Tag Archives: Olga Podchufarova

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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Hochfilzen 2017: The Mixed Relay!

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It’s here! Finally the 2017 World Championships have begun in Hochfilzen! After what feels like about 7 years since the last World Cup round in Antholz the action got underway on Thursday with the Mixed Relay.

Under sunny skies and with a little bit of wind the women got us started in the afternoon. The Italian team with Lisa Vittozzi taking the first leg got off to the best start. She shot clear and handed over in first place in front of Marte Olsbu who used 1 spare and Lisa Hauser who used 2. The USA were in 4th after a great opening leg. They were followed by Mari Laukkanen, Anais Chevalier and Vanessa Hinz.

It was then the turn of Dorothea Wierer, Laura Dahlmeier, Marie Dorin Habert and Kaisa Makarainen to go head to head. Unusually for her Dahlmeier needed 4 spares as did Makarainen, Wierer used 3, Dorin Habert 2 and Akimova was the best shot with just 1 spare required putting Russia into 5th. Tiril Eckhoff put Norway out of contention by going on the penalty loop on the prone.

The women were all very evenly matched at the front with Dahlmeier putting Germany into the lead just in front of Dorin Habert for France and Dorothea Wierer for Italy. However it was all change when the men took over for the third leg. It looked like France had thrown their medal chances away when Quentin Fillon Maillet had to take a penalty loop on his standing shoot. The others were doing much better with Arnd Peiffer hitting 10/10, Lukas Hofer missing just 1 and Alexander Loginov using 3 spares.

Somehow Fillon Maillet managed to hand over to Martin Fourcade still in medal contention and he and Anton Shipulin would stick to each other like glue for the rest of the race in their efforts to chase down Dominik Windisch in second and Simon Schempp who was in first place.

Schempp was too far in front for them to catch and he just needed 1 spare in the standing and so could not be caught. The German team all put in fantastic legs and were well deserved winners of the gold medal. In the final standing Dominik Windisch needed 2 spares and his opponents hit all the targets and so it came down to a ski race between Fourcade and Shipulin for the silver and bronze medals.

They were locked together until the finish where Fourcade took a rather wide line into the straight and forced Shipulin to check his sprint to change lanes which effectively gave France the silver medal and spoiled a sprint finish up to the line. Fourcade knows that Shipulin has a better sprint finish than him and used his tactics wisely to beat him.

Italy came 4th after a great race from their quartet. 5th went to the Ukraine, 6th to Sweden, 7th to the Czech Republic, 8th to Norway, 9th to home team Austria and 10th to Finland.

11th Kazakhstan
12th Slovakia
13th Canada
14th Switzerland
15th Japan
16th USA
17th Bulgaria
18th Slovenia
19th Korea
20th Romania
21st Estonia
22nd Belarus
23rd Poland
24th Lithuania
25th Latvia

P.S On the podium the Russians refused to shake Martin Fourcade’s hand accusing him of disrespecting and knocking over Alexander Loginov at the third exchange. At the press conference Anton Shipulin said that he was defending his teammate and that’s why he wouldn’t shake hands. It emerged that the Russian Federation had asked for special sanctions against Fourcade for a social media comment he made about Loginov’s success at the European Championships reminding people he had served a two year drug ban.

On the video of the changeover Fourcade did ski over Loginov’s ski and knock him down but as one was slowing down and the other speeding up it looked like an accident. Fourcade seemed to just be trying to pass him quickly to catch up with the leaders rather than deliberately hitting him. It’s unlikely that Fourcade would jeopardize his teams chances to make a point that he can do off the track if he wanted.

Hopefully it will not spill over to the rest of the competition.  Although the comments section of the press conference video have been removed and the IBU have issued a statement to ask the fans to calm down so I don’t think we have heard the last of this!

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Season Review 2015/16: Women

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The race for the Women’s Overall Title was great this season. It was much closer and more exciting than the Men’s and it went right down to the final World Cup round in Khanty Mansiysk.

It started way back in Oestersund where Kaisa Makarainen started as favourite to win in the absence of Darya Domracheva. It was not to be this season for Kaisa who wasn’t in her best form all year however it did give others the chance to shine. Gabriela Soukalova emerged from Oestersund with the yellow bib and held on to it all season. Her closest competitors were Marie Dorin Habert and Dorothea Wierer. It was a shame that Laura Dahlmeier missed a few World Cup rounds through illness otherwise she would have been in with a shot of the title too.

