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Season Review 2017/18: Biathlete23

WOW what a season it has been for Biathlete23! Wins, podiums and the small matter of an Olympic Gold medal!!! A return to Annecy the scene of our first ever victory and finally recognition from the IBU of the awesomeness of bib23 (see photo above). To top it all off there were three British biathletes in bib23 in the same season! You see hard work pays off in the end kids!

For anyone unfamiliar with Biathlete23 (where have you been?!) this blog follows the results of whichever biathlete happens to be in bib23 for each race. It treats them like one athlete and adds up the score to see how this biathlete would have performed over the year.

So far in Biathlete23 ‘s career:
Year 1: 802 points
Year 2: 948 points
Year 3: 760 points
Year 4: 921 Points

This season the points were down. With a total of 774 made up of 431 for the men and 343 for the women. That would put biathlete23 in 19th place in the Men’s Overall and 22nd place in the Women’s Overall.

However that doesn’t really tell the tale of biathlete23 this season. Last year there were no wins, this year there were two on the World Cup courtesy of Anastasiya Kuzmina in the Annecy Sprint and Martin Fourcade in the Ruhpolding Individual. There was also a podium from Antonin Guigonnat in the Ruhpolding Mass Start.

Great results but then came the Olympic Games in PyeongChang and Laura Dahlmeier. She only went and won gold in bib23 in the Women’s Sprint! AMAZING!!!

As an extra bonus for me Scott Dixon, Amanda Lightfoot and Scott Meenagh (at the Paralympic Games!) all wore bib23 this season! 🙂

I did seriously consider retiring biathlete23 after all that as I don’t think it will get much better, but then I guess I am more of a Bjoerndalen than a Neuner! The bib will be back!

This season started in Oestersund with Darya Domracheva the first biathlete to wear 23. She was 14th in the Individual. Volodymyr Siemkov was 78th in the Men’s Individual. In the Sprints Hilde Fenne was 18th and Maxim Tsvetkov 35th. In the Pursuits Marie Dorin Habert was 14th and Lukas Hofer 11th! Biathlete23 left Sweden with 113 points (men 36, women 77).

Next stop was Hochfilzen. It was a very exciting time for me with Scotland’s own Scott Dixon in bib23. He was 105th in the Sprint but I was just happy to see him in 23! Mona Brorsson was 81st in the Sprint and in the Pursuits Justine Braisaz was 35th and Sean Doherty 17th. That meant just 30 points (men 24, women 6).

The third round took place in the spiritual home of biathlete23, Annecy. Having won both Sprint races there 4 years ago hopes were high. Those hopes were not disappointed! Anastasiya Kuzmina won the Sprint race and secured the first win of the season and 60 points! In the men’s Sprint Vytautas Strolia was 49th. In the Pursuits Paulina Fialkova was 43rd and Sebastian Samuelsson was 36th. The Mass Starts saw Tatiana Akimova finish in 18th and Timofey Lapshin in 28th. That meant a points total of 101 (men 18, women 83).

After Christmas it was time for Oberhof. It wasn’t the best start to 2018! Galina Vishnevskaya was 70th in the Sprint and George Buta was 83rd. Sarah Beaudry was 51st in the Pursuit and Alexander Loginov was 18th. Biathlete23 got 23 points- how ironic!

You can’t keep a good bib down though and Ruhpolding was a triumph! Martin Fourcade won the Individual for win number two of the season. Iryna Kryuko was 11th. In the Mass Starts Synnoeve Solemdal was 11th and Antonin Guigonnat was 3rd!! Points galore – 152 to be exact (men 108, women 44).

The last round before the Olympics was of course Antholz. It got off to a great start with Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht finishing 6th in the Sprint and Simon Desthieux in 11th. Eva Puskarcikova was 30th in the Pursuit but Timofey Lapshin didn’t finish the race. Henrik L’Abee Lund was 11th in the Mass Start and Anais Chevalier was 26th. Total points were 119 (men 60, women 59).

