Tag Archives: michal šlesingr

Spring Things 2020!

Well Spring was not much fun this year, was it? With most of us on lockdown there wasn’t much going on. Or was there? As you know biathlon never stops and even if the athletes were stuck at home there were still some things happening!

Firstly I have to say it was quite nice to not have to look at all the biathletes holiday pictures on social media having better vacations than we do, right!

As we all know (and haven’t recovered from yet) there were some big retirements at the end of last season with Kaisa Makarainen and Martin Fourcade both ending their careers. It kind of overshadowed all the other retirees but there were a lot of biathletes hanging up their rifles this spring.

Celia Aymonier was another French athlete to go along with Fourcade. Italy lost Thierry Chenal and Alexia Runggaldier. Michal Slesingr announced the end of his career in Nove Mesto and then Veronika Vitkova joined him after annoucing she was retiring and having a baby! Congratulations to her!

Alexey Volkov has finished being an athlete and is now a coach. Emily Dreissigacker has retired from the US team and
Terezia Poliakova from Slovakia has also called it a day. Austria’s Fabienne Hartweger has stopped at just 28 and earlier in the season Chardine Sloof the Dutch biathlete who later raced for Sweden finished her career at 27 as did France’s Myrtille Begue who has hung up her rifle at age 23.

It was also reported that Krasimir Anev has finished his career apparently to do with differences with the Bulgarian Biathlon Federation.

We don’t like retirements but there was good news from Norway when para biathlon legend Nils-Erik Ulset had a baby son called Olav. He can now join the 2043 Norwegian men’s super relay team alongside Magnus Svendsen and Gustav Boe!

It was also announced that Stina Nilsson, Sweden’s World and Olympic medallist in cross country skiing, has decided to become a biathlete! Imagine if you will a sprint finish between Eckhoff, Herrmann, Roeiseland, Wierer and Nilsson! OK so it’s not that likely to happen but it would be awesome! 😉

As usual in the biathlon off season the coaches packed up their bags and did a little shuffle up and down the range to join their new teams! Are there no new coaches in biathlon? They all just swap around every summer!

In France Franck Badiou left his postition as the women’s shooting coach to be replaced by Jean Paul Giachino. Giachino had previously worked (you guessed it) as the French women’s shooting coach!!!

Gerald Hoenig has left the German team to take over as the Austrian women’s shooting coach. He is replaced in the German team by Engelbert Sklorz.

Ondrej Rybar as well as being sporting director of the Czech team will also return to his role as head coach of the men’s team. Aleš Liguan will work as his assistant with Zdeněk Vitek moving to coach the IBU Cup team.

In Ukraine Juraj Sanitra will be head coach for both the men and women. Alexey Kravchenko and Roman Pryma will work as coaches for the men while Alexander Bilanenko and Igor Yashchenko will work with the women’s team.

Belarus have also made changes with former Austrian men’s coach Reinhard Gösweiner becoming the new women’s coach and
Andrei Padin the new coach of the men’s team.

Sweden have added an extra shooting coach, Jean Marc Chabloz, to the World Cup team.

Unfortunately the Summer World Championships have been cancelled this season due to corona virus. They were to have been held in Ruhpolding from the 19-23 August. This is mainly because all mass events in Germany have been cancelled until the 31st August.

The IBU congress has also been rescheduled from September to November in Prague so the delegates will have to wait a little longer for the freebies and the cheap beer!

The IBU also announced that it has joined the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework and have launched a new website for their new Biathlon Integrity Unit. Seriously the IBU and BIU! Get some new letters at least!

They also released some findings from their fan survey which showed that people would like an app to follow biathlon and also that 100% of fans want Biathlon23 to be the next IBU president. Disclaimer: the last result may not be entirely accurate!

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Season Review 2019/20: The Men!

Since when did the men’s overall title go down to the last race and be decided by 2 points! Never! (Well maybe it has but I am too lazy to actually check!) Normally it’s the women who take the total score right down to the wire but this season thanks to baby Boe it was the men who gave us the closest of finishes!

Little did we know back in December that this would be Martin Fourcade’s final season. Well maybe he didn’t either but guess what I haven’t checked! 😉 That made the battle between the Frenchman and Johannes Thingnes Boe even more special as it would be the last.

It looked like it would be another convincing win for Boe in the overall at the start of the season. Honours were even in Oestersund with Boe taking the sprint and Fourcade winning the individual but then Boe won 4 of the 5 next races with Fourcade not making the podium in any.

However after Christmas Boe took parental leave for the birth of his son Gustav (biathlon overall title winner 2043) and then Fourcade came alive. Without Boe racing he won all 4 events in Germany! The psychological effect on Fouracde was marked as with no Johannes he became the best again and showed it.

In Pokljuka Boe returned and won the individual beating Fourcade into second place and taking the mental advantage back.

After a win each at World Champs it was on to Nove Mesto where Boe won both races to close the gap in the total score. Then came Kontiolahti and the news that it would be final round of the World Cup and the final two races would determine the champion.

