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Open European Championships 2016!

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The 2016 Open European Championships were held in Tyumen in Siberia. The programme was a short one with a Single Mixed Relay and a Mixed Relay held on Day 1. That was followed by a Sprint then a Pursuit and finally a Mass Start all in the space of 5 days.

The first event was the Single Mixed Relay on Wednesday. With home team Russia dominating the IBU standings it was no big surprise when they won by a comfortable margin of 38 seconds. The team of Victoria Slivko and Anton Babikov were untroubled from the start and led the entire race. There only slip up was Babikov using 4 spares on his final loop as the pair hadn’t missed a single target up to that point. The silver medal went to the German Team of Luise Kummer and Matthias Dorfer who needed 7 spares and in bronze medal place were Norway with Ingrid Tandrevold and Vetle Christiansen.

Later in the day came the Mixed Relay and what an exciting race it was! It was won in the end by Russia by 0.1 of a second. On the final loop Evgeniy Garanichev started in third place 42 seconds behind the leading team Germany. Florian Graf had a nightmare on the first prone shoot incurring 3 penalty loops and left Russia and Slovakia to fight for the gold medal. Unfortunately for Slovakia Martin Otcenas couldn’t hang on to the lead and was just beaten on the finish line. The team of Anastasia Zagoruiko, Olga Iakushova, Matvey Eliseev and Garanichev made it a great first day in Tyumen for the big home crowd. Silver medals went to Paulina Fialkova, Jana Gerekova, Matej Kazar and Otcenas. Third place went to Norway’s team of Sigrid Neraasen, Bente Landheim, Henrik L’Abee-Lund and Haavard Bogetveit.

After Russian clean sweep in the Relays it was the German ladies chance to get in on the act on Thursday in the Sprint race. Nadine Horchler beat her sister Karolin and her teammate Annika Knoll to make it gold, silver and bronze for Germany. Fast skiing by Nadine denied her sister gold as Karolin shot clean and she didn’t but was much quicker on the track. A clean shoot by Knoll ensured a bronze and an all German podium.

The Men’s Sprint however swung back in the direction of the Russians with Evgeniy Garanichev fresh from his heroics in the Mixed Relay taking gold. He missed one shot but had a great ski to beat Norway’s Henrik L’Abee-Lund by 5 seconds. L’Abee-Lund shot clean as did Russia’s Anton Babikov in third but they couldn’t match the pace of Garanichev. Florian Graf recovered from his Relay debacle to finish in 4th and he hit all the targets this time which shows a lot of courage.

Friday was a rest day but if we hadn’t already been entertained enough then came the Pursuit races on Saturday. They were great! The Women’s race was won by Nadezhda Skardino who did her best to try and lose after shooting clean on the first three shoots she missed 2 on the final standing shoot and in the end won by 7.4 seconds from Karolin Horchler who won her second silver medal. Third place was really exciting as Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold came from 16th to snatch third place away from home biathlete Anastasia Zagoruiko by just 0.3 of a second. The sprint to the line left the Norwegian with her first Senior medal and the Russia in tears. As Tandrevold is currently Biathlon23 Youth/Junior Biathlete of the Year it was very pleasing to see her compete so well in the Senior race.

You might not think that the Men’s Pursuit could top that – but it did! In an amazing head to head battle between the Russian pair of Evgeniy Garanichev and Anton Babikov they shot exactly the same score 19/20 and both missed their one target on the final shoot. Then in the Sprint for the line Babikov just beat his teammate by 0.1 of a second to claim his second gold of the Championships. Garanichev added silver to his 2 golds and in third was Florian Graf on the road to redemption from the Relay disaster.

The final races on Sunday were the Mass Starts and again provided plenty of entertainment. The Women’s race was won by Luise Kummer of Germany who kept a cool head and shot well to take the gold medal. Second went to Slovakia’s Paulina Fialkova who was able to ski away from any challengers on the final loop. Bronze went again to Ingrid Tandrevold who this time passed 2 Russians to win on the line again this time breaking Iakushova’s heart. Tandrevold is probably not that popular in Russia!!!