Soukalova didn’t have a great World Championships in Oslo which meant that she took a lead of 69 points into the final three races in Russia. In the Sprint she was 4th and Dorin Habert was 10th which meant she secured the small Crystal Globe in that event. In the Pursuit she was 4th again to win another small globe but more importantly she won the Overall Title and the big Crystal Globe!

Dorothea Wierer won the small Crystal Globe in the Individual by winning 2 of the races in the season and coming 8th in the World Championships to beat Marie Dorin Habert, who won the World Championships race, by just 2 points.

The season’s Sprints were won by Gabriela Soukalova, Franziska Hildebrand, Marie Dorin Habert, Olga Pudchufarova, Olena Pidhrushna, Tiril Eckhoff and Kaisa Makarainen. The Pursuits went to Kaisa Makarainen, Laura Dahlmeier, Ekaterina Yurlova and Gabriela Soukalova.

Finally the Mass Starts went to Kaisa Makarainen, Laura Dahlmeier, Gabriela Soukalova, Marie Dorin Habert and Dorothea Wierer. The small globe was won by Soukalova.

The five Women’s Relays through the season were won by five different nations. On the World Cup Italy, Ukraine, France and the Czech Republic all won and then Norway took the gold at the World Championships.

As you can see from all the results above the Women’s World Cup is very competitive and there are a lot of great biathletes competing right now. Away from those at the very top it has also been a good season for Olena Pidhrushna who after her comeback from retirement has looked better than ever with a win and some podiums. Franziska Hildebrand took 2 Sprint victories and has had a good season and Olga Podchufarova got her first win too.

The Women have provided most of the entertainment this year due to the fact that no one is completely dominant like in the Men’s World Cup. Gabriela Soukalova won the yellow bib at the first round and held it all through the season and deservedly won the Total Score. She also took 3 of the 4 small globes but she did it through consistency rather than dominance. There is a lot to look forward to next season with the return of Domracheva and it will be great to see her up against Dorin Habert, Dahlmeier, Eckhoff, Soukalova and Wierer as well as old foe Kaisa Makarainen if she decides to race for another year. This season has been great but next season could be even better!

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World Championships 2016: Preview!

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It’s World Championships time! It’s Oslo! It’s Holmenkollen! It’s the end of the King’s reign! That’s right it’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen’s final World Championships before he retires from biathlon. Although he did say that about the Olympics in Sochi so we can’t really trust him! Let’s believe him for now anyway. Will he go out on a high or will his grand exit be ruined by the princes of biathlon who are fighting to take his crown?

Well he has been planning for this event all season and he also did that in Sochi and we all know what happened there. So the chances are good that he will win a medal of some sort but he faces some very tough competition from people who really don’t care if they ruin the party and some of them are even his teammates!!!

We will return to Ole later but let’s go through the races as they are scheduled. First up is the Mixed Relay on Thursday the 3rd of March at 15.30 CET. The races so far this season have been won by Norway in Oestersund and Germany in Canmore. There are a lot of strong teams however so this race could be won by anyone. France have a good chance as do Italy, the Czech Republic and Russia. It will be interesting to see who races and whether or not the teams will use their strongest four biathletes in the first race. The defending champions are the Czech Republic.

After a day off come the Sprint races on Saturday the 5th of March. The Men start at 11.30 CET and the Women go at 14.30 CET. This season’s Men’s Sprint winners so far have been Martin Fourcade, Johannes Thingnes Boe and Simon Schempp. The Women’s races were won by Gabriela Soukalova, Franziska Hildebrand, Marie Dorin Habert, Olga Pudchufarova and Olena Pidhrushna. Obviously the Women’s race is a lot more open but in the Men’s it is very likely one of the three above will win it. The defending champions are Johannes Thingnes Boe and Marie Dorin Habert.

Both Pursuit races are on Sunday the 6th at 13.30 CET for the Men and 15.45 CET for the Women. The Men’s Pursuit races from the World Cup were won by Martin Fourcade, Simon Schempp, Anton Shipulin and Simon Eder. The women’s winners were Kaisa Makarainen, Laura Dahlmeier, Ekaterina Yurlova and Gabriela Soukalova. The defending champions are Erik Lesser and Marie Dorin Habert.

The Individual races are on Wednesday the 9th at 15.30 CET for the Women and the Men’s race is on Thursday the 10th also at 15.30 CET. The World Cup winners are Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Martin Fourcade and Dorothea Wierer. The defending champions are Ekaterina Yurlova and Martin Fourcade.