Boe won the sprint ahead of Fourcade which meant it would all come down to the pursuit. If Fourcade could win then Boe had to finish at least 4th to take the title. That’s exactly what happened. Boe was nervous and it showed in his shooting. Basically if he had missed just one shot in the final standing Fourcade would have been an 8-time world cup winner but somehow he hit all five and made it home in 4th place to take the big crystal globe by just 2 points! It was un-boe-lieveable! That makes it two in a row for the super talented Norwegian.

I am sure Fourcade would have loved to go out on the ultimate high of winning the overall but it was not to be! He did win the race which was a fitting end to a truly outstanding career. He won his first race in the Kontiolathi pursuit and his last both on the 14th of March!

He will be sorely missed on the World Cup next year but he has handed the French baton over to Emilien Jaquelin! It was a remarkable season for the 24-year-old. He won his first ever race which just happened to be at the World Championships in Antholz! He took gold in the pursuit and then went on to win gold in the men’s relay, bronze in the single mixed and bronze again in the mass start! He would also go on to collect the pursuit crystal globe after topping the standings in that event and finished 5th in the total score.

Martin Fourcade took home two small globes this season winning the sprint title and the individual. Johannes Boe was the winner of the mass start title.

Apart from Jacquelin there were no other first time winners on the men’s world cup but we had a couple of first time podiums. Matvey Eliseev was third in the Oestersund sprint and Fabien Claude was third in the Pokljuka individual. Maybe without Fourcade there will be more space on the podium steps for some new faces next season.

New faces like rookie of the season Nikita Porshnev. In Annecy he got his first top 20 finish coming 18th in the mass start and at World Championships he was 21st in the sprint but then set an new personal best in the individual of 11th.

Speaking of World Championships the men decided to share out the medals this year. Each race was won by a different biathlete which is unusual on the men’s side. Alexander Loginov won the sprint, Jacquelin took the pursuit, Fourcade the individual and Johannes Boe the mass start!

Relays

The men’s relay was a big fight between Norway and France all season long! Norway dominated the early exchanges winning the first three races of the season. France took the win in the fourth race in Ruhpolding and more importantly won at World Champs. It was their first relay win in 19 years and completed Fourcade’s collection of medals! Norway won the final race in Nove Mesto and they won the men’s relay world cup title.

The mixed relay was a bit more competitive across the teams with Italy winning the opening race in Oestersund, France on top in Pokljuka and Norway taking gold in Antholz.

Retirements

Sadly this season there were more retirements than just Martin Fourcade. Michal Slesingr decided to end his career at his home World Cup in Nove Mesto. It was such a shame that there was no crowd there to send him off but he will be remembered as trail blazer for Czech biathlon of course as a fantastic biathlete. Also hanging up his rifle is Mario Dolder. His best finish came in 2017 when he was 6th in the Oestersund sprint and he was a great servant to the Swiss team. As a biathlon23 interviewee he will obviously be missed more than the other two! 😉

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PyeongChang 2018: Olympic Men’s Relay

Wow it has been a fantastic two weeks of biathlon in PyeongChang. Possibly the best ever Olympic Games for biathlon in terms of exciting races and all the different nations who picked up medals.

Today was the final race (sniff,sniff) but it was another good one. The conditions were much better for the men than the women but curiously only one team avoided the penalty loop for the men and three did for the women!!!

The golden team today was Sweden. They were fantastic from start to finish. Let’s start at the start though and the first leg saw Germany firmly in control of the race with a great leg from Erik Lesser. He used 1 spare in the stand and produced a brilliant ski to hand over with a comfortable lead.

Matej Kazar did a great job for Slovakia hitting 10/10, Austria were up there with Tobias Eberhard, Sweden were in the mix after 1 spare from Peppe Femling, Artem Pryma for Ukraine hit 10/10 and Lars Birkeland had a solid start for Norway using 2 spares. It was France who were the major casualty with Simon Desthieux having a disaster with 2 penalty loops on the stand.

Leg 2 saw Benedikt Doll keep Germany’s lead until the stand where he did 2 penalty loops letting all the following teams back into the race. It was the Czech Republic with Michal Slesingr who took advantage using just 1 spare. Jesper Nelin and Simon Eder were still towards the front along with Tarjei Boe.

Jaroslav Soukup was on the third leg for the Czech team but he was being chased by Sebastian Samuelsson, Johannes Boe and Julian Eberhard three of the fastest skiers there are!

Eberhard cracked first with 2 penalty loops on his standing shoot, Soukup had to do one too but Samuelsson and Boe just used 1 spare each and were neck and neck at the exchange. Arnd Peiffer did a great job for Germany hitting 10/10 and putting them back up to third. It was good to see after his Mixed Relay meltdown. Meanwhile Martin Fourcade’s efforts to haul back time failed when he also incurred a penalty loop probably from skiing too hard.

So the final leg came down to Fredrik Linstrom against Emil Svendsen. Now we all remember what happen to Emil in Sochi on the last leg when he took Norway from 1st to 4th so he must have been nervous! They matched each other on the prone and behind them Simon Schempp needed all three spares and so the gold medal was between Norway and Sweden.

When they arrived for the final shoot the wind suddenly got up and both missed their first shots. Lindstrom hit the other 4 but Emil missed another. With 1 spare Lindstrom hit the last target and the gold belonged to Sweden. Emil couldn’t hit his final target with the spares and had to go on the penalty loop.

