Tag Archives: Kaisa Mäkäräinen

Season 2018/19: Women’s Preview!

Three points! That’s all that separated the top two women in the Overall last season. It went down to the very last race at the final World Cup. In stark contrast to the Men’s Title no one knows who will win the Women’s Overall Title.

Kaisa Makarainen was victorious last season and she is probably just the favourite for this year but really it could go to any one of three.

Anastasiya Kuzmina was unlucky missing out on what would have been her first ever Overall victory. She had an astonishingly consistent season which hasn’t happened for her before and to lose out on the big crystal globe in her home town of Tyumen must have been heartbreaking. She decided to race again this year to try and win the one thing that has eluded her so far in biathlon.

Challenging both of these women will be Laura Dahlmeier. She had a fantastic Olympic Games but wasn’t as good as usual on the World Cup. She finished third, 92 points behind Makarainen but won’t have the big distraction of the Olympics this time around. She has already won the Overall and so knows exactly what it takes to do it. She still suffers with illness during the season however and that could make the difference between winning and losing in the Total Score. She even had to take a break this pre-season from training in October due to ill health so hasn’t had the ideal preparation.

There are other biathletes who will feature in the Top 5 or 10 of course but none of them have yet showed they have what it takes to win the World Cup. The Italians Lisa Vittozzi and Dorothea Wierer are always strong and are fantastic shots but lack the consistency for the Overall Title. Tiril Eckhoff is a great biathlete but you never know what you are going to get with her. One day she is outstanding, the next she disappears. Justine Braisaz and Anais Bescond both had good seasons in 2017/18 but the French duo are also a bit hit and miss.

The Women’s Relays will be very interesting this season. Last year the dominance of the German Team was ended with France and Belarus both taking victories. However both of those teams will be missing big guns, Dorin Habert, Domracheva and Skardino, so hopefully other teams like Italy, Ukraine and the Czech Republic will threaten the Germans.

It will also be fun to see who comes out on top in the Mixed Relays. There were three races last season and three different winners; France, Norway and Italy. This could be a really exciting event with quite a lot of strong teams around.

The season starts on the 2nd of December in Pokljuka with the Single and Mixed Relays. The programme also includes the Individual, Sprint and Pursuit races. We then head to Hochfilzen and Nove Mesto will take us up to Christmas! What an awesome present! 🙂

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Herbert Cool: The Interview!

Herbert Cool is a former Dutch biathlete who was born in Rotterdam on the 9th of February 1985. He retired from biathlon in 2012, which was far too soon!, with a top finish of 50th in both the Sprint and Pursuit races at the 2008 World Championships in Oestersund. After retiring he began commentating on biathlon for Dutch Eurosport.

Follow Herbert on Twitter: @CoolHerbert

Why did you become a biathlete?

My father loves to go cross country skiing. As we have no snow in the Netherlands we used to spend our vacations in Germany and the Czech Republic. I got into the sport as well, enjoyed it, enjoyed racing against the local youth and sometimes even beating them. Age 18 I participated in the Youth Olympic Games in Bled, Slovenia. I came 9th in the Sprint which was great. We hardly ever trained on snow, only roller skiing and some shooting in a shooting range without a roller ski loop. This made me realize I had a talent for the sport and made me decide to pursue a professional career in biathlon. At age 19 I moved to the US to train with the US Junior team in Minnesota. A year after, I moved to Ruhpolding and stayed there for 6 years.

What are your best memories from your biathlon career?

For sure the first year in the US was the most fun. Obviously it is a great experience to live there on the whole, especially after finishing school. I got to see a lot of the country and was surprised about the large Nordic community it has, not to mention the beautiful cross country tracks. Also, the team was great. Just a bunch of young people wanting to make it in a sport that wasn’t normal in the country they came from. I guess we shared this experience, even though our countries were so far apart. We shared the troubles with funding, we shared having to travel away from your own country to be able to do what you love. And we had a great coach, Vladimir Cervenka, who is still coaching the US Juniors in Minnesota. Of course there were many great memories after that year, but things became a bit more serious, more like a job.

