chance but on the line Olsbu took second by 0.1 of a second with Koukalova in third just in front of Magnusson.

Emma Lunder needed 2 spares and in the end Canada finished 8th but it was a great race from ever member of their team racing in the top 4 for much of the relay.

The men’s race was a little less dramatic but still entertaining. Lukas Hofer set off very fast and led the first loop for Italy before having to do 3 penalty loops on the prone! Norway were up at the front after a great leg from Vetle Christiansen shooting 10/10. The USA were in seconds thanks to Lowell Bailey’s clean shoot and the Ukraine were in 3rd with Artem Pryma.

Bjoerndalen held on to the lead for Norway in the second leg with 3 spares. France’s Simon Fourcade moved them up from 7th, where Beatrix handed over, using just 1 spare. Ukraine were still in third after Sergiy Semenov’s leg.

The third leg saw France move into the lead and they wouldn’t give it up. Simon Desthieux was steady on the range unlike his competitor Vergard Gjermandshaug who incurred a penalty loop for Norway. Austria moved into second with two great legs from Simon Eder and then Julian Eberhard and Norway were still in third.

That’s how the race would end with legs from Martin Fourcade, Dominik Landertinger and Henrik L’Abee Lund. They were all good enough on the range to stop any others catching or passing them.

That is the end of the pre-Olympic event here in PyeongChang and now it’s back to Kontiolahti for World Cup 8!

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Hochfilzen 2017: The Women’s Relay!

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Winter is back! Which is lucky as biathlon is a winter sport and it is February. There were snowy and windy conditions for the Women’s Relay today and it was another fantastic race. I think we have been spoiled in Hochfilzen by the standard and excitement of the races.

In the Women’s Relay France got off to the best start with Anais Chevalier on leg 1 using just 1 spare and handing over to Celia Aymonier in the lead. She was followed closely by Lisa Vittozzi with 1 spare and Vanessa Hinz with 2 spares needed. Poland with Magdalena Gwizdon were in 4th and Nadezhda Skardino had Belarus in 5th. Russia were in 6th and Iryna Varvynets was in 7th for Ukraine.

The second leg started well for Aymonier but on the stand she needed 3 spares and just avoided the penalty loop. This gave Italy the chance to take the lead with Federica Sanfilippo needing just 1 spare to hand over in first. In second were Germany with Maren Hammerschmidt followed by Yuliia Dzhima and Aymonier.

The third leg was where the race turned. Franziska Hildebrand who hasn’t had the best Championships so far hit 10/10 to put Germany in a commanding position. She was followed by Anastasiya Merkushyna who used 1 spare putting the Ukraine into second, France went into third thanks to Justine Braisaz and Irina Starykh moved Russia up to 4th with the Czech Republic going into 5th with a good leg from Veronika Vitkova and Italy were 6th after Alexia Runggaldier’s leg.

Hildebrand handed over the lead to Laura Dahlmeier, which is the last thing you want if you aren’t on the Germany team! She was being chased by Olena Pidhrushna, Marie Dorin Habert, Gabriela Koukalova and Tatiana Akimova. Amazing!

Akimova dropped out early after having a nightmare on the first prone and taking a penalty loop. Dahlmeier used 1 spare and the others all shot clear to bring them all closer to the leader. It was a very tense final shoot and Dahlmeier needed 2 spare rounds but still managed to get away in the lead. Pidhrushna , Dorin Habert and Koukalova all went clear, Wierer missed 1 but shot so fast you hardly noticed so it came down to a ski race.

Koukalova was in silver position but she looked tired or myabe her skis weren’t good but she never loooked like she could hold on. So it came down to Dorin Habert and Pidhrushna to decide the medals. Unfortunately for them Dahlmeier was too strong to catch in first so they fought it out for silver and bronze.

Olena Pidrushna had a fantastic leg. I think she saved something on her first 2 loops and skied so well that Dorin Habert couldn’t get passed her.

It was a great race with Germany taking gold and Dahlmeier winning her 4th gold medal in Hochfilzen and her 10th World Championship medal in a row. Silver went to a terrific Ukrainian team with the best shooting score using just 4 spares altogether and bronze went to France.

The Czech Republic were 4th, Italy 5th, Sweden 6th, Poland 7th, Slovakia 8th, Belarus 9th and Russia 10th.