Schempp couldn’t capitalize on Svendsen’s error and ended up on the penalty loop himself. He had enough time to still take the bronze medal, with Norway in silver and Sweden with just 7 spare rounds and no penalty loops were well deserved gold medallists.

Austria were 4th, France 5th and the USA were 6th.

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Antholz 2018: The Pursuits!

Sunny Saturday in Antholz hosted both the Pursuit races. The women were first and treated us to another good race.

It was quite a tight race up to the final shoot. Eckhoff and Dahlmeier started first and second but both missed on the first prone to let Darya Domracheva and Anais Bescond catch up with them after they both shot clear.

At the second prone Dasha and Tiril missed and Laura and Anais shot clean giving them the lead. By this time Dorothea Wierer was also coming into the picture after starting 7th.

At the third shoot Bescond missed 2 and was out of the picture. However Laura, Dasha and Tiril hit all five. Wierer missed 1 and headed to the penatly loop.

So it was all to come down to the last shoot, just the way we like it! This time it was Laura who held her nerve and hit all 5 to take a comfortable lead and the victory. Dasha missed 1 and Tiril 2. This gave Wierer her chance hitting the final 5. It would be a ski race for second. Dasha was holding on but in an accidental clash on one of the final turns Dasha knocked Doro’s pole out of her hand and so decided not to contest the finish leaving Wierer to claim second.

It showed outstanding sportswomanship and was very fair from Domracheva. Eckhoff stayed in 4th with Kaisa Makarainen storming into 5th from a start of 26th with 2 misses. Galina Vishnevskaya, despite her team being raided by Austrian police in the morning, shot clean and went from 14th to 6th.

There were other good performances from Lisa Vittozzi who went from 40th to 9th with 1 miss, Maren Hammerschmidt who missed 4 but moved from 49th to 24th and Synnoeve Solemdal who went from 53rd to 29th with 3 misses. Apart from Vishnevskaya two other women shot 20/20 and they were Alexia Runggaldier and Kaia Nicolaisen.

The men raced next and it was an altogether different race. Actually no it wasn’t, it was exactly the same as the Pursuit race in Annecy. Johannes Boe started with a lead of around 12 seconds and finished the race with a lead of around a minute. Johannes was incredible shooting 20/20 and cruising to victory.

It helped that Martin missed on the very first prone to give him a more comfortable cushion early on but he looked unbeatable today.

Martin held on to second hitting 19/20. Antholz Shipulin obviously had to move up on to the podium as he usually does here. He managed to pass Peiffer who went down 1 place to 4th.

There real show behind Boe came from his teammate Emil Hegle Svendsen. He started in 32nd place but shot 20/20 and moved all the way up to 5th. Emilien Jacquelin was again impressive missing just 2 shots to finish in 6th.

The Norwegians had a great time today with Erlend Bjoentegaard moving from 36th to 11th with 2 misses and L’Abee Lund went from 38th to 23rd. Dominik Landertinger went from 49th to 22nd, Michal Slesingr from 55th to 24th and Michael Roesch from 40th to 26th.

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Ruhpolding 2018: The Mass Starts!

Well, well, well we got a treat on the final day in Ruhpolding. Two mass starts and two brilliant races.

The men went first and conditions were good. The first two laps were a bit pedestrian with Martin Fourcade controlling a slow pace. When Anton Shipulin tried to break and go ahead it cost him dear as he missed his first shot on the prone.

Everyone looked tired today which is no surprise condsidering the schedule. I think everyone was happy with the pace on the first two loops. At the front many biathletes hit 20/20 on the prone and so most of the field was still in contention for the win.

It was on the third loop that Martin Fourcade increased the pace a bit hoping to shake off some of the pack. That plan went well until he got to the shooting range. Johanned Boe rattled off 5 perfect shots and left before he could see Martin miss two.

That would ruin most people’s race but not for Fourcade. Boe was followed out of the range by Simon Schempp, Antonin Guigonnat, Simon Eder, Jakov Fak and Erik Lesser.

At the final shoot Johannes missed 1 target as did Schempp. Guigonnat cleared to make it 20/20 for him and left in second place behind Boe. Quentin Fillon Maillet cleared to find himself in third but Fourcade also hit 5 to come out just behind him. Fourcade fought hard on the final loop passing French teammates Maillet and Guigonnat but he couldn’t catch Johannes.

Guigonnat held on to third to take his second podium of the season thanks to being in bib 23! Fillon Maillet was 4th, Tarjei Boe was 5th and Simon Schempp was 6th. Along with Guigonnat, Michal Slesingr hit 20/20 to finish 8th and Jakov Fak did the same in 10th.

The women’s race was even better (as it usually is in fact!). Kaisa Makarainen took her first win of the season and the yellow bib from Kuzmina but she had to work really hard for it. At the first prone Kaisa missed one target. Others had a great start like Rosanna Crawford, Darya Domracheva and Dorothea Wierer who shot clean on the first two prone shoots.

