Tag Archives: Nadezhda Skardino

Hochfilzen 2017: The Women’s Relay!

h17wr

Winter is back! Which is lucky as biathlon is a winter sport and it is February. There were snowy and windy conditions for the Women’s Relay today and it was another fantastic race. I think we have been spoiled in Hochfilzen by the standard and excitement of the races.

In the Women’s Relay France got off to the best start with Anais Chevalier on leg 1 using just 1 spare and handing over to Celia Aymonier in the lead. She was followed closely by Lisa Vittozzi with 1 spare and Vanessa Hinz with 2 spares needed. Poland with Magdalena Gwizdon were in 4th and Nadezhda Skardino had Belarus in 5th. Russia were in 6th and Iryna Varvynets was in 7th for Ukraine.

The second leg started well for Aymonier but on the stand she needed 3 spares and just avoided the penalty loop. This gave Italy the chance to take the lead with Federica Sanfilippo needing just 1 spare to hand over in first. In second were Germany with Maren Hammerschmidt followed by Yuliia Dzhima and Aymonier.

The third leg was where the race turned. Franziska Hildebrand who hasn’t had the best Championships so far hit 10/10 to put Germany in a commanding position. She was followed by Anastasiya Merkushyna who used 1 spare putting the Ukraine into second, France went into third thanks to Justine Braisaz and Irina Starykh moved Russia up to 4th with the Czech Republic going into 5th with a good leg from Veronika Vitkova and Italy were 6th after Alexia Runggaldier’s leg.

Hildebrand handed over the lead to Laura Dahlmeier, which is the last thing you want if you aren’t on the Germany team! She was being chased by Olena Pidhrushna, Marie Dorin Habert, Gabriela Koukalova and Tatiana Akimova. Amazing!

Akimova dropped out early after having a nightmare on the first prone and taking a penalty loop. Dahlmeier used 1 spare and the others all shot clear to bring them all closer to the leader. It was a very tense final shoot and Dahlmeier needed 2 spare rounds but still managed to get away in the lead. Pidhrushna , Dorin Habert and Koukalova all went clear, Wierer missed 1 but shot so fast you hardly noticed so it came down to a ski race.

Koukalova was in silver position but she looked tired or myabe her skis weren’t good but she never loooked like she could hold on. So it came down to Dorin Habert and Pidhrushna to decide the medals. Unfortunately for them Dahlmeier was too strong to catch in first so they fought it out for silver and bronze.

Olena Pidrushna had a fantastic leg. I think she saved something on her first 2 loops and skied so well that Dorin Habert couldn’t get passed her.

It was a great race with Germany taking gold and Dahlmeier winning her 4th gold medal in Hochfilzen and her 10th World Championship medal in a row. Silver went to a terrific Ukrainian team with the best shooting score using just 4 spares altogether and bronze went to France.

The Czech Republic were 4th, Italy 5th, Sweden 6th, Poland 7th, Slovakia 8th, Belarus 9th and Russia 10th.

11th Norway
12th Kazakhstan
13th Switzerland
14th USA
15th Finland
16th Canada
17th Slovenia
18th Korea
19th Estonia
20th Japan
21st Lithuania
22nd Bulgaria
Austria were disqualified.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Vladimir Chepelin!

chepelin

The Belarus Team has been getting stronger and stronger over the last few years. It is mainly the women who have been grabbing all the headlines with fantastic results from Darya Domracheva and Nadezhda Skardino in particular but the men’s team are doing well too.

Vladimir Chepelin is one of those who has stepped up his performances. He was born on the 15th of July 1988 and made his biathlon debut in 2011. Last season was one of his best so far.

On the World Cup he started the season well by coming 23rd in the opening round in Oestersund in the Individual. Overall he finished in 47th place in the Total Score. However it was in Oslo Holmenkollen at the World Championships where he really showed what a good biathlete he is.

In the Sprint race he finished in a fantastic 13th place which is his highest finish in a biathlon race to date. He dropped 10 places in the Pursuit to 23rd but another Top 25 finish is impressive. The Indiviual wasn’t as successful and he ended the race in 56th but in the Mass Start which is one of the toughest races he came back to take 13th place again equaling the personal best he set earlier in the week. Considering his top result in Kontiolahti at the last World Championships was 38th you can see he has made a significant step forward.