The Men’s race was another cracker. Going into the last shooting we had Matthias Bischl, Anton Babikov and Henrik L’Abee-Lund in the lead. Coming out of the final shoot we had Florian Graf, Jaroslav Soukup and Babikov at the front. Misses from the leading three and probably tiredness from Babikov allowed Bulgaria’s Vladimir Iliev to catch up to him and take the bronze medal with Graf out skiing Soukup for gold. It was a sweet victory for Graf after his troubles on day 1.

Well the Open European Championships in Tyumen have been absolutely fantastic this year. All the races have been full of incident, with great performances and nail biting finishes. The Russians and the Germans came out best but didn’t have everything their own way. The World Championships start in Oslo next week and they really have a lot to live up to after this. What a great event it has been!

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Biathlete23: Season 2014/15 Review!

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After the excitement of a debut season your next full year on the World Cup can be difficult. There are no excuses you know what it’s all about now. Mostly you just want to improve your performances and results from the season before. It’s been an up and down year for biathlete23 but thankfully no one suspended for doping which is always good news. In case you don’t know this blog follows the fortunes of whoever is lucky enough to be drawn in bib 23 throughout the season and calculates the points to see how they compare to the real biathletes. Last year there were 2 wins from the bib from Selina Gasparin and Johannes Thingnes Boe which were coincidentally on the same day and were also their debut wins!

This year got off to a slow start no doubt due to the pressure that biathletes suffer when they learn they are in bib 23 and have to represent the blog. It may also be from fear of repraisals from me. If you think the Norwegian coaches are tough you haven’t seen anything yet! In Oestersund the biathletes in 23 were Diana Rasimoviciute, Simon Desthieux, Dmitry Malyshko,Juliya Dzhyma, Jitka Landova and Lowell Bailey which yielded a total of 64 points. Not the best results ever but it was still early days.

On to Hochfilzen and happy days! Kaisa Makarainen was drawn in bib 23 and went on to win the Sprint! The first win of the season is always sweet. It was backed up by a solid 17th place for Krasimir Anev. In the Pursuits Luise Kummer failed to score any points but Maxim Tsvetkov was 21st and meant a total of 104 points from the round.

The last races before Christmas came in Pokljuka and I was lucky enough to get home favourite Teja Gregorin into bib 23! She didn’t disappoint coming home in 7th and for the men Simon Eder took 11th place. Fredrik Lindstrom finished 12th in the Pursuit but bad luck struck when Tiril Eckhoff pulled out of the race. In the Mass Start Quentin Fillon Maillet got 12th and Fanny Horn 21st which meant leaving Slovenia with 115 points.

Luckily for her Tiril Eckhoff got to make up for her DNS in Pokljuka by finishing 13th in the Sprint in Oberhof. Backing her up in 10th was Artem Tyshchenko. Fanny Horn did the business again getting 29th in the Mass Start and Vladimir Iliev kept up the points scoring with 19th in the men’s race which gave a points total of 93. It was then on to Ruhpolding where we started with the women’s Sprint and a fourth place from Valj Semerenko! In the men’s race it was over to legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who was 15th. It’s always a pleasure to see Ole Einar in bib 23! On to the Mass Starts with Lisa Hauser taking 21st and Vladimir Iliev, in his second appearance in 23, coming home 30th. Biathlete 23 left Germany with 100 points from round 5.

Antholz came next and it wasn’t the highest scoring round. Daniel Mesotitsch failed to score any points coming 45th in the Sprint. Juliya Dzhyma did better in 30th for the women. The Pursuit saw 2 Czech biathletes race with Gabriela Soukalova in 21st and Michal Krcmar in 24th. That only meant a total of 48 points for bib 23.