At the third shoot Domracheva and Wierer missed but Crawford hit 5 to lead the race. She was followed by Kaisa and Laura Dahlmeier who both got all 5 targets. Dahlmeier, Makarainen and Domarcheva caught Crawford before the final shoot but then they all missed targets and Rosanna cleared again to take a 16 second lead. She hit all 50 targets this week over three competitions which is amazing.

However she couldn’t compete on the tracks with the top two who caught her with 800 metres to go. It was a ski race to the finish and Kaisa took it on the line winning by 0.8 of a second! In the end Crawford couldn’t hold on for the podium and she was passed by Veronika Vitkova who took third with 18/20.

Crawford was 4th to cap a fabulous World Cup round for her. Denise Hermman was 5th despite 4 misses and Domracheva was 6th. Rosanna Crawford was also the only woman in the field to hit 20/20.

Now we move to Antholz. Racing starts on Thursday for the final races before the Olympics. Kaisa Makarainen and Martin Fourcade will wear the yellow bibs.

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Biathlon Books!

What did you get for Christmas? Martin Fourcade’s autobiography? Maybe J.J Hensley’s ‘Bolt Action Remedy’? Scott Dixon’s ‘Pup The Brave’? That’s right 2017 was the year of the biathlon book! Never one to miss out on a trend this year’s Christmas holiday post will guide you through the most famous of biathlon books. However I’m not sure how many of these are available to buy in the shops! 😉

Lord of the Olympic Rings:
One man’s amazing adventure to collect the five Olympic Rings! It details his perilous journey through Lillehammer, Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver. Not only does he find the rings in order to destroy them so no one can beat his records but he also wins 6 gold medals, 4 silver and a bronze. Aided by his small, big footed Norwegian colleagues and fighting against Orcs with French, German and Russian accents Ole Einar Bjorndalen has a difficult task. Luckily he never gets any older and so expect sequels from Sochi, 2 more gold medals,and PyeongChang.

The Snowman:
A young Norwegian detective with amazing hair, let’s call him Emil, sets out to discover a murderer in snowy Oslo. The only clue is that he leaves a snowman outside the house of his victims with a World Cup winners medal around its neck. The action is spread across the city but comes to a shocking conclusion at the Holmenkollen arena. Will Emil find the murderer in time?

The Three Musketeers:
You may know them as Porthos, Athos and Aramis but we know them better as Florent, Fabien and Emilien Claude! Florent is called back from Belgium by his brothers to help fight their arch enemies! That’s right the Gasparin sisters – Selina, Elisa and Aita! A swashbuckling battle begins to decide whose family has the best three biathlon siblings. The action moves from France to Switzerland, from Annecy to Lenzerheide. Which family will survive and who will be in the firing line?

Fakenstein:
Dr. Jakov Fakenstein decides, a bit gruesomely, to take parts from various biathletes to make a super biathlete. For example he uses the eyes of Nadezhda Skardino for shooting, the legs of Julian Eberhard for skiing, the brain of Laura Dahlmeier, the shooting speed of Simon Eder, the beard of Michael Roesch, one arm each from the Semerenko twins and the torso of Simon Fourcade.
However things go terribly wrong and he ends up creating a monster. He calls him Klemen. Dr. Fakenstein’s choice of name definitely not mine! 😉

BrendANN of GREEN Gables:

Brendann, a young orphan from Hay River, is sent to Prince Edward Island to work on the Arendz family farm. At school he meets Rosanna who teases him and he immediately dislikes her! However it is school so secretly they are of course in love. The book chronicles their adventures as they both take up biathlon and travel the world competing for Canada. AWW!

The Bjorn Legacy:
When you are bourne (see what I did there) into the family your future is already decided. No not the Mafia – the Bjoerndalen’s! Yes this is the story of Dag Bjoerndalen, his little brother Ole Einar and his son Dag Sander and their obsession with biathlon. It tells their life stories and how they passed on the ‘family business’ to young Dag to race in the Youth/Junior World Championships. There is a lot, and I mean a lot of shooting, in this one!

The Other Bølyn Boy:
A tale of two brothers who vie for the affection of King Harald of Norway. First the elder brother Tarjei wins his favour by winning the World Cup and everything is going well. But then younger brother Johannes arrives at court and tries to impress the King with his speed and shooting skills. Who will come out on top? Who will the King choose as his favourite? I do hope no one loses their head!

A Song of Ice and Fire:

She is Gabriela of the House Koukalova, the First of Her Name, Czech born, Queen of the tracks, the range and the podium, Queen of Make Up, Khaleesi of the Great Snowy Mountain, Protector of the Rifle, Lady Regnant of the Seven Biathlon Kingdoms, Breaker of Ski Poles and Wearer of Earrings.

Yes this is the tale of Gabi Koukalova. Her epic tale of trying to rule the seven kingdoms of biathlon. Aided in quest by her loyal team of Michal Snowsingr, Ned-ezdha Stark-dino, Lukas Hodor, Direwolf-gang Pichler, Pod-chufarova, Iryna Varys-nets, Lord Lowell Baelish, Jo-anne-jen Reid, Sebastian Samwell-son and Tommen Lahaye-Goffart.