The coming season could be a good one for Chepelin. It would be great to see him take part in the Single Mixed Relay possibly with Skardino to see what they could do. However last season they were both in the Mixed Relay but without Domracheva they might do better in the Single as they are very capable of getting a podium. It’s much harder in the Mixed Relay to do well against the bigger nations but in the Single Mixed Relay the smaller nations have a better chance of success especially with a strong pair.

Individually Chepelin will be hoping to get his first Top Ten finish on the World Cup. He needs more consistency if he wants to improve his overall standing but I think he could break into the Top 30 overall this season. His shooting can be a bit erratic but if he can reduce the number of missed targets and stay healthy throughout the season it could be his best one yet.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Ross Burton: Biathlon Photographer!

burton
Photo credit: Elena Sobol

As you know biathlon23 likes to look at all aspects of biathlon not just the biathletes. This time I am bringing you an interview with a biathlon photographer. Ross Burton from America has been taking pictures of biathletes on the World Cup for 6 years and has kindly taken the time to tell us exactly what that is like.

He also jointly runs the website Biathlon News International: http://www.biathlonnewsinternational.com/
The site also has a Facebook Page: Biathlon News International

Why do like biathlon?

I was a cross-country skier in the early 70’s. The Army National Guard had a biathlon team, and I joined the Guard so I could get paid for skiing. We had wooden skis, bamboo poles, Remington 513T rifles, and it was classic only. After 3-4 years, I went into the active Army, and that was the end of biathlon. Then the Internet changed everything. Biathlon is
and was a small sport in the USA, as I believe it is in the UK. Before the Internet, there was virtually no information about biathlon, except for maybe 5 minutes coverage during the Olympic broadcasts. After the Internet came, there was plenty of information, even full races on the IBU Eurosport channel.

I decided I wanted to attend a World Cup in 2009, and a German friend suggested Ostersund. I went, and it was a life-changing experience for me. I decided I wanted to move my photography in that direction. At about the same time, a Russian friend, Raniya Kutumova, and I decided to build an English-language news website to enhance interest in
biathlon in the USA. The news website was not particularly successful in generating interest in the USA, but it was marvelously successful in other parts of the world, largely Germany and Russia, despite the fact that it’s in English.

I have been an Olympics fan all my life, and never in my fondest dreams did I ever think I would be paid to go to the Olympics (Sochi.) So, one could say that I have had a life-long interest in biathlon as a competitor, volunteer, journalist and photographer.

How long have you been a photographer and when did you start doing it in biathlon on the World Cup?

I am not a life-long professional photographer. I started working professionally in biathlon during 2010 when my friend Per-Ole Lindell, manager of the Finland team, needed some pictures featuring their new Viessmann sponsorship.

What kind of camera do you have? Do you mainly do digital photography? Have you thought about using a drone?

I have two Nikon D4’s and lenses from 14mm to 400mm focal lengths. Everyone does digital now. I have never thought of using a drone, but I have nightmares of a drone going out of control and landing in the range or on a biathlete.

How often do you go to World Cups and how do you choose which ones to attend?

Between 2-4 World Cups or two World Cups and the World Championships or Olympics. I choose based on time available from USA commitments, money, and logistics.

Where are you going this season and why?

Hochfilzen for sure because it’s the World Championships this year. Looking at Pokjluka and Nove Mesto for World Cups because of favorable logistics.

Do you get to enjoy the races or are you too busy trying to get good shots?

Mostly too busy, but for the first-in, first-win races like the pursuit, relay and mass start I’m always at the finish line, so it’s fun to see the winners and the celebrations. My finest moment was seeing my friends Darya Domracheva and Nadya Skardino win their Olympic medals for Belarus.

Are there a lot of other photographers working on the World Cup? Are you competitive like the biathletes to see who can get the best pictures or is there a good camaraderie?

Yes, there are numerous photographers who attend the World Cups. Of course, we all want to get the best pictures for our customers, but we all are great friends. There is no photographer who won’t take the time to share what they know about the best locations they have found, or the fastest workflow, or anything else that might be a help other photographers.

Since I know a bit about biathlon, I think it’s important to help photographers who are not that familiar with biathlon. We can explain how the races go, which are the big stars, and other things they might consider important. I don’t know how many times I have been asked, “which one is Bjoerndalen?” by new or unfamiliar photographers.

What do you do with the photos? Who do you sell them to? Do you keep some for yourself?

