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Holly Rees-Lay: The Interview!

Holly Rees-Lay is a young British biathlete who is hoping to make it on to the IBU Cup this season. The 21-year-old from Oxfordshire competed on the Junior World Cup last season and achieved a top result of 60th in the Lenzerheide Individual. She currently combines biathlon with her studies at Edinburgh University. Even though she only started skiing aged 18 she has already been successful at the British World Championships in Ruhpolding. She also competes in rifle shooting.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyyRL
Like her Facebook Page: Holly Rees-Lay- Rifle Shooter/ Biathlete

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

I’ve been watching biathlon on TV with my mum from when I was very small and had always wanted to try it, and my family are all keen target rifle shooters (both my parents have shot for England, and my mum has shot for Great Britain). I wasn’t particularly interested in shooting until I was about 11 when mum convinced me that if I was going to be a biathlete I’d have to learn to shoot! (Not that she thought there was any chance I would ever go skiing or take up biathlon, she just wanted to trick me into learning to shoot). From there I improved fairly quickly and shot for the GB junior squad for the first time in Germany when I was 13, and I went on to compete all over the world with my last competition being the World University Games in Gwangju which turned out to be one of my best matches.

When I was 17, a small roller ski club started in a car park 35 minutes away, so I dragged my mum along with me, mostly because I really needed to lose weight and I didn’t want to run! I started doing roller ski races, although it took 2 races before I didn’t come last… and being super competitive I got completely hooked and knew I had to improve to try and win. I was lucky enough to get involved with the Cairngorm biathlon club when I was 18 and meet Mike Dixon, who persuaded me to go to the British Biathlon Championships in 2015. Despite having only had a week on snow beforehand and having never skied with a rifle before the first race I won 2 of the 3 youth races, at which point I decided to give it a more serious go!

How do you assess last season? You raced in the Junior World Cup. What was that like?

Last season was a really steep learning curve for me. Having only ever raced at British Championships I had no idea how I would perform against anyone else, but I was quite worried that I would be coming last in every race. Ultimately my only goal was to learn as much as I could, enjoy it, race my own races and see what happened. I found that my shooting is definitely competitive, even though I had expected myself to shoot a lot better, but my ski speed needs a lot of work, which I guess isn’t surprising seeing as I’m still really new to it. It was an amazing experience to see first hand how fast the top girls from the other countries are, and has definitely given me the motivation to improve and be more competitive in the coming years.

Do you have a favourite race from last season? Which one was it and what was special about it for you?

Probably the Individual in Lenzerheide. I had a bit of a cold and knew I wasn’t skiing particularly fast in training, which wasn’t exactly filling me with confidence prior to my first ever Junior World Cup! But I was feeling OK on the day and I really wanted to race so I did- I was so nervous I missed 3 on the first shoot, but somehow came back to hit all of the last 15 targets and skied the best I ever had at that point. I hadn’t seen the results but my mum rang me almost in tears to say well done and that I’d finished 60th out of 74. It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to anyone else but having had most of my race experience roller skiing around a car park in Oxfordshire it felt like a very big deal to me!

It’s not easy being a biathlete in Great Britain. What are the hardest things about it? What are the good things?

For me as a civilian in Great Britain, I think the hardest part is that there is no Junior squad or British training group for me to join, so I do sometimes feel very isolated training by myself. Last year I also struggled with organising my training- as I had next to no experience I often had to resort to googling how to organise training plans or ask anyone that could help me! Thankfully this year I am now getting a training plan and guidance through the British Nordic ski team, which is one less thing for me to worry about and I’m super grateful for. Lack of funding is also a problem for the team as a whole as well as myself, although I realise that it’s an issue in a lot of sports and I’m fortunate to have parents who are willing to do almost anything to support me when they see that I can’t support myself. There are also good things though- being a small team means that I’ve made some really close friends, and being the “little one” out of the British girls I feel like the older girls have really looked out for me and been a shoulder to cry on when races don’t go well, which has been really nice. Some of the ex GB biathletes have also been incredibly generous and I can’t thank them enough. And with Amanda doing so well it’s awesome to have someone who I can really look up to and aspire to be like.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life?

