Can you believe it! It’s that time of year again! With only 3 days until the first World Cup of the 2015/16 season in Oestersund it’s time to preview the chances of the male biathletes. I could make this very short and say four time Total Score winner Martin Fourcade will win again but that is not very fair on the other biathetes and you never know he might not win!
Chances are he will though! Fourcade is the red hot favourite to make it five in a row and it is going to be very difficult for the others to challenge him. His amazing speed on the skis and the mental strength he possesses to take his time on the shooting range to make sure he hits the targets are an irresistable combination. However there are some ways in which he could slip up this season.
Firstly he is a new dad and sleepless nights can take their toll on even the best! Also the fact he might find it more difficult to be away from home. His plans to compete in cross country which were ruined by last season’s mononucleosis have been resurrected and we don’t know how that could affect him physically. It might not do him any favours mentally either if he doesn’t perform well. Remember he is used to winning but that won’t come easily in cross country.
So who will be out to capitalise should Fourcade have any issues. Well we just have to look at last season’s Top 10 in the Total Score to find our main contenders. In second place was Russia’s Anton Shipulin. He had his best season ever finishing 64 points behind Fourcade. If he can make a few more podiums this time and crucially beat Fourcade in some more races it will boost his chances of winning. If he carries on as he did last season he will be a genuine threat.
In third last year with a late run of excellent results was Slovenia’s Jakov Fak. He commented himself that winning races does make a big difference to your chances! Now that he has discovered that is how racing in fact works hopefully he will be able to do just that. He can match Fourcade on skis but he needs to make sure his shooting is more consistent because if he hits all the targets he is very difficult to beat.
In fourth place was the real revelation of last season Germany’s Simon Schempp. After getting his first victory the season before he really improved getting more victories and more podiums to put him in contention for the title . A weak end of season however meant he lost out on third place to Fak. He will have learned a lot from that and will be dangerous again this time around.
Shockingly we have to wait until fifth position in the Total Score to find our first Norwegian – how times have changed! Johannes Bø took this position making him the strongest threat from Norway last season. His youth and inconsistency meant he couldn’t mount a credible challenge to win the Overall but that could change this time round. He is unbelievably fast on skis but at times he is reckless on the shooting range. His super confidence is great to see though and although he may not win the Overall I think he will move up on to the podium this time around.
Big brother Tarjei Bø will be looking to recapture his end of season form from last season and will hope to be challenging at the top again if he stays free of illness.
Rounding off the Top Ten were Czech pair Ondrej Moravec (6th) and Michal Slesingr(8th), Russia’s Evgeniy Garanichev in 7th, Emil Hegle Svendsen in 9th and Eril Lesser from Germany in 10th. Of these I don’t think any are capable of challenging Fourcade except for Svendsen. He normally finishes second to Fourcade so last year would have been a big shock to him finishing in 9th place. With the World Championships being held in Oslo though the Overall Title might not be a top priority for him.
There will be others out to add to their success from last season by getting more wins and podiums under their belts like Nathan Smith,Arnd Peiffer and Vladimir Iliev. Others will be trying to recover from a disappointing season like Lukas Hofer, Fredrik Lindstrom and Dominik Landertinger.
Away from the usual suspects look out for some newer faces to appear toward the front of the races. Slovakia’s Martin Otcenas will be aiming for some more points scoring finishes. Serafin Weistner of Swizerland will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Benjamin Weger. Slovenia’s Rok Trsan showed a lot of potential last season too. French youngster Antonin Guigonnat will be trying to step up from the IBU Cup and America’s Sean Doherty will want to make good progress this season.
It should be an exciting season to come whatever happens in the race for the big Crystal Globe. We have been waiting all summer to see how the biathletes will do this season. With a couple of races in North America too it will be a different kind of World Cup and hopefully a memorable one. I hope to see a lot of the men Aiming for the TOP!
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