I keep enough for myself to post on my website, http://www.biathlonnewsinternational.com, but I am always working for some team or some photo agency. I have worked for several foreign photo agencies, but Team Finland is my best customer. I have worked for them since 2009. In fact, the last issue of the Finland Biathlon Magazine has a four-page spread
of just my pictures. It can be seen at biathlon.fi.com. Most of the winter cover shots on the magazine are mine too.


What is the best/favourite photo you have taken in biathlon?

The Finland team picture which appears in the header of my Biathlon News International Facebook page.

What is your favourite biathlon venue – for pictures and for racing?

Pictures: Presque Isle. Racing: Holmenkollen

Does your camera have a name?

Yep, Camera 1 and Camera 2.

Describe yourself in three words.

Lucky, Lazy, Ludicrous.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation: A tie between the USA and Finland
Favourite biathlete: Long Past: Dennis Donahue Recent Past: Agnieszka Cyl Present: Peter Dokl Future: Jessika Rolig and Auli Kiskola.
Favourite race(sprint,pursuit etc.): The single gender relay
Favourite ski suit design: Belarus, two years ago.
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Past, Bjoern Ferry, by a mile! Present: Tarjei Boe
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Tie between Johanna Talihaerm and Kadri Lehtla. The rest of the Estonian women are all very nice too.
Best thing about being a photographer: Pragmatically, free food. Emotionally, seeing my pictures published in worldwide circulation.

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Open European Championships 2016!

oech16

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!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

WC1: Oestersund 2015 Review!

ost2015

AT LAST! Winter is here and the withdrawal symptoms have gone – biathlon is back! As usual we kicked off the season in Oestersund, Sweden and this year we started with the Single Mixed Relay.

This time around it was poor Simon who suffered from the “Oestersund Curse of the Fourcades” when he failed to fire all his bullets and missed a penalty loop which cost the French team a victory. Simon and Marie Dorin Habert were winning by a margin but after a 3 minute time penalty they ended up 21st. This left the way clear for Norway to win with a team of Kaia Nicolaisen and Lars Birkeland. In second and taking their first ever relay podium was the Canadian pair of Rosanna Crawford and Nathan Smith and third were the German team of Maren Hammerschmidt and Daniel Boehm.

Next came the Mixed Relay which Norway controlled and won by a margin big enough for Tarjei Boe to pose in front of a car advert pleasing the sponsors immensely. Second came Germany and in third was the Czech Republic. It wasn’t the most exciting relay apart from the first takeover where Franziska Hildebrand, Vanessa Hinz and Ekaterina Yurlova managed to play skittles with each other and Jean Guillaume Beatrix and Freddie Lindstrom treated us to a sprint finish for 4th place.

On Wednesday the first individual race of the season got underway and coincidentally it was the Men’s Individual 20km! It was won by Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who had a great race shooting 20/20 to win his 95th race. He profited slightly from calmer conditions on the shooting range but that doesn’t take anything away from his victory. In second was Overall Title contender Simon Schempp and third was Alexey Volkov who also shot clear. Windy and snowy conditions made it a difficult day on the range with Martin Fourcade missing 5 shots to finish in 21st, Tarjei Boe missing 4 in 22nd and Anton Shipulin missing 3 to finish 16th. Svendsen came joint 4th with Quentin Fillon Maillet who was France’s top finisher in the race.

In contrast to Bjoerndalen the winner of the Women’s race collected her first ever win on the World Cup. Italy’s Dorothea Wierer shot clear to stand on the top step of the podium for the first time. Marie Dorin Habert put in a great skiing performance to come second and Olena Pidhrushna was third after coming out of retirement. Overall title hopefuls Tiril Eckhoff and Gabriela Soukalova finished 4th and 5th. Also in the Top 10 was Lisa Hauser getting her best finish of 8th on the World Cup.

On Saturday came the Sprints and they were held in windy conditions which meant shooting was very difficult. Fortunately for winner Martin Fourcade he can miss some targets and still win. This time everyone missed targets except one.In second was Arnd Peiffer and third was Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. The wind threw some new names into the TOP 20 with Macx Davies of Canada finishing 10th shooting 10/10. Raman Yaliotnau from Belarus was 15th and Jesper Nelin of Sweden was 16th.

In the Women’s race Gabriela Soukalova hit 10/10 to take the win denying Italy’s Federica Sanfilippo her first World Cup victory. Second is still an amazing result for her finishing ahead of a resurgent Olena Pidhrushna who was third for the second race in succession.