The Women’s Relay is on Friday the 11th at 15.30 CET and the Men’s is on Saturday the 12th at 15.30 CET. Winners so far for the Women were Italy, Ukraine, France and the Czech Republic.All the Men’s relays were won by either Russia or Norway. The defending champions are Germany for both the men and women.

The final races are the Mass Starts which both take place on Sunday the 13th at 13.00 CET for the Women and 16.00 CET for the Men. Winners on the World Cup so far have been Jean Guillaume Beatrix, Martin Fourcade, Erik Lesser, Dominik Windisch, Kaisa Makarainen, Laura Dahlmeier, Gabriela Soukalova and Dorothea Wierer. The defending champions are Jakov Fak and Valj Semerenko.

So that’s all the information you need but who will win the medals? Well if I knew that I would be rich but I can have a guess at least! In the Men’s race the favourite for all of them has to be Martin Fourcade but he only won one individual medal at the last World Championships. The Norwegians have a good chance of stopping him as do Schempp and Shipulin. On the Women’s side I think the medals will be shared between Soukalova, Wierer, Dorin Habert, Makarainen and Dahlmeier.

There are always a few surprises though and big event specialist Erik Lesser can’t be overlooked and neither can sharp shooter Simon Eder. Watch out too for Valj Semerenko and Olga Pochufarova to do well. To be honest with you it’s biathlon so anything could happen and anyone could win that’s why it’s such a great sport!

And the big question – will Bjoerndalen win a medal?! Of course he will! He always pulls it off doesn’t he? Although it will probably be as part of the Men’s Relay team that he does it, you can never discount him for an individual medal. I for one hope he does it.He definitely deserves to go out on a high. It will be really strange when he is not on the start lists anymore – he will be greatly missed.

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WC6: Antholz Review 2016!

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The sun is shining, there is snow all around, we have beautiful scenery and the temperature is getting down to -20 degrees. It must be Antholz-Anterselva! That’s right we are back in the South Tyrol and it actually looks and feels like winter!

The first race in Italy was on Thursday and we began with the Women’s Sprint. We had a couple of firsts in this event as Olga Podchufarova won her first ever race and she is also the first Russian women to make the podium on the World Cup this season. As with buses, after waiting ages for 1 podium the Russians actually got 2 with Ekaterina Yurlova taking 3rd place. Both the Russians shot clean but second place went to home favourite Dorothea Wierer who made the podium despite missing 1 shot. There was another great performance in the shape of Linn Persson from Sweden who shot clean and finished in 17th which is her career best individual finish by a big margin.

On Friday we had the Men’s Sprint. In the 2 previous years it has been won by Simon Schempp so it wasn’t such a big surprise that he won it again! That made it 5 races unbeaten in Antholz as he also won the previous 2 Pursuits. I think it’s safe to say he enjoys racing in Antholz! In second place was Maxim Tsvetkov with his best ever finish and his first time on the podium. He is fast becoming a star of the Russian Team mainly thanks to his incredible shooting. It is now rare for him to miss more than one shot and he was clean again today. In third came “Mr Consistent” Tarjei Boe who has finished in the Top 10 more often than not this season and is climbing his way up the overall rankings.

The women had a day off on Friday but no such luck for the men who were back in action on Saturday. The Women’s Pursuit was first and yet again Russia took the win (remember what I said about buses). This time Ekaterina Yurlova was victorious coming from third to first. In second was a remarkable performance from Selina Gasparin, who is continuing her great form, making up 14 places from a start position of 16th. She out skied Dorothea Wierer on the final lap but the Italian still got her second podium at home in third.

Canada’s Julia Ransom went from 46th to 19th to record her best ever finish on the World Cup. Other big moves in the Pursuit came from Tiril Echhoff 20th to 4t, Krystyna Guzik 26th to 5th, Daria Virolaynen 32nd to 12th, Susan Dunklee 37th to 17th, Karolin Horchler 50th to 24th and Anastasia Zagoruiko 59th to 33rd.

The Men’s Pursuit started later in the day and you will never guess – another Russian won! This time it was Anton Shipulin claiming his first victory of the season. It’s not so much of a surprise though as he loves Antholz and this blog knows him as ANT-holz Shipulin! Second place went to Simon Schemmp who continued his amazing run of results in Antholz too. Third went to Johannes Boe who did consider letting Fourcade pass him to keep his record of only being on the podium in first place but decided third wasn’t so bad after all!!!

Martin Fourcade came from 28th to get 4th after shaving his beard. He had a bet that he couldn’t shave it until he shot clean but he shaved it before the race and then shot clean! Which I believe is cheating! 😉

Elsewhere Anton Babikov went from 31st to 7th to record his career best result, Andi Birnbacher from 41st to 14th, Benjamin Weger from 34th to 16th and Brendan Green from 45th to 31st.