11th Norway
12th Kazakhstan
13th Switzerland
14th USA
15th Finland
16th Canada
17th Slovenia
18th Korea
19th Estonia
20th Japan
21st Lithuania
22nd Bulgaria
Austria were disqualified.

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Antholz 2017: Mass Start/Relay 2!

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Well that was a good finish to a fun weekend in Antholz! We had a new winner in the women’s races with Nadine Horchler and a first podium at home for Alexia Runggaldier and Martin Fourcade didn’t win a race! Surprises everywhere!

The men raced first this morning in the Mass Start and it was another cracker. They attacked it from the start with Emil Svendsen pushing the pace on the first loop. It didn’t work out too well for him though as he was the one who missed a target.

At the second prone it was Shipulin’s turn to miss which left Johannes Boe, Martin Fourcade, Lars Birkeland and Erik Lesser in the lead.

The third shoot saw Fourcade miss but Boe, Lesser and Birkeland all cleared. Behind them Beatrix, Schempp, Fillon Maillet and Svendsen were all closing back in on the leaders.

The final shoot as usual was the crucial one. Lesser missed 1 and Fourcade missed 2 which left Boe and Fillon Maillet fighting it out on the tracks for the victory with Shipulin just behind. The last person you want to ski the final loop of a race with is Martin Fourcade but the second last is Johannes Boe!

Fillon Maillet just couldn’t hang on to him in the closing stages and was denied a first victory. However Johannes more than deserved the win for his powerful skiing as well as shooting 20/20. He was the only man to shoot clean today and gave Fourcade a gentle reminder that he won’t have it all his own way in Hochfilzen.

We had 3 Frenchmen in the top six with Fourcade in 5th and Beatrix in 6th. Svendsen came back to finish 4th and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was 10th.

The Women’s Relay was not as close as the men’s race yesterday and there was no surprise who won this one. It was the German women who made it a Deutsch eins-zwei in the Relays.

They fielded a strong team of Laura Dahlmeier, Franziska Hildebrand, Maren Hammerschmidt and Vanessa Hinz and if they all perform well it’s a very hard group to beat. The French team of Chevalier, Braisaz , Bescond and Dorin Habert gave it a good try leading the first leg but from there the Germans took over and never looked back winning by 24 seconds. They did use 12 spares to France’s 8 so they are not perfect.

Third place went to Italy whose women rounded off a good weekend for the team. Vitozzi, Sanfilippo, Runggaldier and Wierer put in a great performance to move from 7th to third with 9 spares.

Finland had a great Relay too coming 8th from a start position of 16th with Toivanen, Markkanen, Laukkanen and Makarainen. The USA also did well finishing 13th after starting in bib 22 with Dunklee, Egan, Reid and Phaneuf.

So that is the end of the World Cup races for a little while. We have a short break before the World Championships in Hochfilzen on the 9th of February. Martin Fourcade will wear the yellow bib for the men and Laura Dahlemier is in yellow for the women.

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Season 2016/17 Preview: Women

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It’s almost time! Just a few days until the start of the brand new biathlon season and it’s time for the women’s preview!
Unlike the predictable Men’s World Cup the Women’s World Cup is really exciting! It’s very hard to choose a winner this season and it should be a great one to watch.

Last season saw Gabriela Soukalova win her first ever Overall Title but I’m sorry to say there is no chance of Soukalova winning this season. Why not? Only because she has changed her name to Koukalova!!! She has every chance of winning again but it will be far from easy.

This season they are lining up to win the big Crystal Globe. With Darya Domracheva missing the start of the season after giving birth to her first child in October the race for the title will be between five or six biathletes.

As defending champion Koukalova will be the favourite this season. However it is often said that retaining a title is more difficult than winning the first one. She will have a lot more expectation on her shoulders this time and that means added pressure. Her committments outside of training may also play a factor if she hasn’t had enough time to prepare properly for the races.

Challenging Gabi will be of course Kaisa Makarainen who happily decided to continue her biathlon career. She is the most experienced of all the contenders and has won the overall title twice before. However she was the favourite last season and she didn’t deliver struggling with her shooting. She is still the fastest skier though and that will give her a big chance.