Edinburgh University have been really supportive in making sure I can catch up on any work I miss, and I was very grateful to them for letting me take my winter exams in August as I was away racing in December. Obviously I have to make some sacrifices within my social life, but I have a great group of friends who are always really supportive even when I don’t get to see them as much as I would like. I’m also very lucky to live with my best friend, who competes on the World Cup for rifle shooting (and has recently been getting some awesome results), so totally gets it if I’m grouchy for no apparent reason and just want to lie in bed watching Made in Chelsea because I’m tired!

Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

Freshers week…
(For my non-UK readers Freshers week is the week before you begin classes at University and involves a lot of parties and alcohol!)

What are your goals for next season and further into the future?

Next season will be my first season as a senior so I’m hoping I’ll qualify for the IBU Cup team and then take it from there. I’m aiming to qualify for the World Cup in the next 3 years with my ultimate goal being to compete at the Winter Olympics.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? What will you be working on over the summer?

My biggest strength is definitely the accuracy of my shooting, but I need to work on shooting faster and not losing so much time on the range. My biggest weaknesses are my ski speed and my (lack of) downhill technique, but I am now working with British Nordic so I am confident I can make big improvements leading up to next winter.

Do you have any hobbies away from biathlon?

I used to do figure skating when I was younger and I’ve been getting back into that recently which has been really fun! I’m also a big American football fan and support the Cincinnati Bengals (which can be a challenge in itself…) so I try and catch up on their games in the winter!

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

I loved racing in Lenzerheide, the area is stunning and I felt the tracks really suited me with long uphills but that weren’t too steep.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Johannes Boe, because he’s always exciting to watch race and you know he’ll give absolutely everything if he thinks he has a chance to win.

Does your rifle have a name?

Yes, it’s called Freddie.

Describe yourself in three words.

Determined, Stubborn, Caffeinated

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Czech Republic
Favourite shooting range: Ruhpolding, mostly because there never seems to be any wind to worry about!
Nicest biathlete: He’s retired but I’ve got to say Mike Dixon because without him I would never have had the confidence to give biathlon a go.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Getting to train and compete in incredible places I would never otherwise think to visit.

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The Biathlon23 Awards 2016/17!!!

awards
It’s back! That’s right the Biathlon23 awards are now in their fourth year! As usual they are not your typical awards. In fact they are even more la-la than LA-LA Land! Luckily I double checked all the envelopes as I discovered Gabi Koukalova’s name in the Best Facial Hair category – OOPS!!! 😉 Obviously the same rigorous system was used to ensure fairness in the nominations and winners – I pick them and it’s totally biased! Read, enjoy and feel free to disagree!

Most hits on the blog (so most popular):
Shockingly this award was almost won by a ski technician. Now I love the ski/wax techs but they are forbidden from winning awards! Andrew Chisholm is the culprit proving very popular among his fellow Canadians. This had to be stopped and there was only one way to it. Interview a German! Luckily for me one of them agreed to do it and since it’s biathlon a German can beat anyone! This one also went on to become World Champion in the Sprint in Hochfilzen! (That’s what biathlon23 interviews can do for you!)
Winner: Benedikt Doll

Strangest search on the blog:
I love people! I love them because they are strange! Here is a selection of some of the strangest searches on the blog this season! I get a lot about gossip, boyfriends/girlfriends of biathletes and people looking for nude pictures! Sorry wrong blog for all that but there is always some gold in between! For example:

“biathlon23”: This is happening more often! It’s a worry! 😉
“little bit too much girly habert dorin”: Outrageous behaviour from a girl!!!
“martin fourcade and final lap of relay. did he cheat?” Yes he cheats in every race by being faster on skis and better at shooting than everyone else – Damn him!
“is aiden miller one of the fastest people”: I think it’s still Usain Bolt!
“simon fourcade has child”: I don’t think he can!
“van damme biathlon”: Well Belgium are always looking for biathletes!
“tarjei bø party”: I want to go!
“tarjei bö shirtless”: The party just got better!
“lisa theresa hauser high heels”: Not when she is skiing I hope!

Winner:“anton panton biathlon”: It’s Pantov! Anton Pantov! It must be the rhyming here that made me cry laughing so that’s why it wins!