The final day in Antholz was reserved for the relays. The Women’s race was won by France with some great shooting from the whole team of Justine Braisaz, Anais Bescond, Anais Chevalier and Marie Dorin Habert. The Czech Republic were second with Gabriela Soukalova back in the team and in third were the Russians capping off a fantastic World Cup round for themselves.

The Men’s race went right down to the wire with a repeat of the Sochi race with Anton Shipulin and Simon Schempp battling for the victory. The outcome was the same as the Olympics with Russia winning and Germany in second. Norway, without Emil Hegle Svendsen and Tarjei Boe, were third.

It has been a great World Cup in Antholz especially for the Russians with 3 individual wins and a relay victory and podium. The Russian women will be sad to have a break as they have just hit good form but everyone else is looking forward to a well-earned rest. Next time we are off over the pond to North America with rounds in Canmore and Preque Isle to look forward too. I can’t wait for those!

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WC3: Pokljuka Review 2015!

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How did that happen? Three World Cup rounds have past already! The latest in Slovenia in lovely Pokljuka. The first race got underway on Thursday and was the Men’s Sprint.

It was a pretty lively affair too to kick off the weekend with Simon Schempp winning his second Sprint in a row and crucially out-shooting and out-skiing Martin Fourcade. Fourcade finished in 5th missing one shot. In second place was Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who at 41 shows no sign of slowing down. Another perfect shoot saw him finish 15 seconds off the lead. Third place went to Evgeniy Garanichev who was just 0.2 of a second faster than teammate Alexey Slepov who achieved his best ever result in 4th. In fact the Russians had 5 biathletes in the Top 12 places. The Canadian Team also did well getting all their biathletes into the Pursuit with Christian Gow getting a personal best of 37th.

On Friday it was the Women’s turn and they served up yet another treat for us in the Sprint. Marie Dorin Habert claimed her first ever World Cup victory (hard to believe, right!) beating Laura Dahmeier by just 1.1 seconds. In third was Franziska Hildebrand maintaining her great form from Hochfilzen. In fact all 6 German women finished in the TOP 15 which is quite remarkable. They were joined in the TOP 15 by 3 Czechs (Vitkova, Soukalova and Puskarcikova) and 3 Poles (Guzik, Hojnisz and Gwizdon). Susan Dunklee got in on the action too in 6th with her best finish of the season so far. Hilde Fenne of Norway also got a personal best result in 18th.

Saturday saw the Men’s and Women’s Pursuit races and both of them turned into a neighbourhood feud between France and Germany! For the men it was Simon Schempp versus Martin Fourcade. Schempp was so impressive in his calmness in the shooting range and didn’t let the huge pressure applied by Fourcade put him off. He won with a clean shoot and really proved his credentials as an Overall Title contender. Fourcade had to settle for second after 1 miss and Anton Shipulin valiantly tried to catch up but was too far behind and took third.

For the Women the fight was between Laura Dahlmeier and Marie Dorin Habert. They were inseparable up until the lap before the final shoot where unfortunately Dorin Habert fell and couldn’t recover enough to challenge right up to the finish. Dahlmeier took her second win of the season and Kaisa Makarainen got herself onto the podium in third for some much needed points. The Germans may have won the battle but the French are ahead in the war with Fourcade and Dorin Habert both ending the day in the yellow bibs.

They weren’t the only ones to do well in the Pursuits however. Simon Fourcade went from 33rd to 10th continuing his amazing Pursuit form! Freddie Lindstrom went from 30th to 14th, Jean Guillaume Beatrix from 32nd to 15th, Dmytro Pidruchnyi from 43rd to 19th, Brendan Green from 46th to 30th, Vladimir Iliev from 50th to 37th even with a fall in the home straight! For the ladies Olga Pudchufarova went from 37th to 14th, Teja Gregorin from 47th to 21st,Olga Abramova from 52nd to 28th, Marte Olsbu 48th to 29th and Natalya Burdyga from 55th to 37th.

The first Mass Starts of the season rounded off the events in Pokljuka. The men were first and Jean Guillaume Beatrix was the only man to shoot 20/20 and won the race by 0.3 of a second from Emil Hegle Svendsen in a sprint finish. It was Jean-Gui’s first ever win on the World Cup and extremely well deserved as he probably would have won this same race last season if he hadn’t been “Shipulined” up the final hill! Bjoerndalen continued his remarkable form coming home third just beating Schempp in a photo finish. Andi Birnbacher (5th), Simon Desthieux (6th) and Dominik Windisch (10th) all got their best results of the season so far.

