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!
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.
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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