Best Facial Hair:
Talk about famine to feast. Last season there was obviously some sort of offer on shaving items as there was hardly a whisker to be seen but this year the beard is back! It’s not just the biathletes either some of the coaches have beards and even the new IBU TV guy. Well sorry gents but this is a biathlete only award. The French put up a good fight this season with Simon Fourcade and also Antonin Guigonnat trying to become an extra on “Vikings”. The Canadians have Macx Davies trying to defend his title and a hidden gem in the IBU Cup with Matthew Neumann’s wonderful effort. The Germans tried but I’m sorry to say failed with Erik Lesser and Arnd Peiffer attempting the goatie but with little success. Klemen Bauer always has a great beard. Benni Weger was a strong candidate but the winner has a great beard to go with a great personality and also some great form!
Winner:Michael Roesch

Best earrings:
A strong category this season. There are a lot of ladies wearing earrings to compete and so it was a tough decision. Kaisa Makarainen has her snowflakes as does Tiril Eckhoff. There were a lot of ladies choosing long earrings this year. They are brave, I mean imagine if they got caught in your harness – AHH!!! The ones I liked best however were small blue earrings that actually looked like real flowers.
Winner:Nicole Gontier

Best fall:
We don’t like to see biathletes fall. That’s a total lie we love it as long as they don’t get hurt! This year’s award has to be shared for a magnificent two person effort. Picture the scene. The Men’s Relay in Pokljuka, the first lap, a herd of biathletes hurtling down the hill. Sergey Bocharnikov of Belarus falls and Tuomas Gronman of Finland skis into him and goes flying through the air and lands on his face! Fortunately both were OK but it was a spectacular crash to watch.
Winner: Thomas Gronman and Sergey Bocharnikov

Best quote in a press conference/interview:
Again this has to go to a Boe! This year it’s Johannes but he does have to share it with Gabi! Asked at a press conference in Hochfilzen about Valentine’s Day he put his arm round Gabi and said he had everything he needed for Valentine’s Day. To which she replied that he would have to wait a few days because her husband was there! So funny and very cheeky as usual! (actually Gabi saying that Laura Dahlmeier ‘runs like a horse’ was also in contention!)
See the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLI4rZgjECE
Winner: Johannes Boe and Gabriela Koukalova

Best biathlon video:
There is only one possibility. Filmed in a bathroom at the World Championships (no it’s not that get your mind out of the gutter!) by the American team. Please feel free to ignore most of it except of course the part where Maddie Phaneuf talks about this blog! Fame at last! It’s all about 23! 🙂
(Actually you should watch all the videos they did as it’s a great behind the scenes view with some raw emotions too.)
see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UdHH16RR8c&feature=youtu.be
Winner: US biathlon women’s team

Best rifle design:
It’s been a lean year for rifle design. I mean biathletes have all summer to come up with a idea and then we get a blue,black or red rifle or a wooden stock. Come on people! We have a few saviours thankfully. Erik Lesser has a design that I think is miners. Joanne Reid has a naked lady! (Don’t look kids!). Andrejs Rastorgujevs has his like a zebra in case we do safari biathlon! Anastasiya Kuzmina has gone a bit psychedelic. Jaroslav Soukup has his kids on there (AWW!). Shipulin and Gasparin still have their cool rifles from last season but the winner is a lady who has a cat’s face on her stock. You can just see the eyes staring at you when she shoots. It’s PURR-fect! 😉
Winner: Darya Usanova

Most ridiculous rifle colour:
Well it’s not technically ridiculous and not even that bad but as almost everyone has gone boring this season someone has to win. I don’t want to be too harsh, she may be short of money and that’s why she used her grandmother’s flowery wallpaper to cover her rifle including the barrel!
Winner: Veronika Vitkova

Best ski suit:
There has been a noticeable improvement in this years ski suits. I particularly like Estonia, Korea, Japan and the Czech Republic. The Norwegians and Great Britain have done well too. The winner was actually hard to choose for a change but I went with this country because I like the design and the colours and they deserve praise for getting rid of those pixelated trousers from last season!
Winner: Austria

Worst ski suit:
Well there is a clear winner this year but first I must commend some previous winners for improving their suits. Not France of course because theirs still sucks! Lithuania however have made major improvements in colour abandoning the yellow/green horror for a lovely shade of red. China came close to getting this award but avoided it by at least using the colours of their flag. However the winners was an easy choice. They have chosen the colour of the phlegm you cough up when you have a chest infection and matched it with silvery grey. None of these colours are on the country’s flag and hopefully it will never been seen again!
Winner: Romania