The women’s race ended the action before the Christmas break and was won in style by Kaisa Makarainen who managed victory even with 1 miss. Gabriela Soukalova shot clear to take second as did Olga Podchufarova who was third giving the Russian women’s team a much needed boost.

So that’s it 3 World Cup rounds down already and we go into the Christmas and New Year break with Martin Fourcade and Gabriela Soukalova in the yellow bibs! Biathlon is back on the 7th of January in Oberhof and I hope you have all asked Santa for some snow this Christmas!

Biathlon23 hopes you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Look out for a special post over the holidays – it’s a cracker!! 🙂

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The ‘Wall’ of Champions!

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Picture the scene dear reader. You have just come out of the final standing shoot in first place. As you leave the stadium you can still hear the shots of your competitors and the roar of the crowd. All that stands between you and victory is one final lap of the track. Out on course you can hear the swish of your rivals skis a little way back. Up ahead there it is. The Wall. The Kontiolahti Wall. One more time up there in the lead and you are back into the stadium and on to the finish line where you will be crowned World Champion.

In reality it’s not as tough as it seems. You have climbed worse in training but at the minute it resembles the 700 feet ice wall from Game of Thrones! Your legs are burning and your lungs are gasping for air. Just one more big push that’s all it will take to claim victory. The only comfort you can take is that you know everyone else is facing the same hill. You are in a world of pain but suddenly it breaks, you’re at the top, you’ve done it, you’re there and into the stadium to take the applause of the crowd. You are a World Champion!

Compelling stuff there eh! Well that’s exactly what’s going to happen to a few lucky biathletes who will go through that soon in the World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland starting on the 3rd of March. Yes it’s time for the preview! Eight new individual champions will be crowned here and 3 teams will come out on top in the Relays, but who will they be?

If we look at the women first there are obviously two favourites, Darya Domracheva and Kaisa Makarainen. Both have enjoyed periods of good form and also bad so far this season but if they are in good shape and shoot well there are few others who can beat them. However if they are off form there are plenty of ladies waiting in the wings to take the medals. Veronika Vitkova is having her best ever season and she has to be one of the favourites to make the podium. Valj Semerenko has been incredibly consistent and if anyone slips up on the range she will be there to capitalise. Tiril Eckhoff is also capable of medalling like she did in Sochi and you can not rule out Gabriela Soukalova even though she is not on top form. Elsewhere the young Germans have had an excellent season and the likes of Preuss and Dahlmeier could do well. The Italians also have the possibility of success with Wierer and Oberhofer enjoying their best ever form. You can never rule out the Russians either so keep an eye out for Glazyrina and Podchufarova. Mari Laukkanen is a potential medal winner too as she tends to perform well in at home in Kontiolahti.

As for the men well we have the usual favourite Martin Fourcade and it’s up to everyone else to beat him. However there are plenty of candidates to do just that. His eternal nemesis of course is Emil Hegle Svendsen who will be looking to win more medals in a sprint finish 1 centimetre victory like he usually does! His teammate Johannes Thingnes Boe will be a big favourite to win medals here too. Kontiolahti is one of his favourite tracks and he won all three races here on the World Cup last season. On this season’s form Anton Shipulin has to be in contention for medals as does Simon Schempp. Then there are the experienced campaigners like Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Simon Eder who can never be ruled out. Other possibles include Dominik Landertinger, Jakon Fak and Ondrej Moravec who are all capable of winning races. It would also be nice to get a few surprises on the podium so lets hope some of the youngsters can get in the mix to like Quentin Fillon Maillet and Benedikt Doll.

The relays are always hard to predict. In the women’s the red hot favourites have to be the Czech Republic but they will face stiff competition from Belarus, Germany, Norway and Italy. For the men Russia are probably the form team but you can never write off Norway. France and Germany will be going for victory too and the Czech Republic also have a chance. In the Mixed Relay the same teams will be fighting it out for gold. There have only been 2 Mixed Relays all season in Oestersund and Nove Mesto. The first was won by France followed by Norway and Germany and in Nove Mesto Norway won in front of The Czech Republic and the Ukraine. It really is anyone’s race and there are many possible winners.

Whoever wins the medals it should be an exciting two weeks in Finland and I just hope we get some close racing and everyone has fun! One thing is for sure there will be some new names to add to the “Wall” of Champions!

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