She has to fight many battles to win the Crystal Globe and maybe even some Olympic medals! She sings some songs along the way too. There is also a dragon even if it does just appear on Anton Shipulin’s rifle!

(I’m warning you now this is a long read! Currently in 5 weighty tomes and unfinished so you might not want to start it!)

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Season Preview 2017/18: Men

It’s Olympic season! That only means one thing! Nobody is particularly bothered about the World Cup! It’s understandable as the Olympics are only every four years and are the pinnacle of sporting achievement. However it does mean that the athletes will use it as either training and race practice or as a means to qualify for the Games. This is why we need a free year without an Olympics or a World Championships to afford the World Cup the respect it deserves. That argument is for another day though as I have a season to preview.

Actually there is one man who will take both competitions seriously and that is Martin Fourcade. This is because he is the only male biathlete capable of winning it and gold at the Olympics. I would include Ole Einar Bjoerndalen in this if he was younger but he is 43 and can’t do both anymore.

Every season I try to make a case for the others to defeat Fourcade. If he stays fit and healthy they won’t! (He did have a health issue at the French Championships but hopefully it will not carry forward into the season). His remarkable consistency on the World Cup is unmatched among the others but the Olympic titles are definitely up for grabs. As we saw at the World Championships last season Fourcade only won 1 individual title in the Pursuit.

Another thing I don’t like about the Olympic season is that it is usually the time when biathletes like to retire. They do the Olympic cycle, compete at the Games and then decide the time is right to end their careers. Be prepared to lose some favourites after the PyeongChang Games are over. 😦

I am aware it may seem like I don’t like the Olympics! It’s not true I love them but they are ruined by the inclusion of other sports that aren’t biathlon. I mean who cares about ice sports and alpine skiing! That’s right – NOBODY! 😉

So every year I have to come up with ideas about who could beat Fourcade but it is really hard to see who could do it. So this season I have decided to talk about the rest of the TOP 10. Who will move up places? Who will drop down? Who will surprise us and who will disappoint?

Last season’s Total Score Top Ten looked like this:
1. Fourcade
2. Shipulin
3. J.Boe
4. Peiffer
5. Schempp
6. Eberhard
7. Svendsen
8. Bailey
9. Bjoerndalen
10. Lesser

There were couple of surprise names in there with Lowell Bailey having an amazing season and Julian Eberhard really progressing. There were others missing like Tarjei Boe who was 36th and Jakov Fak who had a season ruined by illness.

This time around I don’t see a big change in the Top 3. Hopefully they will be able to push Fourcade a bit closer but Johannes Boe and Anton Shipulin will probably be fighting each other for second place.

Arnd Peiffer had a great season and was the top German ahead of Schempp. Erik Lesser was also in the Top 10 and Benedikt Doll was just behind him in 11th. In the battle of the German’s I expect Doll to move into the Top 10 and maybe Lesser to drop out. Will Pieffer stay ahead of Schempp? It’s possible as he seems to be the more consistent performer of the two.

I am not expecting much from Emil Svendsen on this year’s World Cup. I think he will be targeting the Olympics in a big way as it could be his last. The same could apply to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen but you never know with him! I am expecting a much better season from Tarjei Boe but he hasn’t produced anywhere near the form that made him the Overall World Cup winner. He has been plagued by illness (and of course his little brother!) but hopefully he will show us the old Tarjei this season.

Julian Eberhard could keep his place in the Top 10 and even move up a place or two. His sprinting is great and if he continues his improvement in shooting he could pick up a lot more points from the pursuit and mass starts which have been his weakness in the past. As for the other Austrians Simon Eder was 13th last season and Dominik Landertinger was 16th. Without the pressure of a home World Championships they could both improve. However Landertinger will miss some races at the start of the season after back surgery.

France only had one man in the Top 10 with Jean Guillaume Beatrix the next best in 15th place. They will be looking for more from the likes of Quentin Fillon Maillet and Simon Fourcade but I don’t think any of them will break into the Top 10 again this season.

There are some others who will be hoping to make it there. The Czech Republic have good chances with both Ondrej Moravec (13th) and Michal Krcmar (17th) having good seasons in 2016/17. Andres Rastorgujevs finally made the podium and was 21st last season. Hopefully that will have given him the platform to greater success this time.

The young Russians are also dangerous. Maxim Tsvetkov was 19th and Anton Babikov was 24th. Both are excellent shots and good skiers and with a little more consistency will surely both improve their positions on the Total Score.

The Italian team are improving all the time and Dominik Windisch was their star man last season. He was 14th overall and could improve on that. Lukas Hofer needs to find some more consistency if he wants to match his teammate.

I would like to see Jakov Fak back to his best this season and it would also be great to see guys like Freddie Lindstroem, Benjamin Weger and Michal Slesingr on the podium. Also if Michael Roesch gets a podium I think EVERYONE will cry not just him!

Obviously anything can happen in biathlon we will just have to wait and see! Luckily we don’t have to wait long as the first race on the Men’s World Cup is on the 30th of November! It’s the 20km Individual and I can’t wait!!!

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Susan Dunklee: The Interview!