The Olympics didn’t count towards World Cup points unfortunately but the team did well. Laura got gold in the Sprint and Vladmir Chepelin was 34th. In the Pursuits Jessica Jislova was 23rd and Jakov Fak 47th. In the Individuals we got another Brit in bib23 with Amanda Lighfoot who finished 73rd. Then came Fourcade. Just had to hit the last two targets for an easy win and a second gold but he missed two and finished 5th! Disappointing for him and me! The Mass Starts saw Lena Haecki in 23rd and Antonin Guigonnat in 19th.

Next was Kontiolahti where Simon Schempp was 8th in the Sprint and Federica Sanfilippo 46th. In the Mass Starts Freddie Lindstrom was 15th and Celia Aymonier 24th. The points from Finland were 77 (men 60, women 17).

Holmenkollen was round 8 and Norwegians made up 3 of the 4 biathletes in 23. Synnoeve Solemdal was 48th in the Sprint but Arnd Peiffer was 6th! Ingrid Tandrevold was 23rd in the Pursuit and Erlend Bjoentegaard was 34th. The points were 52 (men 45, women 7).

The final round was in Tyumen and half the team were Russian. Kalev Ermits was 78th in the Sprint but Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht was 21st. Evgeniy Garanichev and Katherina Innerhofer were both 23rd in the Pursuits! Spooky! Anton Babikov was 15th in the Mass Start and Galina Vishnevskaya was the final biathlete23 of the season and she was 25th. The total points were 80 (men 30, women 50).

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Season Review 2017/18: Women

Well the women have done it again! Providing some of the best racing of the season and taking the Overall Title down to the very last race! Amazing!

Victory in the end went to Kaisa Makarainen after a quite astonishing final race in Tyumen. It came down to a head to head between herself and Anastasiya Kuzmina in the Mass Start. They were together after the final shoot but Kaisa was stronger on the tracks eventually finishing 6th and taking the title by just 3 points. It is Kaisa’s third overall title and definitely the hardest!

It was also a fantastic season for Anastasiya Kuzmina. Her best ever. She won 5 World Cup races and also a gold medal in the Olympic Mass Start race. She also won the small crystal globes for the Sprint and Pursuit and was second overall on the World Cup.

Nadezhda Skardino won the Individual title taking her first crystal globe. Kaisa Makarainen won the small globe for the Mass Start to add to the big one.

Darya Domracheva finished the season in third place in the Overall after a great season winning 6 races on the World Cup. Last year’s champion Laura Dahlmeier had to settle for fourth. Dorothea Wierer finished fifth overall and young teammate Lisa Vittozzi was in sixth with 3 podium finishes to her name.

Other women who won races this season were of course Skardino, Denise Hermann, Justine Braisaz, Dorothea Wierer, Tiril Eckhoff and Vanessa Hinz.

At the Olympic Games Laura Dahlmeier won the Sprint and the Pursuit gold medals. Hanna Oberg surprised everyone with a magnificent performance to win the Individual and Kuzmina took gold in the Mass Start. The Women’s Relay went to Belarus with Domracheva, Skardino, Dzinara Alimbekava and Iryna Kryuko. The Mixed Relay gold went to the French team of Marie Dorin Habert, Anais Bescond, Simon Desthieux and Martin Fourcade.

The title of Rookie of the Year was won by Russia’s Svetlana Mironova with her highlights being a 9th place in the Hochfilzen Sprint, 18th in the Tyumen Sprint and 24th in the Tyumen Pursuit.

There were two victories each in the Relays for Germany and France but the Germans won the Relay title overall. France were second and Italy third.

The nations cup also went to the German team.

The Mixed Relay title was won by Italy with Wierer and Vittozzi in the team alongside Lukas Hofer and Dominik Windisch.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Marie Dorin Habert, Julia Ransom, Weronika Nowakowska and Hilde Fenne who have all decided to end their biathlon careers.

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PyeongChang 2018: Olympic Women’s Relay!

WOW! Just when you thought the biathlon races couldn’t get any better! The Women’s Relay was incredible! So much tension with so many ups and downs!

It started with snow! Unusual for the winter, I know! The wind was the big problem however with some horrible gusts hitting the range in different directions!

The first leg was again a good one for Italy. Lisa Vittozzi had another great start just using a single spare in the prone to hand over at the first exchange in the lead. She was followed by Susan Dunklee giving the USA a great start just needing 1 spare in the stand. Paulina Fialkova redeemed herself after a horrible Mixed Relay, when she shot on the wrong target, with just 1 spare required.