How did you become a commentator for Eurosport and how long have you been doing it?

Unfortunately I didn’t qualify for the Vancouver Olympics. The Dutch Olympic Association wants biathletes to be top 8 in the world, which obviously is a requirement similar to countries like Germany or Norway. However, there is hardly any funding and no talent development whatsoever. I really hope this will change and I am putting energy into this myself, but for now it is unrealistic to expect any talent from the Netherlands (nor is it realistic to expect youth to become interested in the sport, there simply are no facilities). Eurosport gave me a call; whether I would be interested in joining their biathlon commentator during the Olympics. I did, and it was a lot of fun. After I decided to quit in 2012 I pretty much became their new biathlon commentator. I still enjoy it a lot, and nowadays do some other sports as well as some presenting in front of the camera. For example during the 2018 Olympics. It’s a lot of fun and it enables me to stay on top of the sport that I love.

Did you find the transition from biathlete to commentator difficult? Was it harder or easier than you thought? Do you ever run out of things to say? 😉

I think it was the fact that I could become the biathlon commentator at Eurosport that helped me in the transition. You have to understand, I am a city boy. I was born and raised in Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands. Definitely worth a visit if you have the time. So living in Ruhpolding was about as far away from living in the city as possible. Although I often miss the beautiful nature in the Alps (and the snow, obviously) I also really wanted to go back to Rotterdam. And I’m not just a commentator, I also own a sports management agency. We are into sports marketing, event management and athlete management. For example, this year we will bring a large group of Dutch biathlon fans to the World Team Challenge in Gelsenkirchen for the first year. You’d be surprised how many Dutch people love watching biathlon. When it comes to winter sports, speed skating is obviously the number 1 by far, but I would say biathlon is the second most popular winter sport on television here!
(Definitely not running out of things to say 😉 )

How much and what kind of research do you do before the races?

Honestly, I hardly do any research. I simply love the sport so much that I read and see everything no matter what. Before a race, I obviously do my preparation work, but that doesn’t take a lot of time this way.

Do you have some favourite/memorable races or moments that you have commentated on? Why were they special?

My relationship with the US team runs like a red line through my career. First I moved to Minnesota to train with the US Juniors. After that I moved to Ruhpolding where I was fortunate enough to have Ricco Gross coach me and help me a lot. He helped me connect to the US World Cup team -they waxed his ski’s during that time- and I ended up going with them in some of their training camps as well as travelling with them throughout the winter. A great setup for which I am still very grateful to both Ricco Gross, Bernd Eisenbichler, their high performance director and the team as a whole. It was during the time Tim Burke did very well, he even led the World Cup total score during Christmas, and I roomed up with them and learned a lot. So to answer the question, during the Hochfilzen World Champs there was the epic individual race men’s race. Moravec was in the lead, Lowell Bailey started really late. He shot well, and the finish loop was so intense. I think I screamed during my commentary and for sure I wasn’t very objective, but I didn’t care. It was such a great win for Lowell and I felt a lot of joy, especially seeing all of the wax techs and coaches celebrating afterwards. You know how hard they all work for it and how much effort goes in behind the scenes.

Is biathlon popular in The Netherlands? Can you tell us something about the current biathletes from the Netherlands.

It’s a difficult subject at the moment. The Dutch ski federation has chosen not to invest in talent development. One of the reasons is that the Dutch Olympic Association will only send a biathlete to the Olympics if he or she is around top 8 in the world. This is almost impossible to achieve in general, but especially with no funding, no facilities (no snow) and, very important, no athletes who are already on a World Cup level. You need to train with athletes who are at least as good as you on a daily basis. A good example is Chardine Sloof; she is a talented biathlete who got introduced to the sport because she lives in Sweden. She became a Junior World Champion for the Netherlands, which is crazy. Luck hardly has any influence on the sport of biathlon, if you become Junior World Champion you are talented. Period. After that she struggled with some physical issues and the funding stopped. She decided to switch to the Swedish team. A good decision, because she is surrounded by great athletes, the right culture and great facilities as well. She achieved 3 top 15 results during the Oberhof World Cup 2 seasons ago, really great stuff. I hope we will see more of her in the upcoming season.