The Sprint result meant that Martin Fourcade would start the Pursuit 52 seconds before Peiffer and it would be very difficult to beat him, and so it proved as he won comfortably. Peiffer maintained his second place and Quentin Fillon Maillet finally got on the podium in third after two 4th place finishes.

You might have noticed I haven’t mentioned Kaisa Makarainen yet. She got off to an inauspicious start by her standards with a 24th and 10th place finish. She showed her class in the Pursuit though with a stunning final shoot and last lap to claim victory. Second was Dorothea Wierer and third was Franziska Hildebrand who couldn’t hold off Kaisa and her amazing skiing.

Others who did well in the Pursuits were Tarjei Boe who went from 29th to 4th, Dmitry Malyshko 34th to 7th, Evgeniy Garanichev 27th to 8th, Simon Fourcade 49th to 14th and Lars Birkeland 58th to 25th. For the women Marte Olsbu went from 26th to 7th, Eva Tofalvi from 60th to 19th, Megan Tandy from 46th to 25th and Nadezhda Skardino from 26th to 7th.

All in all it was a great start to the new season and we now head to Austria and Hochfilzen for round 2 with Martin Fourcade in the yellow bib for the men and Gabriela Soukalova for the women. It promises to be a great World Cup round!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Pokljuka in SLO-motion!

pokljuka2

Well the World Cup is back in Slovenia and still there is no snow! Fortunately Pokljuka did a great job of the tracks and racing went ahead as normal. Well I say as normal but the first race, the Women’s Sprint, was far from normal. First Kaisa Makarainen missed four shots and finished 15th on what looked like a relatively easy shooting day. Gabriela Soukalova took full advantage and made up for a slow start to the season by shooting clear and winning by 18 seconds. Dorothea Wierer returned to the podium in second and probably the most consistent of the women so far this season Valj Semerenko came in third.

Further down the field there were some tremendous personal performances. Rosanna Crawford continued to creep closer to the podium by coming fourth. Olga Podchufarova made another TOP 5, 2 more Italians got into the TOP 10 with Nicole Gontier in 8th and Karin Oberhofer in 10th. Laura Dahlmeier came back from her summer injury to finish 9th, Mari Laukkanen beat Makarainen by coming in 11th and the two French girls Braisaz 14th and Latuilliere 20th continue to impress. Fuyuko Suzuki 12th and the USA’s Hanna Dreissigacker 17th posted their career best results. There were also 3 Austrians in the points and I could go on but I still have a lot to write about the other races!!!

It was the mens turn to race in the Sprint on Friday afternoon and Anton Shipulin kept up his great start to the season by winning in style. Another clear shoot and a strong ski meant he finished 12 seconds ahead of Austria’s Dominik Landertinger. In third was Svendsen whose shooting has been amazing so far but his skiing needs to catch up a little bit. His fellow Norwegians the brothers Bø also got into the TOP10 with Tarjei 7th and Johannes 10th. Two more Russians also hit the TOP 10 with Garanichev in 5th and Tsvetkov in 9th. France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet got his best result on the World Cup so far in 8th and Joel Sloof also achieved his in 46th qualifying his for the Pursuit for the second week in a row. Slovakia’s Martin Otcenas got in on the act too getting his best place finish in 21st.

The Pursuits took place on Friday and two great performances from Darya Domracheva and Emil Svendsen secured them the wins. They both shot well, Emil shooting 20/20 and Darya 19/20. Kaisa Makarainen tried her best to catch up to Dasha but she started too far back to be able to do it. Third was a great battle between Valj Semerenko and Dorothea Wierer which the Ukrainian won in a sprint for the line. In the men’s race there was no such action as Svendsen won with a comfortable margin and Shipulin took second well ahead of Martin Fourcade in third.

Further back in the field there were some great place gains for the likes of Canada’s Megan Heinicke who went from 41st to 14th and Russia’s Timofey Lapshin who started 45th and finished 6th! Also impressive were Johannes Kuehn(GER) 37th-13th, Martin Krcmar(CZE) 35th-15th, Simon Fourcade(FRA) 41st-20th and Sven Grossegger(AUT) 43rd-24th. In the women’s race there were a lot of big moves like Nadezhda Skardino(BLR) 22nd-6th, Daria Virolaynen 35th -9th, Krystyna Guzik(POL)48th-22nd, Nadzeya Pisareva(BLR) 42nd-27th,Juliya Dzyhma (UKR) 60th-34th and Natalya Burdyga(UKR) 53rd- 33rd! Two biathletes in the Men’s Pursuit also hit the deck pretty hard. Italy’s Dominik Windisch face planted his way across the line and Finland’s Olli Hiidensalo gave himself a nasty scrape and a concussion doing the same on the tracks.