The first big casualty was Germany. Franziska Preuss went on the penalty loop after struggling terribly on the standing shoot. That left the door wide open for all the other teams.

Dorothea Wierer was on the second leg for Italy but she also had a nightmare this time in the prone incurring 2 penalty loops. At the second stand mayhem ensued! The wind was awful and caused almost everyone big problems. Kuzmina, Eckhoff, Herrmann and Vita Semerenko all ended up on the penalty loop and many others lost a lot of time shooting slowly. The best shoot however came from Dorothea Wierer! She cleaned the stand and left the range in the lead. A small biathlon miracle!

Kaisa Makarainen, with 2 spares needed, caught Wierer on the tracks and exchanged in the lead for Finland. The third leg was madness too with Poland’s Krystyna Guzik coming out on top. She did a penalty loop on the prone but used 1 spare in the stand to lead after leg three! Behind there were still many nations in the mix like Belarus, Slovakia, Switzerland and France. Germany couldn’t make up any ground with Franziska Hildebrand on the penalty loop as was Norway’s Ingrid Tandrevold.

Some fantastic shooting from Nadezhda Skardino (2 spares), Iryna Kryuko (1 spare) and Dzinara Alimbekava (3 spares) had put Darya Domracheva in fourth place starting the last leg. She had Weronika Nowakowska in front of her as well as Anais Bescond and Federica Sanfilippo. Dasha cleaned the prone to take the lead while the others all needed spares.

That meant everything came down to the final shoot. With immense pressure on her Domracheva needed all three of her spares but when the last target went down the gold belonged to Belarus. Bescond came out after her but a stunning performance from Hanna Oberg hitting 10/10 left her in third.

She was able to pass the Frenchwomen to secure sliver for her teammates Linn Persson, Mona Brorsson and Anna Magnusson. The Swedes used 12 spares and the bronze medallists France with Anais Chevalier, Marie Dorin Habert, Justine Braisaz and Bescond used 14.

Norway finished 4th after a good leg from Marte Olsbu, Slovakia were fantastic in 5th and Switzerland also did really well finishing 6th.

It was a crazy race but an amazing spectacle and another great advert for biathlon. The men’s race tomorrow is the final event here in PyeongChang. Let’s hope they produce something similar!

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Annecy 2017: The Mass Starts!

Before I tell you the tale of today’s Mass Starts I just want to congratulate the French biathlon fans! They have been amazing in Annecy and on the whole very fair supporting all the biathletes not just the home team. It might not have the most demanding tracks and the range is not the most difficult but this place should feature more often on the World Cup because of the great support. Well done Annecy!

Those fantastic crowd had a lot to cheer about today. Justine Braisaz finally took her first ever win after coming second 4 times. She did it the hard way too in a Mass Start at her home race. She kept her cool all the way through this one and even dictated the pace to the others. She missed just one target but crucially cleared her final five to cruise to victory.

Kuzmina initially led this race but did the same as she did in the Pursuit missing on the first prone. It was just two misses today but it still put her way down the field. She eventually finished 4th with 4 misses altogether which is amazing.

Denise Hermman had the chance to win here as she was leading into the final stand but she missed 3. Dahlmeier also missed 1 on the last shoot leaving Braisaz out front. Someone who didn’t miss at all was Iryna Kryuko. She hit all 20 targets and was the only woman to do that today. It was her first ever podium and thoroughly deserved for her excellent shooting.

Dahlmeier held on to third. Kuzmina was 4th, Vanessa Hinz did very well in 5th and Anais Chevalier had a good race finishing 6th.

In the men’s race Martin Fourcade finally got his long awaited win at his home World Cup. He controlled this race from start to finish in the old Fourcade style. It helped that Johannes Boe missed two shots in the first prone so Martin could play aroung with his closest challengers Anton Shipulin and Erik Lesser.

The lead changed a few times coming out of the range each time with Fourcade being careful with his shooting. However he caught and passed his rivals each time on the tracks and maybe pushed them a bit beyond their limits.