Do you have any predictions for the up coming season? Anyone we should be looking out for to do well?

As always after an Olympic season we saw some big names quit. Of course we will miss Domracheva for example. She has one of the best techniques on the women’s side and is of great added value to the exposure of biathlon due to her personality. On a personal note I will miss Bjoerndalen, because he was my idol when I was a biathlete myself. I think Johannes Thingnes Boe will again be a little bit better and more solid this time, although he did admit to not training as much as he should have done in spring. But it will be interesting to see whether Fourcade can take another overall World Cup. I think it’s Boe’s time now. And the Swedes will be strong. They have the momentum after their successful Olympics. Of course there is a big difference between having nothing to lose and being one of the favourites, so this will be a role they will have to get used to. On the women’s side I think Dahlmeier will be very strong, if she stays healthy on her way to December. But I’m afraid that if she wins a lot, she will quit after this winter, which would be a big loss to the sport. I would also keep an eye on Lisa Vittozzi, she made big steps last season and is still very young.

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

I loved Östersund. Great atmosphere downtown, great energy on the whole and tracks that suited me. Long uphills that you really had to dig into. Antholz is everybody’s favorite, not only because of the great food and kind people. I always joke during my commentary that they somehow always seem to have a lot of snow, yet the sun is always shining!

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

Bjoerndalen, because he made biathlon into the sport it is today. He pulled it out of cross country skiing’s shadow. His technique was perfection. Someone who also has great balance and style on ski’s is Simon Fourcade, I love watching him ski. When it comes to fighting spirit you have to mention Kaisa Makarainen. Such a great athlete, a fierce competitor on the tracks and a great person once she crosses the finish line.

Did your rifle have a name?

Nope.

Describe yourself in three words.

Ambitious, passionate, calm.

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Right now: Belgium!
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Shipulin’s carved rifle looks great.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Not sure which year, and a bit of a different sport, but I loved the suit the Norwegian cross country team had in the last seasons Bjorn Daehlie was racing.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Being active in a worldwide sport that is still small enough to be a small community, and the closeness to nature.
Best thing about being a commentator: Sharing what you love with viewers who really discover your sport -and how great it is. Because biathlon wasn’t really known in the Netherlands, viewers can ask me question through Twitter during the race. This works out great and gives me the chance to bring the sport closer to the Dutch audience.

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My Big Biathlon Questions!

I have been thinking, which is both unusual and dangerous! I have come up with some questions about biathlon mainly because certain people have failed to respond to their biathlon23 interview request so I had to write something!

How will the Olympic quotas change for Beijing 2022?

You may have heard that the IOC are cutting 20 places from biathlon at the Olympics. This is supposed to be a cost cutting exercise to reduce the money spent by host cities. It will save about 10 pence! The big costs of hosting the Olympics is paying for new infrastructure like stadiums, venues and road and rail transport. Surely they should be increasing the number of athletes not decreasing it.

They are keen to increase gender equality which is a good thing but biathlon is probably one of the most gender equal sports with the same amount of races for men and women and a mixed event. So that makes no sense either!

Unfortunately for them it now falls to the IBU to decide where the cuts will have to be made. I don’t think it will be China that loses any athletes as they are the host nation. Will they cut biathletes from the top ranked nations like Norway, Germany and France? Will they cut biathletes from the smaller nations who only send one or two competitors like Great Britain?

My guess is the axe will probably fall in the middle somewhere. Who knows? I am glad I don’t have to decide.

Why did the IOC reject the Single Mixed Relay as a new Olympic event?

