Tag Archives: Kontiolahti 2015

World Champs 2015 Review: Men

boe wc

After many days of anticipation and then the opening ceremony, action finally got underway in the 2015 Biathlon World Championships in Kontiolahti. The first race took place on Thursday afternoon and saw 26 teams take part in the Mixed Relay. The conditions were really tough with warm temperatures making the snow wet and it looked like it was up to the biathletes knees!!!

The race got off to a great start with Fuyuko Suzuki taking the lead after 2 shoots for Japan. Veronika Vitkova took the Czech Republic into the lead however in the first exchange and it was then Soukalova and Domracheva who were in contention in the second leg. Domracheva handed over to Chepelin for Belarus and he managed to hold on to the lead in his leg to send Liadov out first for the final leg. Unfortunately for him he only had an 11 second lead and couldn’t hold off Moravec from the Czech Republic who came home first to win gold for his country. He was followed by Martin Fourcade who made up a lot of time to bring France home for silver and Tarjei Boe continued his brother Johannes’ good work by hanging on for bronze despite a penalty loop from Eckhoff. Belarus were fourth by an agonizing 4 seconds. The Finnish team put in a great display for the home crowd and were in with a podium shot going into leg 3. They ended in 9th which was a 7 place improvement on their start of 16th.

On Saturday we had the Sprint competition. Conditions were better but still far from ideal for the 129 biathletes. This didn’t seem to bother Johannes Thingnes Boe however as he went out and won! It easy to forget that this is his first ever start in an individual event in a Senior World Championships and he couldn’t have done any better on his debut. There was more good news for the Boe family as big brother Tarjei shot clean to come home to win bronze. It was guaranteed to be a good night out in Styrn, the boys home town, on Saturday! Splitting up the family however was the history making Nathan Smith. He took the silver and is the first Canadian man to win a World Championship medal. He has been getting closer and closer to the podium all year and timed his best ever result to perfection. It wasn’t a great day for some of the big favourites with Martin Fourcade in 12th, Anton Shipulin in 18th, Emil Svendsen in 36th and Simon Schempp in 77th!

Johannes went into the Pursuit as favourite but he had a total nightmare missing 8 shots and finished 31st. On the other hand Germany’s Erik Lesser had a magnificent race. He shot clear and he controlled the pace from the front after the first shoot. He showed remarkable mental strength to hold his nerve shooting not only the perfect 20/20 but he shot fast as well. He always performs well on the big occasion and can now add World Championship gold to his Olympic silver. In second was Anton Shipulin who paced the race well and shot 19/20. At the final shoot when the guys in contention for the final two places missed around him he and Tarjei Boe kept their cool and fought it out on the track for the remaining medals. It was obvious that Shipulin had the upper hand on the skis but it might have been different if Boe had been on his top ski form. Even so he won his third bronze in three races. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen produced a good race to finish in 5th as did Vladimir Iliev who was 6th.

The men had three days of rest before they had the Individual 20km. Normal service was resumed with Martin Fourcade winning yet again! He is very hard to beat at this race. Emil Hegle Svendsen tried his best to do that but he just doesn’t have the ski speed this season. Martin skied 1 minute 20 seconds faster than him as he missed 1 shot but still won comfortably. What was joy for one Fourcade was anguish for the other. Simon took the lead early in the race and shot clear to suggest a podium place would be his. It wasn’t to be however as Ondrej Moravec with 1 missed shot out skied him to take the bronze medal by five seconds. It is the second time Simon Fourcade has finished 4th at this World Championships which must be horribly frustrating for him but on the bright side this is his best season for a long while. Sergey Semenov finished 5th to secure the small Crystal Globe in the Individual for Ukraine. There were also good performances from Lee Jackson of Great Britain in 39th and Alex Almoukov of Australia in 43rd. It was also good to see Italy’s Christian De Lorenzi rolling back the years in 12th adding to his other 2 TOP 30 finishes here.

The Relay was next up and it was won by a dominant German team to match the gold from their Women’s team. They only used 3 spare rounds and were always in the TOP 3. After Arnd Peiffer’s excellent third leg they controlled the race and no one else could catch them. The team of Erik Lesser, Daniel Boehm, Peiffer and Simon Schempp meant a very happy medal ceremony for Germany. In silver medal position came Norway with Emil Hegle Svendsen, Tarjei and Johannes Boe helping Ole Einar Bjoerndalen to his 40th World Championship medal. He was the only one of them not to use a spare round and led after his leg so he is still showing those youngsters how it’s done! I am happy to report that France were third finally getting Simon Fourcade onto the podium and preventing his nervous breakdown after finishing 4th twice already. Jean Guillaume Beatrix, Quentin Fillon Maillet and little brother Martin did a good job!