Best range decoration:
Oestersund got us started with range decoration this season by throwing some shells (the wrong size by the way) on to a pile of snow! Creativity at it’s best! PyeongChang got in on the action with a rabbit watching the shooting (FYI rabbits don’t like rifles!). The clear winner however is the digger and the penguin. Not that much to do with biathlon to be fair but good work nonetheless.
Winner:Ruhpolding

Best TV turn:
You may have noticed at the start of Sprint and Individual races the biathletes pop up with a TV turn at the left bottom corner of your screen. Most of them either cross their arms or put their arms on their hips. Luckily we have 2 creative rebels to entertain us. Vladimir Semakov of Ukraine does the 2 thumbs up and the winner who is 100% biathlon at all times makes a gun with his fingers for shooting!
Winner:Anton Shipulin

Best Biathlete23:
Difficult this season without a win for bib23. We have had 3 podiums. Susan Dunklee was third and Anton Shipulin and Justine Braisaz were both second. How do you choose between them? You don’t! I have gone left field for this one. A biathlete who contacts the blog to say they are in bib23 in the first race of the season and then goes on to achieve their personal best wearing it deserves the title! It doesn’t matter if it’s World Cup, IBU Cup or the Junior World Cup. In this case 14th in the Junior Men’s Individual in Lenzerheide!
Winner: Tom Lahaye-Goffart

Biggest Improver:
One person in particular has had an amazing season. This season she has progressed from an athlete who would move between the IBU and World Cup to a regular on the World Cup. She got her first ever World Cup podium in Nove Mesto where she came second in the Sprint. She won her first ever race in the Pursuit a day later. She was also on the podium in Antholz coming second in the Individual and again in PyeongChang when she was 3rd in the Sprint. She won a bronze medal in the Sprint at the World Championships. Last season she was 39th in the Total Score and this season she was 7th. You can see the clear improvement!
Winner: Anais Chevalier

Best Team Performance:
There can only be one winner in this category. Winning every Women’s Relay of the season and the World Championships is a remarkable achievement. I mean it helps to have Laura Dahlmeier on the anchor leg but they can even win without her as was proved in PyeongChang.
Winner: German Women’s Relay Team

Biathlon23’s performance of the season:
This one comes from the World Championships. Dominik Landertinger’s final lap in the Men’s Relay was a strong contender but there could only be one winner for me. Winning the Individual race for the USA was an outstanding achievement. A perfect shooting performance and a excellent ski meant he deserved all the accolades he got. However this award is actually for the whole Championships. He was also 4th in the Sprint, 6th in the Pursuit and 6th in the Mass Start. After being overtaken in these races and losing positions his win in the Individual showed some amazing mental fortitude as well as his obvious talent.
Winner: Lowell Bailey

IBU Biathlete of the Year:
So it has to come down to Martin Fourcade vs. Laura Dahlmeier. That’s a race I would love to see! Martin now has 6 Overall Titles in a row and won an amazing 14 races this season. Dahlmeier won the Overall Title for the first time and won 5 gold and 1 silver medal at the World Championships. She also won 10 races this season and was a fantasic anchor in the Women’s Relay team. Basically I think it comes down to the more competitive nature of the women’s field as to why I chose this winner and that the first World Title is often the hardest.
Winner: Laura Dahlmeier

IPC biathlete of the Year:
I think this is the hardest award of all to choose with 3 categories of men and women there are a lot of possibilities. This year I have chosen someone who dramatically claimed his first ever biathlon World Title at the final World Cup round in Japan in the final race. He also won two gold medals at his home World Championships in Finsterau in the sitting category. Also he likes biathlon better than cross-country which is very important!
Winner: Martin Fleig

Junior Biathlete of the Year:

A very tough category especially as there is now a Junior World Cup as well as World Championships. I chose this guy because of his consistency over the season as well as his obvious talent in skiing and shooting. He won the Overall Title on the Junior World Cup and silver at the European Junior Championships in the Individual. He also won silver in the Sprint at the World Championships and helped his team to Relay gold.
Winner: Kirill Streltsov

Youth Biathlete of the Year:
This was a duel between two biathletes again. Irene Lardschneider and Claude 3 or Emilien as he is also known. They have both competed on the Junior World Cup. They both won 2 gold medals at the Youth World Championships in the Sprint and Pursuit. One of them also won a bronze medal with their team in the Relay so for that and the fact that they have a great surname here is the winner.
Winner: Irene Lardschneider

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World Cup 2016/17: Men’s Review!

