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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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Antholz 2018: The Sprints!

It was a beautiful day in Antholz on Thursday for the women’s Sprint with sunshine and no wind. With surprising weather comes surprising results and no one was more surprising than the winner!

Tiril Eckhoff, who has had a pretty average season so far, finally put everything together today and won the Sprint race. She started late in bib 71 but crucially she shot clean for the first time this season and with her ski speed she beat Laura Dahlmeier into second by 12 seconds.

We all know how good Tiril can be on her day, it’s just that those days don’t come often enough.

Dahlmeier also hit 10/10 as did Veronika Vitkova in third place. Vitkova has shown some fantastic form since Christmas and took her third podium of the season. Darya Domracheva missed 1 but is skiing well and finished 4th.

Anais Bescond hit the perfect 10 in 5th and Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht did the same to finish 6th.

There was also some personal bests in the race today from Julia Simon in 12th, Jessica Jislova in 15th, Laura Toivanen in 33rd, Kamila Zuk in 51st, Emily Dreissigacker in 59th, Regina Oja in 61st, Johanna Skottheim in 66th, and Fanqui Meng in 68th.

Some of the bigger names are missing this weekend for Olympic preparation like the Swedish and Polish women. That handed World Cup debuts to Felicia Lindqvist of Sweden who was 63rd and also Canada’s Nadia Moser who was 85th.

The top two fighting for the Overall Title, Kuzmina and Makarainen, were 18th and 26th respectively.

There were no surprises in the men’s Sprint. The race was between Johannes Boe and Martin Fourcade. A common theme for this season. We just have to wait to see who wins. This time it was Johannes. It was a little windier on Friday for the men and it showed in the early shooting.

Johannes missed 1 in the prone but skied like a maniac to win the race by 12.8 seconds. Fourcade hit the perfect 10 but was only second. After looking tired in Ruhpolding last week Johannes recovered well and put in a great skiing display. I mean who misses a shot and beats Fourcade when he has a clear shoot? Only Johannes!

Third place went to Arnd Peiffer. He also shot clean but just beat Anton Shipulin into 4th. Shipulin missed 1 but was only 4 seconds from the podium. Remember though that Anton loves Antholz!

Emilien Jacquelin was a fantastic 5th. He started in bib 94 but cleaned 10/10 and skied really well to take his personal best finish and some flowers! His amazing form this season probably means that a big French name is going to miss the Olympics!

Sixth place went to Lars Birkeland with 10/10 continuing his good form this season and justifying his place at the Olympics ahead of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.

Apart from Jacquelin there were a few more personal bests in the field. Volodymyr Siemakov was 12th, Andrzej Nedza- Kubiniec was 51st and Vladislav Vitenko was 52nd. There were also some World Cup debuts from Linas Banys of Lithuania in 103rd and Canada’s Aiden Millar in 107th.

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Annecy 2017: The Sprints!

Annecy Le Grand Bornand is great isn’t it? Probably the greatest ever World Cup venue! We should just base the whole World Cup season, all the World Championships and the Olympics there! 😉

Why do I like it so much? Well the last time we were there Selina Gasparin and Johannes Boe both got their debut wins on the World Cup in the Sprint races. Both were wearing bib 23!

On Thursday in the Women’s Sprint Anastasiya Kuzmina won the Women’s Sprint also in bib 23. Basically Annecy is my spiritual biathlon home! 🙂

It was an impressive win for Kuzmina. She is a bit of a Sprint specialist as you know but she beat the rest of the field by nearly 40 seconds. She shot clean on a kind day in the range with a small breeze and little snow.

Laura Dahlmeier got her first individual podium of the season in second also hitting 10/10. Vita Semerenko was third with another perfect shoot. It was her first return to the podium in an individual race too after the birth of her son.

Lisa Vittozzi was fourth again with no misses continuing her great early season form. Fifth went to Denise Herrmann with 1 miss and Selina Gasparin proved she likes Annecy as much as me by coming in 6th with 1 miss.

Susan Dunklee had her best race of the season in 10th after struggling in the first two World Cups. Jessica Jislova got her personal best in 24th as did Anja Erzen in 31st. Dzinara Alimbekava got her career best result in 33rd as did Thelka Brun-Lie in 38th. Home girl Chloe Chevalier finished in her best World Cup position in 57th and qualified for the Pursuit after moving up from the IBU Cup. Japan’s Sari Furuya also did well finishing in 40th and grabbing a World Cup point.