Just like after Hochfilzen biathlete23 doesn’t take disappointing results lying down -oh no! Laura Dahlmeier stepped up in Nove Mesto and won her first World Cup race and 60 points! Woo hoo second win of the season. It was Emil Hegle Svendsen’s turn next but he failed to get any points finishing 43rd in the men’s race. We can rely on the Czechs though and another one Eva Puskarcikova got 14th in the Pursuit and Simon Fourcade went one better and came home 13th. Another 115 points gained.

In Oslo we saw Juliya Dzyhma in bib 23 for the third time this season and she used the occasion to perform well. She came in 6th in the Individual to earn some vital points to make up for Ondrej Moravec who was 70th staining the Czechs good form in the bib. In the Sprint Kadri Lehtla was 28th and another appearance for Vladimir Iliev saw him finish 27th. 65 points was the total from that weekend.

So it was on to Kontiolahti and as the result counted towards World Cup total score it was important to have some biathletes in the points here too. The Sprint races were first and Daria Virolaynen came in 21st and Dominik Windisch was 35th. In the Pursuit we had Ondrej Moravec, making up for Oslo, who was 9th and Megan Heinicke in 28th. For the Individual Anna Magnussen was 72nd and Tim Burke 31st. Lastly we had the Mass Start and Jana Gerekova was 12th for the women and in the men’s race my old pal Brendan Green was in bib23 once again. That’s the Olympics and now the World Championships where he found himself in bib 23! That’s why he is the unofficial ambassador for bib23 (unpaid position!). He finished 21st and meant total points from Kontiolahti were 130.

On to the final round and Khanty Mansisyk. The last chance to score points and see where biathlete 23 would have finished in comparison to the other biathletes in the total score. The first races were the Sprints and for the men Simon Fourcade was 8th. Why he chose this one occasion not to come 4th I don’t know!!! For for the women Elise Ringen was 47th which meant no points. In the Pursuit race Tiril Eckhoff was back and got 17th while Florian Graf got 18th place. The final races were the Mass Starts and biathlete 23 regular Juliya Dzhyma finished in 18th and Sergey Semenov was 26th. The final points total from Russia was 119.

So where did that leave us at the end of the season. Well like the real biathletes you have to deduct your two worst finishes from your total but as biathlete 23 had more than 2 non points scoring finishes it wasn’t necessary!!! The final total for the men was 467 which would have put them in equal 20th place in the overall with the exact same score as Jean Guillaume Beatrix! The women’s total was 481 and left them between Daria Virolaynen in 16th and Susan Dunklee in 17th in the overall. The big question however was did they do better than last year?

Last year’s total score for the men and women combined was 754 points. This year it is 948! An improvement of 194 points. Although last year the Olympics didn’t count towards the overall so that will account for some of the difference but even if you deduct the World Championship points of 130 the score would be 818 points so it is still a better year than the first! The women’s score last year was 407 and the men’s was 347. Good news the results improved! The coach is very happy!!!

Special thanks goes to all the biathletes who are lucky enough to be drawn in bib23 and that have scored points for biathlete 23! Juliya Dzhyma has been in bib23 a record 4 times this year! A great team player! Obviously the biggest thanks has to go to the two athletes who won in bib 23 Kaisa Makarainen and with her debut win Laura Dahlmeier! Biathlete 23 will return next year and who knows maybe we can win 3 races and sneak into the TOP 10! 🙂

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Nove Mesto: Czech it out!

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The World Cup is back after a weekend off and what a place to start again. Nove Mesto is fast becoming a top destination for the Biathlon World Cup. The spectators there over the weekend were amazing with huge crowds giving raucous but good natured support to not only the home team but to all the nations. If this continues hopefully it will soon become a permanent fixture on the biathlon calendar.

“Nove” in Czech means “new” and so it was the perfect place to showcase biathlon’s new format. The Single Mixed Relay had it’s official debut on Friday. It involved a man and woman from each team competing together in a format similar to that held in Schalke over Christmas. The men complete 7.5km and the women 6km with the usual prone and standing shoots. The penalty loop is half the size at just 75 metres.