On Sunday we were traeted to the first Mass Starts of the season. I was really looking forward to Kaisa vs. Dasha in a head to head race with no advantages for either. Unfortunately for Dasha and for us this ended after the first lap when she crashed into another athlete while exiting the penalty loop. She continued to the next shoot but had to use the spare rifle and missed four shots. Understandably she called it a day after that! This then left Kaisa to go on and win but it wasn’t easy. She had to chase down and pass the excellent Anais Bescond who was too tired to hold her off. More great shooting from Skardino saw her take third.

The men’s race was similarly unjust as this time Jean-Guillaume Beatrix got the bad luck. In a race to the finish with Shipulin and Fourcade the Russian skied over his basket on the end of the ski and tripped him. Then Fourcade broke his pole trying to avoid him and so Jean-Gui lost a chance to fight for the podium and probably the win. Shipulin took advantage of the accident and skied away from a slightly tired looking Fourcade to make it two wins and a second place for him! He loves Pokljuka! Simon Eder snapped up the chance to get third just pipping Fredrik Lindstrom on the line to get his first podium of the year.

Pokljuka provided some great racing this year and saw a lot of biathletes achieve their personal best performances. We head into the Christmas break with Kaisa and Martin still in yellow but with a lot to look forward to when we start again in Oberhof. If you suffer withdrawal symptoms over Christmas with no biathlon may I suggest you watch the replays of this weekend’s action. I am sure you will enjoy a bit of Pokljuka in SLO-motion!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

‘Fil-zen you in!

filzen

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!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Gunning for Glory Part 1: Women

woprev

Intrigue, uncertainty, unpredictability ,mystery and suspense! No it’s not the latest thriller at the cinema- it’s the Women’s World Cup!!! This season is going to be one of the best yet. Who is going to finish with the Overall Title 2014/15? Your guess is as good as mine. Anybody could win it but there are some with a better chance than others.

There have been some big changes on the Women’s Tour this year which is why it is so exciting. Tora Berger, Andrea Henkel, Ann Kristin Flatland and Marie-Laure Brunet have retired, Selina Gasparin is pregnant and will miss the season, Marie-Dorin Habert has a new daughter and we are not sure when she will return. Olga Vilukhina has also decided to sit out the season to heal from some injuries. That means four of the Top 11 finishers in the Overall will not be on the start line this season. So we better take a look at the other eight!

Last year’s winner by 4 points was Kaisa Makarainen. An amazing end of season run saw her just pip Tora Berger and totally ruin her retirement! 😉 Can she defend her title this year? Well of course she is capable and she has more experience than her competitors but she also has a home World Championships in Kontiolahti to prepare for. It is likely to be her final year in the sport and the World Championships might mean her main focus is not on the World Cup.

In third place last season was Darya Domracheva. Her stunning performances in Sochi must make her one of the favourites to take the title this year. However I am not so sure. She can be fantastic over a race weekend but can she sustain that level over a whole season? In the last 3 years she has finished second twice, and third once in the Total Score but seems to lack just that little something to push her up to first. She seems to have sorted out her shooting issues but with all the attention she has received after her Olympic glory and all the extra engagements outside of biathlon it has brought her, will she be able to keep her focus all the way to Khanty?

This is an issue that will also affect Gabriela Soukalova who was fourth last year. She has become very popular over the last couple of seasons and that can bring it’s own pressure. The other biathletes will be watching out for her and like Domracheva she will have to try and maintain a good level throughout the season.

Sixth last time around was Anastasiya Kuzmina. She had a pretty average season but came good for the Olympics and brilliantly defended her Sprint gold. Actually sixth is her best ever position in the Total Score but her lack of consistency means to win it would be quite unlikely. Just behind her in seventh was Norway’s new sensation Tiril Echoff. Talk about pressure, taking on Berger’s mantle and the intense scrutiny of the Norwegian press will be a lot to handle for this young lady. They breed them tough in Norway though and she could be up in the Top 3 by the end of March.