Well my season preview for the men started like this:

“Martin Fourcade is the red hot favourite. If he stays fit and healthy all season he will win the Overall Title for the 6th year in a row.”

My season review starts like this:

“Unsurprisingly I was right!”

Yes Monsieur Fourcade has done it again! He won his sixth Overall Title this season and he clinched it in Korea at World Cup 7. In an extraordinary season for Martin he won 14 races out of 26, finished on the podium 22 times and won all the small crystal globes in the Sprint, Pursuit, Individual and Mass Start. I ran out of words to describe his achievements a long time ago but what he has done this season is absolutely incredible and may never be repeated – unless he does it again next season! 😉

Fourcade ended the Total Score with 1322 points ahead of Anton Shipulin in second with 918 points and Johannes Boe in third with 812.

Rookie of the year went to Sweden’s Sebastian Samuelsson who was 43rd in the Total Score with 169 points in his first full World Cup season aged 19.

The season started way back in Oestersund at the end of November. The first race was the Individual and Martin Fourcade won that. (Just a word of warning this will be something of a theme throughout the review!) Second went to Johannes Boe and a surprise third to Vladimir Chepelin. The Sprint was next and another win for Fourcade with home favourite Freddie Lindstroem taking second and Arnd Peiffer third. Lastly was the Pursuit which Fourcade DIDN’T win! It went to Anton Babikov and was his first World Cup victory. Maxim Tsvetkov was second and Fourcade was third.

Next we went to Pokljuka where Martin Fourcade won the Sprint with Johannes Boe second and Anton Shipulin third. The Pursuit also went to Fourcade with Emil Hegle Svendsen second with his first podium in a while and Shipulin was again third.

Nove Mesto was next and guess what Martin Fourcade won the Sprint. Shipulin was second and Svendsen third this time. Fourcade also won the Pursuit with Shipulin staying in second and Quentin Fillon Maillet moving from 16th to 3rd. We had the first Mass Start of the season here which was also won by Fourcade. Simon Schempp got his first podium of the season in second and Anton Babikov was third.

After Christmas we headed to Germany and Oberhof. Here was when Martin Fourcade failed to get on the podium for the first time finishing 8th in the Sprint. He did have bib 23 so I think maybe he doesn’t like me! 😉 Julian Eberhard won the race with Michal Slesingr in second and Dominik Windisch third. It was so nice to have some different biathletes on the podium for a change. The Pursuit of course went to Fourcade and Arnd Peiffer went from 15th to second with Windisch staying in third. The final race was another Mass Start this time won by Simon Schempp with teammate Erik Lesser in second and Fourcade third.

We stayed in Germany with round 5 in Ruhpolding. Fourcade took yet another Sprint victory and he was joined on the podium by Eberhard in second and Svendsen in third. The Pursuit also went to Fourcade with Svendsen in second and Michal Krcmar getting his first ever podium finish in third.

By now it was pretty obvious who would win the Overall Title but apparently you still have to hold the rest of the races so we went to Antholz! This time Fourcade didn’t win a race! What a shock! Anton Shipulin who always does well here won the Individual with Fourcade in second and Serghiy Semenov third with his first podium of the season. We also had a Mass Start which Johannes Boe won giving him his first win of the season. Quentin Fillon Maillet was second and Anton Shipulin third.

In February came the World Championships in Hochfilzen. Really we would have expected Fourcade to dominate this but he didn’t. The Sprint race went to Benedikt Doll by just 0.7 seconds in front of Johannes Boe and Fourcade was third. He did win the Pursuit race with Boe taking another silver and the legend that is Ole Einar Bjoerndalen winning yet another medal taking the bronze. The Individual went to an amazing performance from Lowell Bailey who took gold in front of Ondrej Moravec in silver and Fourcade took another bronze. The Mass Start was won by Simon Schempp with Johannes Boe in silver again and Simon Eder taking bronze for the home nation.