Susan Dunklee is an American biathlete who was born on the 13th of February 1986. She enjoyed her best season to date in 2016/17. She finished 10th in the Total Score and more importantly won her first World Championship medal taking silver in the Mass Start in Hochfilzen. She is the first American women to win a medal at a major Championships and in doing so qualified to race for the US at the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang this March. Her father Stan and her uncle Everett have both competed for America at the Olympics in cross country skiing.

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Check out her blog: https://susandunklee.wordpress.com/

Why did you become a biathlete?

I didn’t want to give up ski racing after college. USBA offered a better training and living situation than any US xc ski club at the time, so I figured why not learn how to shoot?

The Mass Start in Hochfilzen. Talk us through your silver medal winning race and your emotions at the end.

I felt inspired after watching Lowell’s Individual. I remember thinking that I had got my first ever WC podium in 2014 the week after he got his first podium.
Despite that, I didn’t feel particularly good going into the race. By the end of the Championships you have raced so much that both your body and head feel fried. I had to remind myself that everyone else was exhausted too and that there is opportunity in that.
Much of that race felt surreal. Leading was an experience that I’m not very familiar with. I didn’t intend to lead because it’s usually not a smart tactical decision and it is harder to ski fast and efficiently by yourself. However, after every shooting stage I found myself alone out front. It seemed silly to just pull over for 5 seconds and let the pack catch up. So I skied my own pace, tried to stay relaxed and didn’t worry about what the pack did.
People ask me if the last shooting stage felt any different. In this case, no, it was more of a deja vu feeling. It felt just like the 3 stages before it. I remember thinking after the last shooting stage that now it was time to “get the hell out of there” because I knew some fast people would be chasing my tail. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough gas left in the tank to challenge Laura [Dahlmeier] when she caught me, but I was so psyched to hold onto second. It truly was a perfect race for me.

Apart from your medal you were also 10th in the Total Score. What was the key to your great season?

Shooting speed had been my biggest focus during training for a couple years and that work started to pay off last winter.

You had some good results at the World Cup round in PyeongChang. Has that given you a lot of confidence for the Olympics? Do you like the tracks and range there?

It doesn’t matter if I like them or not. What matters is if I’m willing to make those tracks and that range “my own” so that I will feel strong and confident there.

What are your goals for next season for the World Cup as well as the Olympics?

To keep my focus on “performing well.” If I can do that, the results will take care of themselves.

Team USA is a really close team. What was it like watching Lowell win his gold medal at the World Champs?

Lowell put together an impressive performance which personified a tremendous effort on the part a whole host of people. For an achievement like that you need everything to go right such as ski fitness, shooting performance, and ski preparation. There are so many people who contributed to making that possible- coaches, teammates, ski techs, physios, managers, psychologists, sponsors, supportive friends and family back home…. Everyone in the USBA community felt some ownership of America’s first gold medal moment and that’s one of the reasons why I think the US Team is special.

Have you noticed any changes in the popularity of biathlon in the US after your recent success? Has it helped you with funding and sponsors?

Not as much as we had expected.

What have you been doing for summer training?

Same routine as usual- roller skiing, shooting, running, biking, lifting, etc. We did an on-snow camp in May in Bend, Oregon as well as a three week camp in Germany in September.

One of your hobbies is bee keeping. How did you get into that and why do you like it?

I already was interested in pollination systems after studying them in college. A few years ago I visited one of my ecologist friends who kept honey bees and I watched a barefoot “bee-whisperer” capture an escaped swarm. I was fascinated. Working with bees is a lot like shooting in a high pressure race situation. The consequences of making mistakes are high and you must conquer your fears and stay calm.

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

Nove Mesto has the best atmosphere with the biggest, friendliest crowds of spectators. I love racing there.

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

Michal Slesingr, Martin Fourcade and Lowell Bailey. They are phenomenal athletes and leaders who insist on fighting for the integrity of our sport.

Does your rifle have a name?

No.

Describe yourself in three words.

Sincere, hardworking, contemplative.

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Sweden
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin’s dragon
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Michael Rösch. Honorable mention: Stefani Popova
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Toss up: Johanna Taliharm, Anais Bescond, and Katja Yurlova.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Recovery massages.

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Biathlete23: Season Review 2016/17!

, IBU World Cup 1 ostersund single mix relay
Picture courtesy of photographer extraordinaire Ross Burton.

For anyone unfamiliar with Biathlete23 this blog follows the results of whichever biathlete happens to be in bib23 for each race. It treats them like one athlete and adds up the score to see how this biathlete would have performed over the year.

In the first year the total for the men and the women was 802 and in the second year the total was 948. Excellent a bit of progress! The third year was not as successful with a points total of 760.

This season there was great improvement with a total score of 921 points! The men scored most points with 482. This would put biathlete23 in 19th place in the Men’s Total score sandwiched between Evgeniy Garanichev on 495 and Maxim Tsvetkov on 469. The women scored 439 points which amazingly enough would put biathlete23 19th on the Women’s Total Score too between Nadezha Skardino on 440 and Vanessa Hinz on 436.

There were 3 podiums this season from Anton Shipulin, Justine Braisaz and Susan Dunklee. Biathlete23 achieved 13 Top 10 finishes on the World Cup and 1 Top 10 finish at the World Championships. According to Biathlon Addict on Twitter “it’s statistically usual for #23 this season to claim around the 5th or 6th place!!” It’s great when others do the stats for you and that they too believe in 23!