The IOC has approved new Mixed events in freestyle skiing, ski jumping, skating and snowboarding to promote gender balance in the Games. However they rejected the Single Mixed Relay. This is rubbish! It means the small nations will not get a chance to race in a Relay at all. It is an exciting race and shorter than the Mixed Relay and is good for TV.

I mean why do they even have other sports in the Olympics anyway. It should be a biathlon only event! ( Well I may also allow curling!) 😉

Why is the skiing distance different for men and women?

I am sure the eagle eyed among you have noticed that the male biathletes ski further than the women in every race. For example in the Sprint the men do 10km while the women do 7.5km. I have never understood this. The women can ski as far as the men. Sure it might take them longer but they are not racing each other. The women race the women so why the shorter distance? I imagine it’s because in olden times the poor ladies were not deemed strong enough to ski so far!!! In athletics everyone runs 10km or 5km, there is no difference. The men and women receive equal prize money so surely they should ski the same distances! It could either mean shortening the men’s races or lengthening the women’s races but it’s something to think about.

Why are the Mixed Relays always women first and then the men?

Again why do we have woman, woman, man, man (WWMM) in the Mixed Relay and woman, man (WM) in the Single Mixed? Why can’t the men start for a change? Or why don’t we have WMWM or MWMW or even MMWW? And like before why do they have to ski different distances?
In swimming they have Mixed Relays and each team selects when the men or the women race so you have situations where the men and women are racing each other. It’s really exciting and interesting. Imagine we could have Laura Dahlmeier racing Martin Fourcade! The differences would balance out as everyone has to race two men and two women but the teams decide the order independently of each other. Just think Johannes Boe versus Kaisa Makarainen!

I told you it was dangerous when I think! Feel free to agree or disagree but keep it nice please! And if you have any burning biathlon questions throw them out there too! 🙂

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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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Tyumen 2018: The Mass Starts!

WOW! What a final race day in Tyumen! The World Cup finished with a bang! With a first time winner, personal best podium finishers and the Overall Title going to the last lap of the last race it begs the question – why are we ending the season? It just got good! 😉

The men raced first in what was a very tasty starter before the main event of the women’s showdown for the Overall Title. It was a fabulous Mass Start with 11 men still in contention for victory at the final shoot. It was necessary to shoot clean to have a chance of winning this one and Erlend Bjoentegaard, Maxim Tsvetkov, Jakov Fak and the Boe bros did just that.

It was Tsvetkov with the support of the home crowd who managed to grab a lead and held it to the line. It was his first ever World Cup win and to do it on home soil in that style was great. He hit 20/20 as did Bjoentegaard who got his personal best finish and third went to Johannes Boe with 2 misses.

Benedikt Doll was 4th, Henrik L’Abee Lund 5th and Tarjei Boe 6th. Martin Fourcade had a day off missing 4 targets and finished in 19th place. He missed the chance to finish on the podium in every World Cup race he started this season. Maybe he isn’t so good after all!!! 😉

If you thought that was good the women’s race was amazing! All eyes were on Anastasiya Kuzmina and Kaisa Makarainen to see who would lift the big crystal globe. However with that kind of pressure neither of them could take the win.

That went to Darya Domracheva. She missed 1 target but was too strong on the skis for Paulina Fialkova and Anais Chevalier who had left the final shoot in the lead. She skied past them both to take the win. Fialkova held on for second hitting 19/20, her best finish on the World Cup, and Chevalier was third hitting 20/20.

Vanessa Hinz was 4th, Franziska Pruess 5th and Kaisa took 6th.

It was an incredible race from the Finn. She was close to Kuzmina throughout the race until the third shoot when she missed 2 shots and Kuzmina 1. On the final shoot Kuzmina missed again but Kaisa cleaned. They were neck and neck when Kaisa left the range and Kuzmina came off the penalty loop.

It was there that Kaisa took off. She had too much strength for Kuzmina who eventually finished 11th. Makarainen pushed herself to the limit and beyond to take the Overall Title, her third, but just 3 points! She also won the small globe for the Mass Start.