I know Fourcade came away with a gold and 2 bronze medals from the individual races but considering how many races he has won on the World Cu we were expecting better. Especially if you compare him to Laura Dahlmeier who got 3 golds and a silver. He says he just wanted to win one gold at the event which he did but I think he may have left a little disappointed.

Next we moved to PyeongChang and to the Olympic track. Here Julian Eberhard took his second win of the season in the Sprint race with Lowell Bailey in second continuing his good form. Fourcade was third which meant that he clinched the Overall Crystal globe for the 6th time. To celebrate he went on to win the Pursuit race with Anton Shipulin coming from 23rd to second and Julian Eberhard holding on for third.

Kontiolahti replaced Tyumen for round 8. A new venue but the same winner. Martin Fourcade won the Sprint by 0.6 seconds from Ondrej Moravec in second. It was Fourcade’s 13th victory breaking the record in the men’s field for most races won in a season. Emil Hegle Svendsen came third. The Pursuit race went to Arnd Peiffer with Simon Eder in second and Svendsen taking third again.

The final round of the World Cup was in Holmenkollen, Oslo. The Sprint was won by home favourite Johannes Boe with Martin Fourcade second and Anton Shipulin third. The pursuit went to Shipulin with Fourcade second and Johannes Boe third. The final race of the season was of course won by Martin Fourcadejust like the first one! Andrejs Rastorgujevs was second getting his first podium finish on the World Cup and Simon Eder was third.

With the individual races not being very competitive as we might like the Relays provided some different results. They were won by France, Norway, Germany and France again on the World Cup and by Russia at the World Championships.

The Single Mixed Relays went to France in Oestersund with a team of Fourcade and Dorin Habert, and to Austria in Kontiolahti with Simon Eder and Lisa Hauser.


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Holmenkollen 2017: The Pursuits!

We had the final Pursuits of the season in Holmenkollen on Saturday. It was still windy but sunny and the conditions caused a little difficulty like they did in the Sprint.

Mari Laukkanen was amazing today. She won the Pursuit comfortably and was never troubled by anyone else for the lead. Her only mistake was missing a target on her final standing shoot but she had enough of a gap to second not to bother her too much. She is on fantastic ski form and her shooting is the best it’s ever been. After winning the Sprint, her first ever victory yesterday, she was full of confidence starting the Pursuit.

If you listened to a certain commentary team however you may have thought differently. They gave her no chance at the start and didn’t see her winning even after she hit 15/15 on the first 3 shoots. Please remember biathletes are not just their statistics! It’s not a case of ski stats + shooting stats = result. There is a lot more to it as Mari showed today.

Second place went to Gabriela Koukalova who shot the perfect 20/20 to move from 4th onto the podium. Third place went to Justine Braisaz who missed 4 shots and gave her no chance of fighting for the win. Teja Gregorin finished 4th, her best performance of the season, missing just 1 target. Lisa Hauser came from 22nd to 5th hitting 20/20 and Marte Olsbu was top Norwegian in 6th.

Kaisa Makarainen moved from 27th to 7th, Laura Dhalmeier went from 31st to 9th to win the Pursuit title and Lisa Vittozzi went from 46th to 16th.

The Men’s race was just between the top three from the Sprint. Johannes Boe, Martin Fourcade and Anton Shipulin. They were pretty closely matched right up to the final shoot. Fourcade and Boe both missed 1 in the first prone, then Shipulin missed in the first stand so it all came down to the final shoot!

This was where Mr. Pursuit showed just how good he is in this event. Shipulin shot clean and the other two both missed a target. Shipulin won by 5 seconds but Fouracde and Boe had to fight it out on the tracks for second. Fourcade attacked on the uphill and Boe didn’t have the energy to match him. That makes 21 podiums for Fourcade this season.

Freddie Lindstrom moved from 15th to 4th shooting 20/20, Lukas Hofer went from 21st to 5th and Julian Eberhard went from 10th to 6th.

Andrejs Rastorgujevs had a good race going from 23rd to 10th (YEAH!), Michal Krcmar from 28th to 13th, Dominik Windisch from 40th to 15th, Artem Pryma from 39th to 21st, Lowell Bailey from 44th to 23rd, Vladimir Iliev from 58th to 29th and Vetle Christiansen from 53rd to 30th.