After the experience of Kaisa we have the youth of Laura Dahlmeier. She had a great season last year on the World Cup and at the World Championships. She is a fantastic shot and copes well under pressure. The biggest barrier to Laura however is her health. She usually misses one or two World Cup rounds through illness and you can’t give away that many points if you want to win the overall.

Marie Dorin Habert was amazing last season and pushed Gabi all the way coming second in the Total Score just 46 points behind. If she repeats her success then she possibly has the best chance of winning the overall title. If she can add a little more consistency she could make it a double World Title for France alongside Fourcade.

Trying to stop all of these ladies will be Dorothea Wierer. She won the small Crystal Globe for the Individual last season and was third overall on the World Cup. She was however over 100 points behind the winner. This means she needs to improve her points scoring over the whole season. Even if she doesn’t win the races she has to finish ahead of her main rivals as often as possible. The Mass Start was probably her weakest event last season but if she can improve her head to head racing she will have an opportunity to take the title.

There are others who we expect to do well like Tiril Eckhoff. She didn’t have a great World Cup last time and finished 11th overall. She will need to work on her shooting to move forward as we know she is a great skier. Franziska Hildebrand will be hoping to better her 5th place in the Overall and if she has a similar season this year she just might do it.

Further down the field Susan Dunklee will be hoping to win her first World Cup race after coming second in Presque Isle last time. Rosanna Crawford will be doing her best to get that elusive first podium finish to improve her personal best of 4th.

Looking to see a big improvement in results will be the Russian women’s team who had a hard time last season. Teja Gregorin and Valj Semerenko will also be hoping for better results this season.

Keep an eye out for the youngsters doing well this season. Galina Vishnevskaya, Lucie Charvatova, Julia Schwaiger, Paulina Fialkova, Ingrid Tandrevold and Lisa Vittozzi will all be out to impress.

There are a lot of others biathletes who will want to have a good season like Karin Oberhofer, Julia Dzhyma, Krystyna Guzik, Olena Pidhrushna, Veronika Vitkova, Anais Bescond and Franziska Preuss and others who will be missing like Weronika Nowakowska and Vita Semerenko but it should be a really exciting season for the women and I can’t wait for it to start!

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Season Review 2015/16: Women

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The race for the Women’s Overall Title was great this season. It was much closer and more exciting than the Men’s and it went right down to the final World Cup round in Khanty Mansiysk.

It started way back in Oestersund where Kaisa Makarainen started as favourite to win in the absence of Darya Domracheva. It was not to be this season for Kaisa who wasn’t in her best form all year however it did give others the chance to shine. Gabriela Soukalova emerged from Oestersund with the yellow bib and held on to it all season. Her closest competitors were Marie Dorin Habert and Dorothea Wierer. It was a shame that Laura Dahlmeier missed a few World Cup rounds through illness otherwise she would have been in with a shot of the title too.

Soukalova didn’t have a great World Championships in Oslo which meant that she took a lead of 69 points into the final three races in Russia. In the Sprint she was 4th and Dorin Habert was 10th which meant she secured the small Crystal Globe in that event. In the Pursuit she was 4th again to win another small globe but more importantly she won the Overall Title and the big Crystal Globe!

Dorothea Wierer won the small Crystal Globe in the Individual by winning 2 of the races in the season and coming 8th in the World Championships to beat Marie Dorin Habert, who won the World Championships race, by just 2 points.

The season’s Sprints were won by Gabriela Soukalova, Franziska Hildebrand, Marie Dorin Habert, Olga Pudchufarova, Olena Pidhrushna, Tiril Eckhoff and Kaisa Makarainen. The Pursuits went to Kaisa Makarainen, Laura Dahlmeier, Ekaterina Yurlova and Gabriela Soukalova.

Finally the Mass Starts went to Kaisa Makarainen, Laura Dahlmeier, Gabriela Soukalova, Marie Dorin Habert and Dorothea Wierer. The small globe was won by Soukalova.

The five Women’s Relays through the season were won by five different nations. On the World Cup Italy, Ukraine, France and the Czech Republic all won and then Norway took the gold at the World Championships.

As you can see from all the results above the Women’s World Cup is very competitive and there are a lot of great biathletes competing right now. Away from those at the very top it has also been a good season for Olena Pidhrushna who after her comeback from retirement has looked better than ever with a win and some podiums. Franziska Hildebrand took 2 Sprint victories and has had a good season and Olga Podchufarova got her first win too.