All in all it was a season much like that of Emil Hegle Svendsen. No wins, some podiums and not a great World Championships but importantly all done with great hair!

Biathlete23’s season started in Oestersund with a Swedish lady. Unfortunately Linn Persson finished 65th in the Individual and outside the points but her photo (kindly taken by Ross Burton) is now used as the picture for this page! In the Men’s race Ondrej Moravec came home in 17th. Darya Yurkevich was 59th in the Sprint for the women but Julian Eberhard was 5th for the men. In the Pursuits Iryna Varvynets was 52nd and Jean-Guillaume Beatrix was 11th. This meant the ladies had 0 points leaving Sweden but the men had 94! Well done chaps!

Pokljuka was next up and Brendan Green was in bib23 for the Sprint. He finished 52nd but in the Women’s Sprint Justine Braisaz was 2nd! The first podium of the season! Allez Justine! There were no points from the Pursuits with Scott Gow 48th and Federica Sanfilippo 52nd. That meant a total of 54 points from Slovenia.

Nove Mesto was a great round for biathlete23 with everyone scoring points. In the Sprint Michael Roesch was 11th and Susan Dunklee was 3rd! Another podium woo-hoo! Artem Pryma was 27th in the Pursuit and Marte Olsbu was 18th. In the Mass Start Jean-Guillaune Beatrix was 13th and Vanessa Hinz was 4th! Pilsner all round for a reward! 😉 The men left with 53 points but the women with 114.

After Christmas it was time to head to Germany with the first stop in Oberhof. It was another good round with Martin Fourcade finishing 8th in the Sprint (great time to miss the podium Martin, thanks!) and Anais Chevalier was 4th. In the Pursuit Vitaliy Kilchytskyy was 48th but Jana Gerekova was 26th. In the Mass Starts Benjamin Weger was 10th and Maren Hammerschmidt was 20th. That meant 65 points from the men and 79 from the women.

Ruhpolding wasn’t the best round. Dmytro Pidruchnyi started well in the Sprint finishing 7th but then Lena Haecki was 74th. In the Pursuit Anton Babikov didn’t start the race but Anastasiya Merkushyna showed great dedication to bib23 by finishing 23rd! That gave a total of 36 points from the men and 18 from the women.

The last round before the World Championships was in Antholz where Joanne Reid was 60th in the Individual and Martin Otcenas was 84th -no points! However in the Mass Starts Anna Magnusson was 7th and Lars Birkeland was 11th. So that meant 30 points for the men and 36 for the women.

The World Championships started well for biathlon23, were a bit rubbish in the middle and picked up at the end. Alas there was no gold medal this year. 😦

Anastasiya Merkushyna was back in 23 for the Sprint and she was 10th. Anton Pantov was 68th in the Men’s Sprint. In the Pursuits Lisa Hauser was 26th and Remus Faur was 42nd. The Americans in the Individuals were Maddie Phaneuf who was 87th and Sean Doherty who was 58th. The Mass Starts were better with Nadezhda Skardino in 16th and Dominik Windisch in 24th. Biathlete23 left Hochfilzen with 17 points for the men and 71 for the women.

Then we went to PyeongChang for the Olympic test event and World Cup 7. Julia Ransom was 41st in the Sprint and Vegard Gjermundshaug was 40th. In the Pursuits Lisa Vittozzi was 43rd but then Anton Shipulin came from 23rd to 2nd to grab some valuable points. That meant 55 points for the men and 0 for the women.

Kontiolahti was the venue for round 8 replacing Tyumen. In the Men’s Sprint the legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen brought home the points in 8th! For the women Eva Puskarcivkova was 63rd. Getting a Russian in the Men’s Pursuit is always good and this time it was Evgeniy Garanichev’s turn to make up lots of places. He finished 12th but fellow Russian Ekaterina Shimulova was outside the points in 42nd. The men got 64 (check) points and the women 0.

At the final round in Holmenkollen home favourite Tiril Eckhoff was in bib23 in the Sprint and she finished 12th. For the men Maxim Tsvetkov didn’t start the Sprint race. The Pursuits went well with Anna Magnusson in 21st and Andrejs Rastorgujevs 10th. In the Mass Starts Anna Magnusson was again in bib23 and finished 23rd! She has been in bib23 three times this season and always scored points! Well done Anna Mag! Michal Slesingr was 6th making it 69 points for the men and 67 for the women.

For full results and points see the Biathlete23 page.
Biathlete23 will return! 🙂

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World Cup 2016/17: Men’s Review!

Well my season preview for the men started like this:

“Martin Fourcade is the red hot favourite. If he stays fit and healthy all season he will win the Overall Title for the 6th year in a row.”

My season review starts like this:

“Unsurprisingly I was right!”