While the format was new the winners were not. Russia won the first ever race with a team of Yana Romanova and Alexey Volkov. They won by over 21 seconds from Norway who fielded a team of Marte Olsbu and Henrik L’Abee Lund. Juliya Dzhyma and Artem Tyshchenko came in third for the Ukraine. The best thing about it for me was the fact that Japan came in 10th! When is the last time you saw them in the Top Ten of a relay event! It is a great opportunity for the smaller nations to compete more often and with more possibilities to do well.

Later on Friday we had the normal Mixed Relay. This time Norway went one better and won the race. The Bø brothers brought home the victory with some good shooting and fast skiing. The home nation were 4 seconds behind in second place and Ukraine completed the podium in third consigning Russia to fourth. The USA finished in 7th which was excellent for a team without Tim Burke or Lowell Bailey. The team did very well and anchorman Sean Doherty just missed out on 6th by a tiny margin just pipped at the post by Germany’s Benedikt Doll. France started off very well with Anais Bescond and Marie Dorin Habert putting them in the lead at the half way point but Simon Fourcade had a leg to forget which put them out of contention.

On Saturday we moved on to the Sprint races. In the Women’s race some outstanding shooting and a good ski time saw Laura Dahlmeier take her first ever World Cup victory. The 21 year old held her nerve and managed to beat her teammate Franziska Hildebrand by just 1 second. It may have helped that she was wearing bib 23!!! Hildebrand had a fantastic race and second was a personal best for her. In third was home favourite Veronika Vitkova who gave the crowd even more reason to cheer loudly!

In the Men’s race Jakov Fak finally did what he has been threatening to do for a while and won the race! Behind him came the super consistent Simon Schempp and in third getting on the podium for the first time this season was Jean Guillaume Beatrix. There were also some great perfomances by Nathan Smith 7th and Leif Nordgren 16th who both got their best results to date and Coline Varcin 8th and Lisa Vittozzi 19th did likewise in the Women’s race.

The Pursuits were the last races of the weekend and provided the crowd with a great show. The Women’s Pursuit was hotly contested and in the end Darya Domracheva came through to win with her main rival for the Overall title Kaisa Makarainen behing her in second place. Third went to Laura Dahlmeier who has been on the podium in the last three races. Gabriela Soukalova had a great chance to win when leading into the final shoot but she missed two and finished 5th. Hildebrand shot on Vitkova’s target on the final shoot due to the heavy snow that was falling and the wind on the range. She lost alot of time but got it back after the race and was given 11th place. Vanessa Hinz and Iryna Kryuko both got their best results on the World coming in 4th and 10th. Romania’s Eva Tofalvi had an amazing race coming from 24th to finish in 8th place and similarly Luise Kummer went from 29th to 12th.

In the Men’s race we had a similar podium to the Sprint with Fak holding on to his lead to win with Schempp again in second. Martin Fourcade finished 4th to gain points over rival Shipulin but gave them away to Schempp. Nathan Smith again produced a great race to improve his personal best to 5th, Simon Desthieux came from 34th to 15th and Sven Grossegger moved from 37th to 18th. Antonin Guigonnat made up 20 places from 45th to 25th as did Svendsen going from 43rd to 23rd.

Nove Mesto has turned into a fantastic venue for biathlon. With crowds of over 30,000 everyday and challenging tracks it is fast becoming a favourite venue for biathletes and spectators alike. The success of the Czech team obviously helps fill the stadium but the whole weekend was a great success from the new format Single Mixed Relay to the excitement of the final Pursuit races. We now move from the new to the old and head to Norway and Oslo Holmenkollen. The race for the yellow bib is hotting up with Domracheva and Schemmp continuing to catch up to Makarainen and Fourcade. It will be a very interesting round of the World Cup but if you missed Nove Mesto you should really consider going next year to Czech it out!

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Raubichi: Give Youth a Chance!

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For this year’s Youth/Junior World Championships all eyes will be turning to Belarus. The home of Darya Domracheva will be hosting this year’s Championships in Raubichi, a purpose built winter sports complex just 20km North East of Minsk. The Junior WC was first held in 1997 in Forni Avoltri Italy followed by the Youth WC in 2002 in Ridnaun also in Italy. You might recognise some of the former winners. If you are good enough to get a medal here you are joining some illustrious company.