Don’t cry but tomorrow is the final day of the World Cup season! It’s the Mass Starts though so it should be a good one!

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Hochfilzen 2017: The Mass Starts!

h17mms

It’s the final day of what has been an outstanding World Championships in Hochfilzen and what a day it was. The Mass Starts are always great to watch and the two races today were no exception.

The Women got us off to a great start in the morning with a really close race. Susan Dunklee had an amazing first leg to lead after shooting clean on the first prone. She was followed by Laura Dahlmeier and a host of others including Koukalova, Dorin Habert and Wierer. Makarainen missed 1 target on her first shoot.

In fact Wierer had a tough start to the race losing her pole on the opening lap. Teja Gregorin also has a fall so there was a bit of chaos going on behind the leaders!

After the second prone there were still 8 women who hadn’t missed a target and Dunklee was still leading on the tracks.

The third shoot proved decisive in thinning out the medal contenders and left Dunklee, Dahlmeier, Koukalova and Dorin Habert together.

The final shoot saw Dunklee clear first hitting 20/20 followed by Dahlmeier who shot the same score. Dorin Habert and Koukalova both missed leaving a showdown on the tracks between the American and the German. Kaisa Makarainen hit all 5 in the final shoot to leave her to chase down the bronze medal.

Dahlmeier in the end proved too strong for Dunklee on the tracks and won her 5th gold medal of the Championships becoming the first women to do so. She only missed her 6th by 4 seconds in the Sprint. She is a remarkable biathlete and must now be considered one of the best ever.

Dunklee got America’s second medal in silver with a sensational shooting performance. It has been a fantastic competition for the US team. Bronze went to Kaisa Makarainen who skied like the wind passing all her rivals on the final climb winning her only medal here. It was such a good race to finish off the Championships for the women.

The afternoon saw the men’s race and wow what a competition. It was so close all the way to the final shoot where anyone of about 10 biathletes could have won. The early stages were full of great shooting which kept the field extremely close together. The Austrians Simon Eder and Dominik Landertinger were in the mix which made things very exciting for the home crowd.

An incredible 14 biathletes shot 10/10 on the prone shoots. One person who didn’t was Martin Fourcade who missed on the first prone meaning he had to ski fast to catch the others.

Seven biathletes shot 15/15 after the first stand leaving Simon Eder, Simon Schempp, Johannes Boe, Lowell Bailey, Dominik Landertinger and Krasimir Anev at the front. They were joined by Fourcade who had made up the time from his earlier miss.

So it all came down the the final shoot! It was so exciting. Eder cleared, then Schemmp cleared, then Lowell Bailey cleared leaving those three in the medal positions. Johannes Boe missed one and Fourcade missed two. Then it came down to a ski race. Schemmp obviously learned his lesson from yesterday and this time he attacked up the hill to get a gap from Eder. Behind them Johannes Boe was flying and he overtook Bailey and even caught up and passed Eder.

Schempp cruised to the finish getting his first individual win here in Hochfilzen, Boe took his third silver and Simon Eder stayed in third to grab another bronze for the home nation.

Well sorry but as the cartoons say that’s all folks! It has been a fabulous World Championships. Laura Dahlmeier goes home with 5 gold medals and a silver. Germany have 8 medals in total, 7 gold and 1 silver to top the medal table. Happily Austria got in on the action too with the 2 bronzes and so sent the public away happy.

If you are still hungry for more action the Youth/Junior World Championships starts on Wednesday in Brezno-Orsblie!!

I am going for a lie down now! 🙂

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Hochfilzen 2017: The Pursuits!

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Now I warned you not to the miss the Pursuit races, didn’t I! That turned out to be good advice! We were treated to two races at the World Championships in Hochfilzen today and they were both great.

First we had the Women’s Pursuit in the morning and we had drama from the first shoot. Dahlmeier and Koukalova settled down on the mats together but Gabi had some trouble with her rifle and took a long time to fire her shots. It looked like the shells were not ejecting properly and so this affected her focus and in the end she missed 2 targets and it looked like her medal chances were over.

Dahlmeier also missed a target but still managed to complete her penalty loop to stay in the lead and that’s where she remained for the whole race not missing another shot. It means from three races she has 2 gold medals and 1 silver!