The Women have provided most of the entertainment this year due to the fact that no one is completely dominant like in the Men’s World Cup. Gabriela Soukalova won the yellow bib at the first round and held it all through the season and deservedly won the Total Score. She also took 3 of the 4 small globes but she did it through consistency rather than dominance. There is a lot to look forward to next season with the return of Domracheva and it will be great to see her up against Dorin Habert, Dahlmeier, Eckhoff, Soukalova and Wierer as well as old foe Kaisa Makarainen if she decides to race for another year. This season has been great but next season could be even better!

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World Champs 2016: The Relays!

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Friday at the World Championships was Women’s Relay day. It was a fantastic day! What a great race the women put on. It was exciting from start to finish.

The Norwegian team of Synnoeve Solemdal, Fanny Horn Birkeland, Tiril Eckhoff and Marte Olsbu took the gold medal and sent the crowd wild. They also made sure those gold jackets made by the Norwegian Biathlon Team didn’t go to waste! It was such a good performance by the home team and a thoroughly deserved victory. These ladies haven’t had the easiest time over the last few years for various reasons and I was happy to see them pick up the gold.

It was far from simple for them however. In a close race Finland handed over at the first exchange in the the lead thanks to Kaisa Makarainien’s opening leg. At the second exchange Rosanna Crawford handed over in first place for Canada followed closely by many teams. The third leg would prove to be pretty decisive as Tiril Eckhoff shot clean again and handed over a 23 second lead to Olsbu. Unfortunately for Marte she was being chased by Laura Dahlmeier and Marie Dorin Habert!

Oslbu had to use 2 spare rounds in both her shoots and came out of the range for the final time just 5 seconds in front of Dorin Habert who had skied fast and shot clean in the stand to overtake Dahlmeier. In a heroic ski Olsbu held off the Frenchwoman and crossed the line to the acclaim of the crowd and her teammates.

Silver went to the French team of Justine Braisaz, Anais Bescond, Anais Chevalier and Dorin Habert. The German team of Franziska Preuss, Franziska Hildebrand, Maren Hammerschmidt and Laura Dahlmeier took the bronze.

In 4th were Poland, 5th Ukraine, 6th Czech Republic, 7th Italy, 8th Kazakhstan, 9th Slovenia, 10th Sweden, 11th Russia, 12th Austria, 13th USA, 14th Slovakia, 15th Canada, 16th Switzerland, 17th Finland, 18th Belarus, 19th Japan, 20th Bulgaria, 21st Romania, 22nd China, 23rd Korea.

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The Men’s race wasn’t as close as the Women’s but the results were very exciting! Ole Einar Bjoerndalen got his gold medal as part of the Norwegian team alongside Tarjei Boe, Johannes Boe and Emil Hegle Svendsen. Emil also managed to vanquish the Relay from Sochi where he lost the gold medal and King Harald looked pleased with the Relay double.

The silver medal went to Germany with Erik Lesser, Benedikt Doll, Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp. The bronze medal went to Canada, that’s right I said Canada! In a quite magnificent display they took third place with Scott and Christian Gow, Nathan Smith and Brendan Green. I can’t overstate how amazing an achievement that is for the Canadian Team and very well deserved.

At the first exchange it looked like Germany were in control with a great leg from Erik Lesser. However Tarjei Boe on the second leg for Norway and his brother Johannes on the third left Svendsen with a comfortable lead of 30 seconds. All he had to do was shoot well and he did to secure gold. The Germans used 5 spares but couldn’t fight the Norwegians on the tracks. Christian Gow and Brendan Green shot clean in legs 1 and 4 and the team only used 5 spares in total.

The French and Russians were never really in the race and the penalty loop for Austria didn’t help their chances. They finished 4th with the Czech Republic in 5th, 6th Russia, 7th Sweden, 8th USA, 9th France, 10th Switzerland, 11th Italy, 12th Slovakia, 13th Bulgaria, 14th Estonia, 15th Belarus, 16th Ukraine, 17th Slovenia, 18th Romania, 19th Finland, 20th Kazakhstan, 21st Poland, 22nd Japan, 23rd Lithuania, 24th Belgium, 25th Latvia.

So the Relays are done and the locals go home happy with 2 gold medals. Tomorrow is the last day of these World Championships 😦 but they end with the Mass Starts 🙂

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