Medalists from the YJWC’s include Andrea Henkel, Olga Vilhukina, Darya Domracheva, Magdalena Neuner and Dorothea Wierer. Some former male champions include Simon Fourcade, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Anton Shipulin, Lukas Hofer, Simon Eder and Jean Guillaume Beatrix to name but a few! This year’s races start with the Youth Men and Women’s Individual on the 18th of February and end on the 24th with the Men’s and Women’s Junior Relays.

The Youth section of the championships is open to athletes who are under 18. To qualify as a Junior you must be between the ages of 19 and 21 by the 31st of December which is the cut-off date for the age ranges. Each country has their own selection criteria by which they select the eligible athletes. Last year’s competition took place in Presque Isle, USA and showcased some great young talent that is coming through in biathlon.

The two biathletes who stood out in the Youth category were American Sean Doherty and Italian Lisa Vittozzi. Curiously they both achieved exactly the same results with both winning gold in the Sprint and Pursuit and silver in the Individual. Other impressive performers were Julia Schwaiger of Austria who won the Individual and Germany’s Anna Weidel who was second in the Sprint and Pursuit behind Vittozzi. France sent a strong team and reaped the rewards with two individual medals, one each for Julia Simon (bronze in the Sprint) and Estelle Mougel (bronze in the Pursuit) and team gold in the Youth Relay. Stand outs among the young men were Germany’s Marco Gross and Russia’s Dmitrii Shamaev who were 2nd and 3rd respectively in both the Sprint and Pursuit. Another young Russian, Yaroslav Kostyukov, won the Individual and Russia also won the relay ahead of Canada and Finland.

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There were equally good performances from people just outside the medals who will be pushing to get on the podium this time around. America’s Maddie Phaneuf, Estonia’s Tuuli Tomingas and Russian pair Liliya Davletshina and Maria Ivanova will all be hoping to medal in the Women’s competition although some will be making the move to Junior level. The young Canadian guys will be looking for some individual medals to add to a very impressive Relay silver as will the young Finns who were third.

Last year’s Junior competitions were a little more evenly spread in terms of medalists. On the Womens side a Russian, Evgeniya Pavlova, won the Sprint, a Kazakh Galina Vishnevskaya won the Pursuit and Luise Kummer a German won the Individual. Austria and Canada also had success with Lisa Hauser and Sarah Beaudry. As for the junior men Russia’s Alexander Povarnitsyn won Sprint gold and Pursuit silver. The French team won gold with Fabien Claude in the Pursuit and silver and bronze in the Individual from Aristide Begue and Dany Chavoutier. Norway also turned up at this point with Tore Leren taking Individual gold and Sprint silver with Jarle Midthjell Gjoerven adding Pursuit bronze. The Junior Relays were dominated by the German Team who won both the men’s and women’s races.

Some of these biathletes will be competing again in Raubichi and some are now too old and will be hoping to move to the IBU Cup and hopefully the World Cup for their respective countries. One thing is for sure there is a lot of good young talent in biathlon at the moment and there will surely be new names that come to the fore in Raubichi especially in the Youth Category.

What is important to remember though is that it’s not all about medals and success. For the majority of the biathletes that take part it is great experience for them and hopefully a stepping stone to greater things. You don’t have to win at this level to be a great biathlete just ask Martin Fourcade. For many of the youngsters taking part it is not only a challenge to be selected but just to be able to get to the venue. Many are partly funded or not funded at all and have to raise their own money just to pay for flights, accomodation and food. They all deserve your support and so keep an eye out for all the results not just the TOP 3. So if you don’t normally pay much attention to the Youth and Junior biathletes now is your chance. You never know you could be watching future World and Olympic champions in the making. What are you waiting for – Give Youth a Chance!