Sneaking up from 27th was Darya Domracheva. After having her first child in October and returning to action in January she has had some trouble with her standing shooting. Not today however! She hit 20/20 to win the silver medal and did what is known in biathlon as a ‘Dorin Habert’!

Third place unbelievably went to Koukalova! After her terrible first shoot she also missed another at the first standing but came back to claim bronze. She was helped a bit by the others missing especially Makarainen who was in with a medal chance until she missed on the final shoot.

Russia’s Irina Starykh, back from her drugs ban, was 4th hitting 20/20, Justine Braisaz was 5th from 28th, Marie Dorin Habert took 6th, Makarainen was 7th, Anastasiya Merkushyna hit another 20/20 in 8th, Celia Aymonier was 9th and Dorothea Wierer came from 21st to finish 10th.

Other good performances came from Pualina Fialkova who went from 31st to 13th, Alexia Runggaldier from 43rd to 15th hitting 20/20 and Baiba Bendika hit another perfect score coming from 50th to finish 27th.

The men’s race started in the afternoon and saw Martin Fourcade win his first race here at the World Championships. He missed just 1 target and controlled the race to win by 22 seconds. Johannes Boe held on to his second place despite missing 3 targets, but skiing incredibly well, giving him 2 silver medals.

Third place went to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen! Starting from 8th and no doubt inspired by his wife’s fantastic performance in the women’s race he missed just 1 target to win the bronze medal. He is incredible! I have run out of words for that man! That is his 45th World Championship medal! Let’s just say that there will be a party at the Bjoerndalen’s tonight!

Anton Shipulin had a very good race coming from 21st to finish 4th, Ondrej Moravec kept his 5th place position from the Sprint, Lowell Bailey was 6th ahead of Krasimir Anev in 7th. Completing the Top 10 were Julian Eberhard in 8th, Tarjei Boe in 9th and Simon Schempp in 10th.

Sergey Semenov did really well starting 41st and finishing 15th, Quentin Fillon Maillet went from 43rd to 22nd and Martin Otcenas from 47th to 24th.

Well we now have 2 days off to recover before the next race on Wednesday which is the Women’s Individual followed by the Men’s on Thursday. Will Dahlmeier get another medal? Can anyone beat Martin Fourcade in that event? There is lots to look forward too!

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Hochfilzen 2017: The Men’s Sprint!

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On Saturday it was the turn of the men to tackle the World Championships Sprint in Hochfilzen. The outcome of this one was a little more surprising than the women’s race yesterday.

It was won by Germany’s Benedikt Doll. His form this season has been great on skis but not that good on the shooting range but today he put them both together perfectly to win the race. He started late in bib 82 but he shot clean and so took the lead away from Martin Fourcade by 23 seconds.

He had an anxious wait however as Johannes Boe in bib 96 also shot clean and in the end he missed out on the gold medal by just 0.7 of a second giving Doll his first ever win! What a time to do it in the World Championships. I am not saying the interview he did for my blog helped ….actually yes I am WELL DONE BENNI! 🙂

Martin Fourcade kept third place to win the bronze medal despite missing 2 targets. Fourth place went to Lowell Bailey who had a fantastic race shooting 10/10 and missed bronze by 6 seconds. 5th went to Ondrej Moravec who seems to be back on good form with only 1 miss. Bulgaria’s Krasimir Anev shot clean in 6th, 7th went to home favourite Julian Eberhard with 2 shots missed. The legend OEB missed 1 to finish 8th – how does he do it! 9th went to Simon Schempp and 10th to Evgeniy Garanichev both shooting 9/10.

We also got some personal bests today from Bulgarian Anton Sinapov in 11th, Switzerland’s Mario Dolder in 15th and Romania’s Remus Faur in 23rd.

Unfortunately Emil Hegle Svendsen needed some medical attention after he crossed the finish line in 36th place but hopefully he will be OK to race the Pursuit on Sunday.

On a happier note Martin Fourcade and Anton Shipulin shook hands after the race so divorce proceedings in the biathlon family have been cancelled ….for now!

There is less than 1 minute between the Top 14 tomorrow so the Pursuit should be a great one to watch. The time has changed a little from 14:45 (CET) to 15:00 (CET) so don’t miss it.

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