The sun is shining, there is snow all around, we have beautiful scenery and the temperature is getting down to -20 degrees. It must be Antholz-Anterselva! That’s right we are back in the South Tyrol and it actually looks and feels like winter!
The first race in Italy was on Thursday and we began with the Women’s Sprint. We had a couple of firsts in this event as Olga Podchufarova won her first ever race and she is also the first Russian women to make the podium on the World Cup this season. As with buses, after waiting ages for 1 podium the Russians actually got 2 with Ekaterina Yurlova taking 3rd place. Both the Russians shot clean but second place went to home favourite Dorothea Wierer who made the podium despite missing 1 shot. There was another great performance in the shape of Linn Persson from Sweden who shot clean and finished in 17th which is her career best individual finish by a big margin.
On Friday we had the Men’s Sprint. In the 2 previous years it has been won by Simon Schempp so it wasn’t such a big surprise that he won it again! That made it 5 races unbeaten in Antholz as he also won the previous 2 Pursuits. I think it’s safe to say he enjoys racing in Antholz! In second place was Maxim Tsvetkov with his best ever finish and his first time on the podium. He is fast becoming a star of the Russian Team mainly thanks to his incredible shooting. It is now rare for him to miss more than one shot and he was clean again today. In third came “Mr Consistent” Tarjei Boe who has finished in the Top 10 more often than not this season and is climbing his way up the overall rankings.
The women had a day off on Friday but no such luck for the men who were back in action on Saturday. The Women’s Pursuit was first and yet again Russia took the win (remember what I said about buses). This time Ekaterina Yurlova was victorious coming from third to first. In second was a remarkable performance from Selina Gasparin, who is continuing her great form, making up 14 places from a start position of 16th. She out skied Dorothea Wierer on the final lap but the Italian still got her second podium at home in third.
Canada’s Julia Ransom went from 46th to 19th to record her best ever finish on the World Cup. Other big moves in the Pursuit came from Tiril Echhoff 20th to 4t, Krystyna Guzik 26th to 5th, Daria Virolaynen 32nd to 12th, Susan Dunklee 37th to 17th, Karolin Horchler 50th to 24th and Anastasia Zagoruiko 59th to 33rd.
The Men’s Pursuit started later in the day and you will never guess – another Russian won! This time it was Anton Shipulin claiming his first victory of the season. It’s not so much of a surprise though as he loves Antholz and this blog knows him as ANT-holz Shipulin! Second place went to Simon Schemmp who continued his amazing run of results in Antholz too. Third went to Johannes Boe who did consider letting Fourcade pass him to keep his record of only being on the podium in first place but decided third wasn’t so bad after all!!!
Martin Fourcade came from 28th to get 4th after shaving his beard. He had a bet that he couldn’t shave it until he shot clean but he shaved it before the race and then shot clean! Which I believe is cheating! 😉
Elsewhere Anton Babikov went from 31st to 7th to record his career best result, Andi Birnbacher from 41st to 14th, Benjamin Weger from 34th to 16th and Brendan Green from 45th to 31st.
The final day in Antholz was reserved for the relays. The Women’s race was won by France with some great shooting from the whole team of Justine Braisaz, Anais Bescond, Anais Chevalier and Marie Dorin Habert. The Czech Republic were second with Gabriela Soukalova back in the team and in third were the Russians capping off a fantastic World Cup round for themselves.
The Men’s race went right down to the wire with a repeat of the Sochi race with Anton Shipulin and Simon Schempp battling for the victory. The outcome was the same as the Olympics with Russia winning and Germany in second. Norway, without Emil Hegle Svendsen and Tarjei Boe, were third.
It has been a great World Cup in Antholz especially for the Russians with 3 individual wins and a relay victory and podium. The Russian women will be sad to have a break as they have just hit good form but everyone else is looking forward to a well-earned rest. Next time we are off over the pond to North America with rounds in Canmore and Preque Isle to look forward too. I can’t wait for those!
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