I have to say a huge thank you and good luck to Maddie Phaneuf, Robert Sircus, Martin Femsteinivik, Brian Halligan and Mateusz Janik who were all kind enough to do interviews for me in the build up to these Championships! I know you will all do your best and I will be behind you all the way! Tom Lahaye-Goffart and Jarl Hengstmengel won’t make it but better luck for next time!

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Tyrolean Triumphs!

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Hurrah for Antholz! Real snow and lots of it and amazing scenery to enjoy on the way around the tracks. In unchivalrous style it was gentlemen first as we began round 6 with the Men’s Sprint. After winning last year’s sprint here in a tie with home boy Lukas Hofer, Simon Schempp decided that he was sick of sharing and decided to win the race for himself! A fantastic display by the German saw him shoot clean and with the second fastest ski time he wrapped up victory in some style. Behind him came Evgeniy Garanichev who replaced Anton Shipulin as top Russian for the day and after him came Jakov Fak in third. Fak did have the opportunity to win this race but missed his last shot in the standing and so had to settle for the bottom step of the podium. Benjamin Weger continued his fine form with his best result of the season and Brendan Green got his best result ever coming in fifth.

The women got underway on Friday and there was no stopping Darya Domracheva who shot clean and took another victory from second place Kaisa Makarainen. In third was Laura Dahlmeier who stood on the podium for the first time on the World Cup. There were also career bests for Lena Haecki in 12th and another German Luise Kummer in 13th.

Next came the Pursuit races and the men’s was quite a treat! The lead changed several times due to missed shots but in the end it came down to another close finish and Simon Schempp came out on top again. This time he just pipped Simon Eder and Garanichev in second and third. That made it a double double for Schempp in Antholz as he repeated his Sprint and Pursuit victories from last season. The women’s race saw Darya Domracheva sweep majestically round the tracks as she won easily. The other podium positions however was were all the excitement was at. A highly impressive Daria Virolaynen was second and Kaisa Makarainen was third despite missing 5 targets! She out skied Hildebrand on the last loop to prevent the German getting on the podium. It was incredible skiing from Kaisa once again.

Others who made a big impression in the Pursuit races were Martin Fourcade who made up 20 places from 25th to 5th. Erik Lesser came from 19th to 6th, Daniel Boehm went from 30th to 12th and Austria’s Sven Grossegger started 54th and finished 27th. On the women’s side the amazing Marie Dorin Habert went from 19th to 5th and Yana Romanova also did well coming from 42nd to 27th.

On the final day we had the Relays. The men started us off and Norway had a pretty comfortable journey to victory shooting and skiing really well. Simon Schempp anchored the Germans to second capping off a great couple of weeks for himself and France minus Martin Fourcade completed the podium in third. The women went in the afternoon and were unlucky with the conditions as they suffered from strong winds which affected the shooting range. The German ladies coped best and a very composed final leg from Laura Dalmeier secured them the win. In second came the ever impressive Czech Republic and Ukraine won the battle with Russia to come in third.

So the World Cup now moves on to Nove Mesto and begins again on the 6th of February. The race for the men’s overall title is heating up with Schempp moving up to second and closing in on Martin Fourcade. Domracheva has also closed the gap on Makarainen after a fruitful weekend of racing for the chasers. The season is getting exciting again after what looked like a procession for Fourcade and Makarainen. Both now have serious challengers for the big Crystal globes. Domracheva and Schempp are looking in good form and will take a lot of confidence from their Tyrolean Triumphs!

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‘Fil-zen you in!

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To Austria this week and between eating strudel, singing all the songs from The Sound of Music and getting into trouble for outrageous stereotyping there was just about time for some biathlon! Generally speaking shooting clean in a Sprint Race means you have a good chance of winning it. Not however if you happen to be racing against Kaisa Makarainen! At the moment she can afford a miss and still win, much to the consternation of Karin Oberhofer. The Italian produced a great race, shooting clean, that ended with her first ever podium. Second place is fantastic for the Italian but it would have been first but for Makarainen’s amazing ski speed. In third was Tiril Eckhoff who is rapidly emerging as a real contender for the Chrystal Globe. Other ladies who impressed were France’s Justine Braisaz who on her World Cup debut finished 17th. Enora Latuilliere continued her good progress in 20th the German ladies had 3 in the TOP 10 -Hildebrand 5th, Hinz 6th and Preuss 10th.