The men had similar conditions on Friday and there was a lot of good shooting which meant the race came down to the skiing. Johannes Boe (in bib24- so close!) won his 4th race of the season with fast shooting and skiing. He beat Martin Fourcade into second by 21 seconds! The Frenchman also shot clean but couldn’t match Johannes on the tracks.

Third place went to Antonin Guigonnat! He shot clear and from bib 88 swooped in and took his first ever World Cup podium. He has been on great form on the IBU Cup winning his last two races and it’s a fantastic result for him at his home race.

Simon Schempp was 4th shooting clean as did Simon Desthieux in 5th. Anton Shipulin was 6th despite 1 miss.

Frederik Gjesbakk got his best ever result on the World Cup in 7th. He has also been doing well on the IBU Cup. Timofey Lapshin gave Korea a Top Ten finish in 8th and Florent Claude got his personal best in 36th in his first individual start for Belgium.

On Saturday we have both Pursuit races which should be a lot of fun especially if the conditions get tougher!

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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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World Champs 2016: The Sprints!

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On Saturday we had both Sprint races at the World Championships in Holmenkollen. The Men’s race took place first in the morning and the Women raced in the afternoon.

The Men’s race was a masterclass in biathlon from probably the two best biathletes of all time. Martin Fourcade was imperious shooting clean and skiing fast to win the race by nearly 27 seconds. He was bib 8 and so spent the rest of the race watching everyone else fall by the wayside and fail to seriously challenge him. His closest challenger I am pleased to report was Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who took the silver medal which is amazingly his 30th Championship medal. He looked fit and slim and if only he wasn’t 42 I think the gold could have been his. I told you he would win a medal, didn’t I! In third place was an excellent Sergey Semenov. After his strong performance in the Mixed Relay is was no surprise he shot clean to win bronze.

It wasn’t such a good day for some other biathletes though. Johannes Boe missed a target and finished just off the podium in fourth. A terrible place to finish in your home World Championships. Still at least he did better than big brother Tarjei who had a nightmare and finished in 54th missing 4 shots. Emil Svendsen missed 1 target but finished in 17th at 1 minute 15 seconds from the winner. Anton Shipulin had a bad race in bib 1. Simon Schempp fell on the finishing straight after catching his pole on his ski and lost valuable seconds for the Pursuit race. His teammate Arnd Peiffer shot clean but could do no better than 7th.

The other biathletes who shot 10/10 apart from the three medallists and Peiffer were Leif Nordgren, Anton Babikov, Cornel Puchianu,Oleksander Zhyrnyi, Kauri Koiv, Michail Kletcherov,Mikito Tachizaki, Vassiliy Podkorytov, Maxim Braun and Mehmet Ustuntas.

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If the crowd weren’t already happy enough with Bjoerndalen’s silver medal they were ecstatic after the Women’s race. Home favourite Tiril Eckhoff shot 10/10 and won the race by 15 seconds. She has turned a disappointing season into the best season of her life! The silver medal went to last year’s champion Marie Dorin Habert who also shot clear but was out skied by Eckhoff. Bronze medal went to Laura Dahlmeier who missed one shot. It was a fantastic performance by Eckhoff. Her season has not been great and her shooting has let her down time after time but in the race with most pressure on her she delivered. The noise from the crowd when she hit a target was phenomenal and she did so well to cope with it. It was an outstanding display.

Mona Brorsson got her career best result in the race shooting clean and finishing 6th. Most of the big names in the Women’s field made the top ten with Soukalova in 4th, Wierer 5th, Makarainen 9th and Hildebrand 10th which makes for a very interesting Pursuit race.

There was a lot of good shooting from the Women with clear rounds for Eckhoff, Dorin Habert, Wierer, Brorsson, Vitkova, Hildebrand, Iryna Varvynets, Jialin Tang, Hannah Dreissigacker, Ingela Andersson, Teja Gregorin, Susanne Hoffmann, Terezia Poliakova, Jessica Jislova, Emilia Yordanova, Meril Beilmann and Hyesuk Hwang.

That concludes the Sprint races and they were both great to watch. It was great to see Bjoerndalen do so well and Sergey Semenov was fantastic. Can anyone beat Fourcade in the Pursuit tomorrow? Probably only himself! The Women’s race has the makings of a classic though. Could it be another gold for Norway or France or will Germany get a first gold? It’s anyone’s race for the ladies. Don’t miss it!

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