The Women’s season turned out as we had expected before a rifle was even fired. Kaisa Makarainen and Darya Domracheva would fight it out for the overall title and they did so right up until the end of the season. They both started well and in the first race, the Individual in Oestersund, Domracheva won from Makarainen in second. Both finished in the TOP 5 in the Sprint and Makarainen won the Pursuit with Domracheva in 4th. This meant that there wasn’t much to choose between them after Round 1.
We then headed to Hochfilzen where Kaisa really laid down a marker and won both races with Darya losing some ground. In Pokljuka they were neck and neck again with Darya beating Kaisa in both the Sprint and Pursuit but then came the first Mass Start of the season and it proved to be a disaster for Darya. She crashed into another biathlete when exiting the penalty loop and could not finish the race. Kaisa took full advantage and won the race giving her 60 points whilst Darya scored 0.
After Christmas in Oberhof we were expecting more of the same. In fact they had similar results again with Darya leaving with slightly more points. In Ruhpolding Darya came out firmly on top taking a first and second place finish and piling the pressure on Kaisa. Antholz again was a battle between the two with Darya taking both wins and Kaisa a second and a third place. Nove Mesto couldn’t really separate them either with both women in the Top 10 of the Sprint and Darya winning the Pursuit from Kaisa in second. It looked like the same story in Oslo too with Kaisa winning the Individual and Darya in second but in the Sprint Darya won and Kaisa could only finish in 24th place which meant the yellow bib changed hands just before the World Championships. Kaisa had been in yellow for most of the season but now Darya took over by just 10 points.
With the World Championships counting towards the overall title there was even more pressure on both of them to do well in Kontiolahti before the final round in Khanty Mansiysk. However the task of competing for the overall title and World titles was always going to be difficult. In fact only Kaisa took a medal and it was bronze. Darya did however manage to extend her lead to 21 points by finishing ahead in most of the races.
So it was left to Khanty Mansiysk and three races to decide the destination of the Overall Title. Kaisa drew first blood and won the Sprint closing the gap on Domracheva, who was third, down to just 9 points. Darya hit back hard though in the Pursuit finishing first with Kaisa back in fourth to virtually guarantee the Overall Title barring total disaster in the final Mass Start. Kaisa did manage to win the small Crystal globe for the Pursuit by just 1 point from Darya and Valj Semerenko who was third. The last race saw Darya take 4th place which was more than enough for her to win her first ever big Crystal Globe! It also saw Franziska Preuss win the small globe for the Mass Start.
Away from the two title contenders there were some excellent performances from some of the other ladies. Veronika Vitkova showed what a classy biathlete she is. She won her first ever race this season in the Oberhof Sprint and proved it was no matter of luck as she has been on the podium another five times. She has also played a vital role in both the Mixed and Women’s relay team for the Czech Republic along with Gabriela Soukalova who after a sluggish start had a good end to the season.
Laura Dahlmeier is another woman who has impressed greatly this season. She took her debut World Cup win in the Nove Mesto Sprint race and got another 6 podiums before winning the final race of the season in Khanty Mansiysk. She is probably the best shot of all the women and at the age of just 21 she will have a lot more success to look forward to. Her German teammates have all improved too especially Franziska Preuss and Vanessa Hinz. Together with Franziska Hildebrand they make a fearsome Relay team as we found out in Kontiolahti. They also won the Nation’s Cup and had 3 biathletes in the TOP 10 of the total score.
Making good strides forward this season was also the Italian Women’s team. Dorothea Wierer and Karin Oberhofer have enjoyed their best ever seasons and the likes of Nicole Gontier, Lisa Vittozzi and Federica Sanfilippo are there to back them up. Marie Dorin Habert had a shortened season after giving birth to her first daughter in September. She made a stunning return to the World Cup finishing on the podium and then went on to dominate the World Championships winning 2 gold medals. The French newcomers Justine Briasaz and Enora Latuilliere also look like becoming very good biathletes.
Valj Semerenko in the absence of her twin sister had a very consistent season. She made a lot of podiums and was excellent on the shooting range. She eventually finished third in the total score and won the Mass Start at the World Championships. Rosanna Crawford from Canada had a really strong season too getting her personal best result of 4th in the Pokljuka Sprint as well as 7 Top 20 finishes . America’s Susan Dunklee had a good year too and Hannah Dreissigacker achieved her personal best result of 14th at the final round in Russia.
It has been a great year for Women’s biathlon. The fight for the Overall Title went right down to the final round and at the World Championships the rest of the pack showed just how good they are. Next year should be even better with more women coming through to challenge. We don’t know if Makarainen will retire or not yet but Darya Domracheva will have plenty of competition either way. It will be a long summer waiting for the season to start again but Darya has a lot of time to enjoy her Global Success!
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