In the end Fourcade shot 20/20 and no one could touch him. Johannes Boe made a great comeback and finished second by out skiing Lesser and Shipulin on the final lap. Lesser took third place also hitting 20/20.

Shipulin took 4th also with a clean shoot. Benjamin Weger was 5th with a good performance (1 miss) ahead of Arnd Peiffer in 6th who also missed one. Freddie Lindstrom was the only other man to shoot clean in 14th place.

So that concludes all the biathlon races for this year! We return in January in Oberhof on the 4th of January. Anastasiya Kuzmina will have the yellow bib for the women, just 6 points ahead of Justine Braisaz. Martin Fourcade stays in yellow for the men but with Johannes Boe just 20 points behind him.

Hope you all have a great Christmas and I will be back over the holidays with my usual ‘unusual’ biathlon story!

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Hochfilzen 2017: The Pursuits!

Snow, snow, snow! It’s been a while since we have seen so much snow at the biathlon races! It has made for some interesting racing especially today in the Pursuits!

The men started us off and with plenty of snow and wind Johannes Boe took his third win of the season. It was a straight fight between him and Martin Fourcade with none of the others getting even close to the win. Johannes and Martin were pretty well matched, Johannes missing 2 on the first prone and Martin missing one. They both shot well in shoots two and three both just missing 1 in the first stand.

So they arrived on the range together for the final shoot and normally you expect Martin to clear and Johannes to shoot too fast and miss. Not today! Johannes shot fast and cleared all the targets and Martin missed three! That’s right three! It seems that Johannes has the upper hand at the moment and the last thing you want to give him is more confidence!

Jakov Fak concentrated on his own race and although he briefly lost third place to Henrik L’Abee Lund he retook it and shot 19/20. Thanks to Fourcade’s three misses he was able to pass him to finish second and continue his great start to the season. Fourcade fought off Simon Schempp for third on the line.

Fifth went to Tarjei Boe who came from 14th and sixth went to Maxim Tsvetkov from 20th. Other big movers were Quentin Fillon Maillet from 38th to 12th, Freddie Lindstrom from 44th to 16th and Evgeniy Garanichev from 57th to 26th. There were also a couple of personal bests for Ruslan Tkalenko in 35th and Vytautas Strolia in 38th.

The women’s race seemed like someone had given you a Christmas present of a snow globe from ‘ye olden times’ biathlon. We saw Anastasiya Kuzmina winning her first race since 2014. Second went to Kaisa Makarainen and third to Darya Domracheva. Where have all the youngsters gone?

Domracheva got off to a good start clearing the first prone with Kuzmina missing one. They matched each others shooting until the third shoot when Dasha missed and Kuzmina cleared all the targets on both stands to win by 10 seconds. Coming up behind was Makarainen with 2 misses altogether but faster skiing meant she passed Dasha for second place.

Wierer was 4th, Olsbu 5th and Dzhima 6th. Iryna Kryuko went from 35th to 9th with a clean shoot. Vanessa Hinz went from 27th to 12th, Marie Dorin Habert moved from 34th to 14th and Johanna Taliherm went from 45th to 29th to claim her best result on the World Cup to date.

The Relays are next which means Kaisa Makarainen takes the yellow bib to France as does Martin Fourcade. Imagine if Johannes took the yellow bib from Martin in Annecy!!!

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Oestersund 2017: The Pursuits!

Well, well, well Denise Herrmann proved everyone wrong didn’t she! The general consensus was that she would not repeat her Sprint victory in the Pursuit as she has the least experience in the field and has never led the race before.

WRONG! She produced a great race to take her second victory in a row and really worry the other women! Hopefully not too many other cross country skiers will follow her move as if you don’t choose biathlon as your first sport it is very suspicious! 😉

The first two prone shoots were pretty straightforward for Herrmann hitting 10/10. It was in the first stand that she had a wobble! She missed two and that allowed Justine Braisaz to catch up to her. Both cleaned the second stand and left the range together but then Herrmann just skied off into the distance winning by 25 seconds and leaving poor Justine to miss out on the win again. She shot 20/20 and will take the yellow bib to Hochfilzen after having a great week here in Sweden.