In 8th and 9th places were Valj Semerenko and Veronika Vitkova. They had great seasons both finishing with their highest ever placings on the Total Score. They will be dangerous again this time round but may lack the number of podiums required to get to the very top. Outside the Top 11 are more dangers lurking to thwart the favourites. The experience of Teja Gregorin, Vita Semerenko and Olga Zaitseva could prove vital over the season. They may not win overall but they are capable of taking valuable points off the favourites by knocking them off the podium.

Then there is the raft of young talent coming on or back to the scene. Dorothea Wierer had a great season last time out and her double victory in Sjusjoen suggests she will be challenging for more podiums this time around. The young Germans like Dahlmeier, Hildebrand and Preuss will also be in the mix. Miriam Goessner is back from injury and if she has learned to shoot better in her absence she will be a real contender to win a lot of races. Elsewhere Nadezhda Skardino, Juliya Dzhyma and Susan Dunklee were really impressive last time and I am sure will take more points and get better results this season.

So basically I am saying that I have absolutely no idea who is going to win this year’s big Crystal Globe! That is why it is going to be such a great season to watch the women. The favourites have to be Makarainen, Domracheva and Soukalova but only one of these has won it before. I am really looking forward to this season to see whether one of these ladies can win it or if someone will take us by surprise and come from nowhere to claim victory. Anything could happen! I advise you to put all bets on each way because it’s going to be one hell of a season with all these outstanding women Gunning for Glory!!!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Season Review 2013/14: Women

globe

Well the season is over and for me the women provided the best competition this season. Last year was dominated by Tora Berger but this time around it was much more competitive. The Overall title was won at the last round in Holmenkollen by Kaisa Makarainen .The individual Crystal Globes went to Kaisa Makarainen in the Sprint and the Pursuit, Darya Domracheva in the Mass Start and Gabriela Soukalova in the Individual 15km.

At the start of each race it was virtually impossible to pick who would win. That’s why it has been such a great season for the women. The level of competition is fantastic with many of the women on great form and others making big improvements throughout the season. If you cast your mind back to Oestersund Soukalova won the Individual and Ann-Kristin Flatland won the Sprint. Then in Hochfilzen Selina Gasparin was amazing as she took her first ever win and then Synnoeve Solemdal won the Pursuit. Gasparin followed up her success in Annecy again taking the Sprint and Valj Semerenko got the Pursuit. That made 5 different winners in the 6 races before Christmas as apposed to 3 in the men’s races.

In Hochfilzen we had another 2 winners with Darya Domracheva taking 2 wins and Tora Berger 1 in the Mass Start.In Ruhpolding it was Soukalova’s turn to do the double and in Antholz we saw another first time winner in Anais Bescond in the Sprint and a legend secure another career win when Andrea Henkel took the Pursuit.

The Olympics of course was dominated by Darya Domracheva who took home 3 gold medals and Anastasiya Kuzima came from nowhere to make it an Olympic Sprint double gold having shown little form on the World Cup. In the Women’s Relay the Ukraine women’s team won an emotional and well deserved gold.

Back on World Cup duty in Pokljuka we had yet another first time winner in Austria’s Katherina Innerhofer but then the big guns took over as Domracheva claimed another victory and Kaisa Makarainen won the Pursuit to kick off her amazing end of season form. She took all 3 victories in her home race in Kontiolahti and set us up for a tense finale in Holmenkollen. Neither Makarainen nor Berger won any races but Kaisa did enough to win the Overall even though Tora took 2 second places. I think she deserved it as she won more races than Tora and was very consistent in scoring points. I bet Tora wishes that she had last season’s form this year as she was almost unbeatable in 2012/13. The races were won by Domracheva who took the Sprint and Kuzmina who won the Pursuit and Mass Start to take her only 2 wins of the whole season apart from the Olympic Sprint!

So the more experienced ladies took all the spoils this year but we were also treated to some fantastic new talent. The young German team look like they will do well next year. Laura Dalmeier, Franziska Preuss and Franziska Hildebrand have all shown they have what it takes to do well on the World Cup. The Canadian ladies have also stepped up a level taking 4th place in Annecy in the relay and Rosanna Crawford had some great races individually too. Susan Dunklee likewise has had a fantastic season which ended in her first ever podium.