The men’s race was a bit of a surprise even before it began with Fourcade and Bjoerndalen choosing to go in group 4 with the later starters. This was to take advantage of colder conditions making a faster track. It didn’t work and Johannes Thingnes Bø skied round like a rocket beating the field by 14 seconds. The Germans also did well here completing the podium with Simon Schempp in second and Andi Birnbacher third. Home favourite Dominik Landertinger just missed the podium coming in fourth. Elsewhere Dutch biathlete Joel Sloof qualified for his first ever Pursuit by coming in 52nd and Romania’s Cornel Puchianu matched last weeks 28th place to equal his best result.

Saturday saw the first Men’s and Women’s Relays of the season. Well they were definitely worth the wait. The Women’s race was one of the best I have seen in a long time. The lead changed several times and there were so many good performances and of course a few bad ones which made it all the more exciting. The Germans carried their great Sprint form over and were so calm and collected for such a young team especially Preuss who was on the last leg. Kummer also did well on the first leg and Hildebrand and Hinz were strong in between. It did look like Russia might cruise to victory but Glazyrina had a total meltdown on the range and handed the win to Germany. Domracheva outskied Vitkova to take second, an exceptional result for them and the Czechs were impressive in third. Italy’s chances of a podium were ruined by some bad shooting from Gontier and Tiril Eckhoff pulled of a miracle to get Norway back to 5th after starting her leg in 14th!

The Men’s race was characterised by some excellent shooting. The Russians won by only using one spare round which is incredible! Lapshin was the culprit missing one target but we can forgive him! The French also shot well only using 4 spare rounds and Norway came in third despite Birkeland and Tarjei Bø both needing all three spares in their standing shoots on legs three and four. Austria and Germany had a sprint for fourth where Landertinger beat Schempp to the line and Canada finished in sixth,a good result for them.

Sunday was Pursuit day and a dominant Kaisa Makarainen was untroubled on her way to victory. She missed 1 shot but won with time to spare. In second was Ekaterina Glazyrina who recovered in incredibly quick time from her relay disaster and also just missed 1 target. In third was France’s Anais Bescond with her best result of the season so far. She had the strength at the end to hold off Podchufarova who was 4th and a magnificent Rosanna Crawford who came from 34th to finish 5th which is a career best result for her. Other good performances came from Monika Hojnisz (POL) 40th-11th, Nadezhda Skardino (BLR) 36th-12th, Annelise Cook (USA) 50th-33rd and Daria Virolaynen (RUS) 51st-35th!

The men ended the weekend with a shocking result! Yes Martin Fourcade won – that hardly ever happens!;-) Actually he wouldn’t have won if Johannes Bø hadn’t missed two targets in his third shoot when he was well in control of the race. Simon Schempp was second proving he has a last found some consistency and Jakov Fak came in third holding off the challenge from a tired looking Johannes Bø. Vladimir Iliev added to his 19th place in the Sprint with an 11th place here which is great news for Bulgarian biathlon and other good races were had by Quentin Fillon Maillet (FRA) 45th-15th, Fredrik Lindstrom 47th-22nd and Leif Nordgren (USA) 51st-37th.

Overall Hochfilzen was a great race weekend and thank god they got the snow to let it go ahead. Kaisa Makarainen extended her lead in the yellow bib and Martin Fourcade will wear the men’s next week after wrestling it from Svendsen. Thursday is when we race again in Pokljuka and with the great results form the Slovenia biathletes the home crowd will be really looking forward to it. The biathlete will be looking forward to a sneaky Kremna Rezina(delicious Slovenian dessert!) down in Bled too! I really enjoyed all the races in Austria and I also enjoyed ‘Filzen you in!