Yes Monsieur Fourcade has done it again! He won his sixth Overall Title this season and he clinched it in Korea at World Cup 7. In an extraordinary season for Martin he won 14 races out of 26, finished on the podium 22 times and won all the small crystal globes in the Sprint, Pursuit, Individual and Mass Start. I ran out of words to describe his achievements a long time ago but what he has done this season is absolutely incredible and may never be repeated – unless he does it again next season! 😉

Fourcade ended the Total Score with 1322 points ahead of Anton Shipulin in second with 918 points and Johannes Boe in third with 812.

Rookie of the year went to Sweden’s Sebastian Samuelsson who was 43rd in the Total Score with 169 points in his first full World Cup season aged 19.

The season started way back in Oestersund at the end of November. The first race was the Individual and Martin Fourcade won that. (Just a word of warning this will be something of a theme throughout the review!) Second went to Johannes Boe and a surprise third to Vladimir Chepelin. The Sprint was next and another win for Fourcade with home favourite Freddie Lindstroem taking second and Arnd Peiffer third. Lastly was the Pursuit which Fourcade DIDN’T win! It went to Anton Babikov and was his first World Cup victory. Maxim Tsvetkov was second and Fourcade was third.

Next we went to Pokljuka where Martin Fourcade won the Sprint with Johannes Boe second and Anton Shipulin third. The Pursuit also went to Fourcade with Emil Hegle Svendsen second with his first podium in a while and Shipulin was again third.

Nove Mesto was next and guess what Martin Fourcade won the Sprint. Shipulin was second and Svendsen third this time. Fourcade also won the Pursuit with Shipulin staying in second and Quentin Fillon Maillet moving from 16th to 3rd. We had the first Mass Start of the season here which was also won by Fourcade. Simon Schempp got his first podium of the season in second and Anton Babikov was third.

After Christmas we headed to Germany and Oberhof. Here was when Martin Fourcade failed to get on the podium for the first time finishing 8th in the Sprint. He did have bib 23 so I think maybe he doesn’t like me! 😉 Julian Eberhard won the race with Michal Slesingr in second and Dominik Windisch third. It was so nice to have some different biathletes on the podium for a change. The Pursuit of course went to Fourcade and Arnd Peiffer went from 15th to second with Windisch staying in third. The final race was another Mass Start this time won by Simon Schempp with teammate Erik Lesser in second and Fourcade third.

We stayed in Germany with round 5 in Ruhpolding. Fourcade took yet another Sprint victory and he was joined on the podium by Eberhard in second and Svendsen in third. The Pursuit also went to Fourcade with Svendsen in second and Michal Krcmar getting his first ever podium finish in third.

By now it was pretty obvious who would win the Overall Title but apparently you still have to hold the rest of the races so we went to Antholz! This time Fourcade didn’t win a race! What a shock! Anton Shipulin who always does well here won the Individual with Fourcade in second and Serghiy Semenov third with his first podium of the season. We also had a Mass Start which Johannes Boe won giving him his first win of the season. Quentin Fillon Maillet was second and Anton Shipulin third.

In February came the World Championships in Hochfilzen. Really we would have expected Fourcade to dominate this but he didn’t. The Sprint race went to Benedikt Doll by just 0.7 seconds in front of Johannes Boe and Fourcade was third. He did win the Pursuit race with Boe taking another silver and the legend that is Ole Einar Bjoerndalen winning yet another medal taking the bronze. The Individual went to an amazing performance from Lowell Bailey who took gold in front of Ondrej Moravec in silver and Fourcade took another bronze. The Mass Start was won by Simon Schempp with Johannes Boe in silver again and Simon Eder taking bronze for the home nation.

I know Fourcade came away with a gold and 2 bronze medals from the individual races but considering how many races he has won on the World Cu we were expecting better. Especially if you compare him to Laura Dahlmeier who got 3 golds and a silver. He says he just wanted to win one gold at the event which he did but I think he may have left a little disappointed.

Next we moved to PyeongChang and to the Olympic track. Here Julian Eberhard took his second win of the season in the Sprint race with Lowell Bailey in second continuing his good form. Fourcade was third which meant that he clinched the Overall Crystal globe for the 6th time. To celebrate he went on to win the Pursuit race with Anton Shipulin coming from 23rd to second and Julian Eberhard holding on for third.

Kontiolahti replaced Tyumen for round 8. A new venue but the same winner. Martin Fourcade won the Sprint by 0.6 seconds from Ondrej Moravec in second. It was Fourcade’s 13th victory breaking the record in the men’s field for most races won in a season. Emil Hegle Svendsen came third. The Pursuit race went to Arnd Peiffer with Simon Eder in second and Svendsen taking third again.

The final round of the World Cup was in Holmenkollen, Oslo. The Sprint was won by home favourite Johannes Boe with Martin Fourcade second and Anton Shipulin third. The pursuit went to Shipulin with Fourcade second and Johannes Boe third. The final race of the season was of course won by Martin Fourcadejust like the first one! Andrejs Rastorgujevs was second getting his first podium finish on the World Cup and Simon Eder was third.

With the individual races not being very competitive as we might like the Relays provided some different results. They were won by France, Norway, Germany and France again on the World Cup and by Russia at the World Championships.

The Single Mixed Relays went to France in Oestersund with a team of Fourcade and Dorin Habert, and to Austria in Kontiolahti with Simon Eder and Lisa Hauser.


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