The Italians Dorothea Wierer and Karin Oberhofer had a great Olympics and have both done really well this season and won bronze at the Olympics too. Tiril Eckhoff’s amazing form this season has softened the blow of Tora Berger’s retirement for the Norwegian team. Nadezdha Skardino has come out of Domracheva’s shadow for Belarus and achieved some great results. Teja Gregorin has also had a really good season culminating in her Olympic bronze medal.If she can improve her standing shoot by a few percent and get a little bit of luck she will surely win her first World Cup race next season.

The season wasn’t great for everyone however as the Swedish women’s team didn’t even get to go to the Olympics. Marie Dorin Habert got injured at the start of the year and so ruined most of her season and fellow French star Marie-Laure Brunet seemed to loose her amazing shooting skills a bit and didn’t get the results she was hoping for. Synnoeve Solemdal started well but the end of her season was wrecked by illness. The Russian women’s team didn’t perform as well as expected, with the exception of Olga Zaitseva and Olga Vilukhina, and will be looking to win some races next season.

All in all it has been a stellar year for Women’s biathlon. They have had the closest and most competitive racing and the titles all went down to the final weekend. We have seen fantastic individual displays and also some amazing team performances. I hope that it will be equally unpredictable and exciting next season. Enjoy your rest and your summer ladies as you have certainly deserved it! Thanks for all the entertainment, see you in November!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter!
Like biathlon23 on Facebook!

Surprising Slovenia!

pokljuka

SLOVEnia is a LOVEly country. It has beautiful countryside, really nice people and one of my Top 3 desserts!(The amazing krema rezina of Bled is just behind cheesecake and pavlova!) It has also provided some really nice surprises in the biathlon competition this year.

Firstly in the Men’s Sprint on Thursday morning we saw Bjorn Ferry back on top of the podium after too long away from the top spots. He put in a great performance to beat Anton Shipulin and Arnd Peiffer. The real surprises came later in the day however in the Women’s Sprint. Austria’s Katherina Innerhofer shot clear and put in a great ski to win her first ever race and achieve her best result by miles. Her previous best finish was 22nd in the Ruhpolding Individual.In second place was the athlete who started second last in the race Daria Viloraynen of Russia who also got a career best finish in her first ever World Cup race. Nadezhda Skardina of Belarus took third making it her third appearance on the podium this season.

Beyond the ladies on the podium we saw personal bests for Finland’s Mari Laukkanen 9th, Norway’s Marte Olsbu 10th, Switzerland’s Irene Cadurisch 19th and Spain’s Victoria Padial 20th. It is so nice to see these girls doing so well. After all that excitement we moved on to the Pursuit races on Saturday.

The men started us off again and Anton Shipulin was sublime in his standing shoots to take the win.Bjorn Ferry came second and someone called Ole Einar Bjoerndalen came third. I have never heard of him before, have you? Ha ha of course you have and he celebrated his non-retirement by claiming yet another podium place. I certainly hope he can stay at this level until Oslo 2016 as I would hate to see his career fizzle out. Other displays of note came from Jakov Fak who went from 15th to 6th, Simon Eder 20th to 8th, Emil Svendsen 33rd to 20th and Simon Desthieux 52nd to 33rd.

For the women Kaisa Makarainen took the win followed by Tora Berger and a hugely impressive Dorothea Wierer in third. She has been having an amazing season and just seems to be getting better and better. Could she take a victory in the final races? I would love to see it but it’s not going to be easy. Great performances also came from most of the women who had a bad day at the office in the Sprint. Darya Domracheva moved from 28th to 4th, Andrea Henkel 25th to 6th,Selina Gasparin 33rd to 10th and Valj Semerenko 46th to 11th.

Finally on Sunday we had 2 Mass Starts which are always a great way to end the weekend. Bjorn Ferry shot clear and skied away from Martin Fourcade to win and Evgeny Ustyugov was impressive in third. Somewhat surprisingly Emil Svendsen missed a chance to get on the podium by missing in the final shoot. I hope this isn’t going to become a habit!!! Olympic champion Darya Domracheva won the women’s race in front of Makarainen and a quality race from Olga Zaitseva saw her fill the last spot on the podium.

So now it’s off to Finland and we start all over again on Thursday in Kontiolahti with a slightly strange program of 2 Sprints and a Pursuit. Pokljuka was as entertaining as ever and saw the return of wind to the range which we have been missing for a while. The racing was great and it is always good to see personal best performances and new people on the podium so all in all not only was it a lot of fun to watch but also quite surprising, Slovenia!

Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter!
Like biathlon23 on Facebook!