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Ă–stersund: Swede Emotions!

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It’s back! Biathlon came back with a bang in Ă–stersund! Wow and what a Mixed Relay they delivered for us to get the new season underway. They kept us guessing right until the end but as usual “the shark” Martin Fourcade waited until the last moment to seize his prey(you can almost hear the music from Jaws as he sneaks up behind people!!!). Norway came in second despite a penalty loop and the German team were third. A great win for France and a great opening race. Well OK so it wasn’t great for everyone just ask Ondrej Moravec and Jakov Fak among others but everyone has their bad days even the best.

Which is exactly what happened to Fourcade himself in the Individual Race! Another Ă–stersund meltdown on the shooting range to add to his collection. It’s how he likes to start the season! At the opposite end of the scale was Emil! Wow one of the best shooting performances I have seen from Svendsen and he was the only man to shoot 0. Second was a surprising yet brilliant display from Serhiy Semenov and it was great to see Michal Slesingr back on the podium after a rough year last season. Italian youngster Thomas Bormolini made a rather impressive World Cup debut finishing 19th.

Unfortunately for the other women in the Individual race star of last year’s Olympics Darya Domracheva seems to be continuing her amazing form into this season. Her ski speed is great as usual but she is shooting really well too. She took the win and was followed by Kaisa Makarainen who is also in great form and this race will probably set the tone for an ongoing battle between these two over the season. Valj Semerenko produced a clear shoot to come in third. Home girl Elisabeth Hoegberg gave the crowd something to cheer about finishing 9th and two World Cup debutants made it look easy by finishing in the TOP 20, France’s Enora Latuilliere in 13th and Luise Kummer of Germany in 18th.

Everyone had Friday off for good behaviour and so we had to wait until Saturday to see the first Sprints of the season. The men started things off and the real Martin Fourcade showed up again after his 81st place in the Individual and won easily with 28 seconds to spare! I was also happy to see Moravec and Fak recovering from their Relay nightmare on the range to both shoot clean and come home second and third. The women’s Sprint saw Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff storm home to win her first ever World Cup race. I am sure her brother and coach Stian will be trying to take all the credit – you know what brother’s are like! The Czech Republic’s Veronika Vitkova took second further adding to the her teams fantastic start to the season and third was Kaisa Makarainen. Latuilliere again showed what a great young talent she is by coming 10th.

So that left us with just the Pursuit races to go and the men’s looked like it was going to be an easy win for Fourcade. Bless him though he missed his first two shots to make it exciting for us to watch but inevitably he still won. Anton Shipulin produced a very calm and collected race to get second and Emil Svendsen came home third to keep the yellow bib on his back. Canada’s Nathan Smith ran a great race until the final shoot when I think the exertions of keeping up with Svendsen caused him to miss 3 shots and he ended up 16th. Back down the field a little there were some tremendous performances from Dominik Landertinger 30th-5th, Andi Birnbacher 22nd-7th, Klemen Bauer 26th-12th, Freddie Lindstrom 36th-13th and Vetle Christiansen 45th -15th!

The women’s race was won in great style by Kaisa Makarainen. On the third shoot when everyone around her was missing targets she took her time and used all her valuable experience to shoot clear and ski to victory. Valj Semerenko continued her good form by beating Dorothea Wierer into second although the Italian is just coming back from illness. Other impressive moves came from Ekaterina Glazyrina 20th-9th, Franziska Preuss 22nd-9th, Susan Dunklee 41st-19th and Elise Ringen 55th-23rd!

Ă–stersund proved to be a bit of a roller coaster ride throughout the week with people performing well one day and terribly the next but that’s the first races of the season for you! We are now off to Hochfilzen where there is currently no snow but luckily in Austria you can just go up a mountain and get some! Kaisa and Emil have come out best from the weekend and will wear the yellow bibs but it’s still very early in the season. After all the ups and downs in Sweden the others will be hoping for a bit more consistency. It has been quite the week in Ă–stersund and with all the drama on the range it has been full of Swede Emotions!

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