To finish we had the Mass Start which proved to be a very good race to end with. Jakov Fak took gold in a great race which went all the way to the finish line. In second came Ondrej Moravec to add silver to his gold and bronze to complete the set. Third place went to surprise, surprise Mr. Bronze himself Tarjei Boe who leaves with 5 medals. He beat teammate Bjoerndalen who was fourth but he had an excellent race shooting clean and always up at the front.

So that’s all from Kontiolahti. It has been a great World Championships and France came out on top of the medal table in front of Germany and Norway. I am sure the biathletes are glad to see the back of the “Wall” as they have been up it about a million times now but they can’t rest yet! It’s on to Khanty Mansisyk for the last World Cup of the season!


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The ‘Wall’ of Champions!

kwall

Picture the scene dear reader. You have just come out of the final standing shoot in first place. As you leave the stadium you can still hear the shots of your competitors and the roar of the crowd. All that stands between you and victory is one final lap of the track. Out on course you can hear the swish of your rivals skis a little way back. Up ahead there it is. The Wall. The Kontiolahti Wall. One more time up there in the lead and you are back into the stadium and on to the finish line where you will be crowned World Champion.

In reality it’s not as tough as it seems. You have climbed worse in training but at the minute it resembles the 700 feet ice wall from Game of Thrones! Your legs are burning and your lungs are gasping for air. Just one more big push that’s all it will take to claim victory. The only comfort you can take is that you know everyone else is facing the same hill. You are in a world of pain but suddenly it breaks, you’re at the top, you’ve done it, you’re there and into the stadium to take the applause of the crowd. You are a World Champion!

Compelling stuff there eh! Well that’s exactly what’s going to happen to a few lucky biathletes who will go through that soon in the World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland starting on the 3rd of March. Yes it’s time for the preview! Eight new individual champions will be crowned here and 3 teams will come out on top in the Relays, but who will they be?

If we look at the women first there are obviously two favourites, Darya Domracheva and Kaisa Makarainen. Both have enjoyed periods of good form and also bad so far this season but if they are in good shape and shoot well there are few others who can beat them. However if they are off form there are plenty of ladies waiting in the wings to take the medals. Veronika Vitkova is having her best ever season and she has to be one of the favourites to make the podium. Valj Semerenko has been incredibly consistent and if anyone slips up on the range she will be there to capitalise. Tiril Eckhoff is also capable of medalling like she did in Sochi and you can not rule out Gabriela Soukalova even though she is not on top form. Elsewhere the young Germans have had an excellent season and the likes of Preuss and Dahlmeier could do well. The Italians also have the possibility of success with Wierer and Oberhofer enjoying their best ever form. You can never rule out the Russians either so keep an eye out for Glazyrina and Podchufarova. Mari Laukkanen is a potential medal winner too as she tends to perform well in at home in Kontiolahti.

As for the men well we have the usual favourite Martin Fourcade and it’s up to everyone else to beat him. However there are plenty of candidates to do just that. His eternal nemesis of course is Emil Hegle Svendsen who will be looking to win more medals in a sprint finish 1 centimetre victory like he usually does! His teammate Johannes Thingnes Boe will be a big favourite to win medals here too. Kontiolahti is one of his favourite tracks and he won all three races here on the World Cup last season. On this season’s form Anton Shipulin has to be in contention for medals as does Simon Schempp. Then there are the experienced campaigners like Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Simon Eder who can never be ruled out. Other possibles include Dominik Landertinger, Jakon Fak and Ondrej Moravec who are all capable of winning races. It would also be nice to get a few surprises on the podium so lets hope some of the youngsters can get in the mix to like Quentin Fillon Maillet and Benedikt Doll.

The relays are always hard to predict. In the women’s the red hot favourites have to be the Czech Republic but they will face stiff competition from Belarus, Germany, Norway and Italy. For the men Russia are probably the form team but you can never write off Norway. France and Germany will be going for victory too and the Czech Republic also have a chance. In the Mixed Relay the same teams will be fighting it out for gold. There have only been 2 Mixed Relays all season in Oestersund and Nove Mesto. The first was won by France followed by Norway and Germany and in Nove Mesto Norway won in front of The Czech Republic and the Ukraine. It really is anyone’s race and there are many possible winners.

Whoever wins the medals it should be an exciting two weeks in Finland and I just hope we get some close racing and everyone has fun! One thing is for sure there will be some new names to add to the “Wall” of Champions!

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