Third place went to Marte Olsbu who moved from 7th to the final podium spot with 2 missed targets. She passed Lisa Vittozzi who had just one miss and came home 4th. Maren Hammerschmidt went from 12th to 5th.

Nadezhda Skardino was 6th hitting 20/20 making it 50/50 for the individual races which is ridiculously impressive! Olena Pidhrushna went from 28th to 9th, Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht moved from 27th to 11th and Iryna Kryuko went from 53rd to 22nd. It was a bad day for Yuliia Dzhima who went from third down to 21st missing 5 targets.

Normal service was resumed in the men’s race with Martin Fourcade winning his 64th World Cup race. He managed to defeat the double assault from the Boe brothers this time! The top 3 from the Sprint, Fourcade, Tarjei Boe and Lesser got to the first prone together but then Lesser missed 4 and his chance was gone. Boe and Fourcade missed 1 which left Svendsen and Dolder in the lead ahead of Andrejs Rastorgujevs.

At the second prone Boe and Fourcade shot clean and retook the lead. The first standing shoot would decide the winner as Fourcade hit all five and Boe missed 3. Behind Fourcade the battle was on for second and third. Jakov Fak and Quentin Fillon Maillet cleaned the first stand while others missed and they both missed 1 in the final shoot leaving a ski race to decide the positions. Fak managed to get away from Fillon Maillet in the last section of the track and took his first podium since 2015. Last year was ruined for Fak through illness so it was great to see him back at the top.

Svendsen just pipped home favourite Freddie Lindstrom for 4th and Lars Helge Birkeland came from 29th to finish 6th. Another Norwegian Henrik L’Abee Lund moved from 41st to 12th, Ondrej Moravec went from 44th to 22nd and Evgeniy Garanichev moved from 55th to 29th.

That concludes the action from Oestersund and now we move swiftly to Hochfilzen for a Sprint, Pursuit and the Relays. The yellow bibs are in the hands of the French with Justine Braisaz and Martin Fourcade leading the Total Scores.

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Pokljuka 2016: The Pursuits!

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Like idrijski žlikrofi, Slovenian potato dumplings, the Pursuit races in Pokljuka were stuffed full of tasty stuff! The men’s race was in the morning and the Martin Fourcade bus keeps on rolling. With no wins in Pokljuka for years two come along at once. I ran out of words to describe this man a long time ago but his mental strength is astonishing. I think he is one of the toughest sports people in the world when it come to the mental side of the sport. He takes risks and I think he isn’t afraid to lose. He pushes himself and his opponents to their limits but he is usually the one who comes out on top.

It was the same today. Anton Shipulin gave him a good run for his money and watching them shoot clean side by side was fantastic. However on the final shoot Shipulin missed a target and denied us a great finish but Fourcade was imperious today. Second place went to Emil Hegle Svendsen, remember him? It’s great to see him back up the front shooting 20/20 and holding off Shipulin who was third. It was a great display of shooting all round at the front.

Taking sixth place was Michael Roesch of Belguim who also shot clean. Lars Birkeland came from 32nd to finish 13th, Julian Eberhard went from 47th to 21st and Ondrej Moravec from 31st to 14th.

The women raced later in the day and Laura Dahlmeier made it a double victory when she beat Kaisa Makarainen by around 17 seconds. They both missed 2 targets but Dahlmeier is very strong at the moment and hard to beat. In third was the Czech biathlete Eva Puskarcikova who made the podium for the first time on the World Cup missing just 1 shot and beating Marie Dorin Habert in a close finish.

Dorin Habert had a good race also missing one to move up from 17th to 4th. Susan Dunklee took 5th from Lisa Hauser in 6th who is continuing her great early season form. Yuliia Dzhima went from 28th to 11th, Galina Vishnevskaya from 25th to 13th, Veronika Vitkova from 30th to 15th, Iryna Kryuko from 33rd to 18th, Maren Hammerschmidt from 41st to 24th, Anna Magnusson from 47th to 28th and Mari Laukkanen from 56th to 35th.

We were treated to two good races from the men and women in Pokljuka and as there are Relays tomorrow it means that Laura Dahlmeier leads the women’s overall by 69 points from Kaisa Makarainen and Martin Fourcade leads Johannes Boe by 95 points.

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