That brings the season to an end but look out for my season reviews for the men, women and biathlete23 as well as a little item I like to call THE BIATHLON23 AWARDS!!!

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Tyumen 2018: The Pursuits!

If you give Martin Fourcade a 33 second lead in a Pursuit then he will most likely extend it by the end. That’s what he did again today enjoying a victory lap after winning the Overall Title on Thursday. He shot very well just missing 1 target on the final shoot but he was never under any pressure.

The victory gave him the Pursuit crystal globe to add to the Sprint and Individual.

Behind him there was more excitement with Johannes Boe skiing super fast and hitting 19/20 to move from 14th to 2nd. He was followed by Lukas Hofer who shot 20/20 and came from 13th to take 3rd.

Freddie Lindstrom was 4th, Erik Lesser 5th and Arnd Peiffer 6th.

Simon Eder moved from 27th to 8th, Lars Birkeland from 38th to 13th and Anton Babikov went from 43rd to 24th.

The women’s race was much more exciting going right down to the final standing shoot then the finish line!. Laura Dahlmeier, Anais Bescond, Darya Domracheva and Kaisa Makarainen were all in contention. Three of the four missed but Kaisa took her time and shot clean. She left the range to find Anais Bescond coming off the penalty loop and it was a ski race between them for the win.

Kaisa took it with a sprint to the line by just 0.2 of a second in dramatic fashion to take the race for the Overall Title to the final race! Laura Dahlmeier finished in third.

Domracheva was 4th, Karolin Horchler was 5th getting her personal best result and Anastasiya Kuzmina was 6th securing the Pursuit crystal globe.

Irina Uslugina came from 22nd to 9th hitting 20/20 for her personal best result. Nadine Horchler hit 20 to go from 39th to 12th and Hanna Oberg went from 49th to 22nd.

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Tyumen 2018: The Sprints!

It’s the final weekend of the World Cup already! How did that happen?

We are in Tyumen. Well some people are and some people are not. As Russia is not yet compliant with anti-doping rules some biathletes have chosen to boycott the final World Cup round. Also all the samples from the biathletes taken here will be sent back to Germany for testing. Wouldn’t like to be sitting next to the person on the plane who has all the urine samples in their hand luggage!!

Anyway back to the racing. The final Sprints took place on Thursday and Friday. The men raced first and in a massive shock Martin Fourcade won the race! I mean when does that happen? Oh yes every weekend that’s right! The man is phenomenal!

He shot clean and skied fast to take the victory by 33 seconds. Second place was a bit of a surprise though with Simon Desthieux getting his first ever podium finish. He also shot clean and finished just 0.3 of a second ahead of Freddie Lindstrom who was third.

The shooting conditions were ideal with the top seven finishers hitting 10/10. Someone who didn’t however was Johannes Boe. He managed to miss 2 on the prone to throw away his chances of winning the sprint crystal globe!

Andrejs Rastorgujevs was 4th, Erik Lesser 5th and Maxim Tsvetkov and Quentin Fillon Maillet tied for 6th place.

Martin Fourcade won the Sprint title by just 2 points in the end from Johannes Boe. He also secured the Overall Title for the seventh year in a row. I have decided that he is quite good at biathlon! 😉

The Women raced on Friday and it was a really close run thing which doesn’t happen that often in the Sprints. Darya Domracheva won this one hitting 10/10 to beat Kaisa Makarainen by just 1.2 seconds. Kaisa also hit the perfect 10. Third place went to Tiril Eckhoff who missed 1 target in the prone.

Anais Bescond was 4th, Lisa Vittozzi 5th and Laura Dahlmeier was 6th.

Anastasiya Kuzmina was 12th with 3 misses but it was enough to give her the Sprint title and the small crystal globe. The fight for the Overall Title continues to the Pursuit.

There was also some personal bests today for Estonia’s Meril Beilmann and Regina Oja in 40th and 50th. Moldovia’s Anna Ghilenko was 60th meaning she qualified for her first ever Pursuit.

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