Tag Archives: Olga Zaitseva

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!!!

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A season in bib 23! The results!

sochi

Wow from the first, Diana Rasimovicuite, to the last, Serhiy Semenov, the bearers of “the bib” have given me a roller coaster first season in 23! From the highs of 2 wins in 1 day to the lows of the doping scandal “biathlete23” has given me more fun, excitement and disappointment than I could ever have imagined before I started all this back in November.

For those of you unfamiliar with biathlete23 I decided that as a feature on my blog I would follow whichever athlete was wearing bib 23 and record their scores and see how they did. This led to a great new way for me to watch biathlon and to get to know some of the less well known biathletes.

For the first representative to score me some points was pretty great! To most 19th position doesn’t mean a whole lot but for me it was my first 22 points! That was the only point score I got in Oestersund in fact from 4 races. In Hochfilzen I was celebrating my first podium from Irina Starykh but that was wrecked after Christmas with her positive drugs test. Fortunately the lovely Gabriela Soukalova took a 9th place in the Pursuit and Evigeny Garanichev got me 7 points in the Men’s race.

But then came Annecy, the wonderful Annecy! The first two races were Sprints and were won by Selina Gasparin and Johannes Thingnes Boe who were both wearing bib 23!!! Maximum 120 points! To say I was delighted would be the understatement of the year! Two more points finishes from Garanichev and Gregorin took my total to 169 points for the weekend! Finally I was getting some good scores!

In Oberhof 5 out of the 6 biathletes in 23 scored points; Alexander Loginov and Daniel Boehm for the men and Vita Semerenko, Weronika Nowakowska and Krystyna Palka for the women.In Ruhpolding Teja Gregorin and Simon Desthieux grabbed me 43 points from the Pursuits.The last round before the Olympics in Antholz saw 46 points scored by Franziska Preuss and Yan Savitskiy.

The Olympics was fun to watch for bib 23. I didn’t really expect a medal at my first attempt but I got very close when Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle finished 4th in the Women’s Mass Start. However like Starykh before her my joy was short lived as she too tested positive for an illegal substance and was disqualified. My best results were from Yan Savitshiy who finished 20th in the Men’s 20km Individual for the men and Veronika Vitkova who was 6th in the Women’s Individual. My favourite athlete from the Olympics though has to be the awesome Mr. Brendan Green who represented 23 in the Pursuit. He finished 35th but was kind enough to photograph his bib and send it to me and you can see it at the top of this post and on my Facebook and Twitter accounts! Thanks Brendan!

Back to the World Cup and I was keen to get back scoring some big points. Pokljuka didn’t disappoint as 98 points were added to my total from Jana Gerekova, Tim Burke, Tomas Kaukenas, Zina Kocher and Serhiy Semenov. To Kontiolahti next where a strong team of Christoph Sumann, Tiril Eckhoff, Simon Eder, Susan Dunklee, Jean-Guillaume Beatrix and Julia Dzhyma scored an impressive 114 points!

Holmenkollen was our final stop and biggest points haul of the season! I had the great privilege of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen racing in bib 23(by this time I had gotten over the fact that he won Olympic Sprint gold in bib 24 – the traitor!). The rest of the biathletes were overall winner Kaisa Makarainen who I like to think was inspired in her Pursuit performance by number 23 to get to fourth and help her win the big Crystal Globe!!! The others were Dominik Landertinger, Yana Romanova and Serhiy Semenov(he loves bib 23 -always in it!). They scored 119 points to take my grand total up to 754 points for the season, 347 from the men and 407 from the women. These put me in 25th place in the Men’s overall between Daniel Boehm and Tim Burke and 14th in the Women’s between Teja Gregorin and Franziska Hildebrand. Not bad for a debut season in biathlon!

A big thanks to all the biathletes who have been lucky enough to wear bib 23 – you have all been fantastic with some obvious exceptions! You have to take the rough with the smooth though!It has been really enjoyable supporting whoever has been in bib 23 this season. I don’t really have favourites among the biathletes so this way I can support different ones in each race and I have learned about biathletes that I previously knew little of. It’s a great way to find out more about all the biathletes and a really nice way to show support for all of them.I had no idea quite how interesting it would be to follow a bib number throughout the season but I have loved it. I can’t wait for next season to start so I can do it all over again and I hope some of you will join me along the way supporting biathlete23!! I just hope I can beat the Total Score for this season!!! GO BIATHLETE23!

For full results and participants please see my page Biathlete23
.

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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!

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FIN-spirational ladies!

kontio

I always like to see home biathletes do well in their home races. It’s not an easy thing to do as there is more pressure to do well in front of your home crowd and also your friends and family. However both Kaisa Makarainen and Mari Laukkanen managed just that in Thursday’s first Sprint race. Kaisa came home in first and Mari was third with Russia’s Olga Zaitseva separating them in second. Kaisa skied amazingly well as she missed a shot while the others were clear. Elsewhere Magdalena Gwizdon appeared in the TOP 10 where we haven’t seen her for a while finishing ninth and a double Slovak attack saw Paulina Fialkova and Jana Gerekova finish tenth and eleventh.

In the Men’s Sprint Johannes Boe claimed his third win of an extremely impressive debut season on the World Cup although skiing two legs just behind second placed Martin Fourcade surely helped his cause a little. Having said that he shot incredibly fast and clean and seems to like the tracks. One to watch out for in next year’s World Championships in Kontiolahti. In third place was Arnd Peiffer who will be rueing his 1 missed shot as a clear shoot would have seen him win comfortably. His fellow countryman Benedikt Doll looked really good finishing in ninth and Serafin Weistner scored his first World Cup points by coming 29th.

Saturdays Sprints ended up the same as Thursday with Johannes and Kaisa winning again! The rest of the podiums were different though with Alexander Loginov and Lowell Bailey on the men’s side and Tora Berger and Gabriela Soukalova on the women’s. For Loginov and Bailey it was their career best results with Loginov taking significantly less time than Bailey! I was really happy to see Lowell finally get up on the podium and now he has broken his duck I hope we will see him there again soon.

An eleventh place finish from Martin Fourcade was enough to win him the crystal globe for the Sprint. That man must have a huge mantelpiece to fit all his globes on!! Carl Johann Bergman got into the TOP 5 and Lars Helge Birkeland finished in the TOP 10. Another great race from Susan Dunklee saw her finish in eighth and Anna-Karin Stroemstedt came in 19th.

I am getting slightly bored of writing this but on Sunday in the Pursuits Johannes Boe and Kaisa Makarainen won again! To be fair young Johannes tried his best to worry us by missing 4 targets in the final shoot but he had enough time in hand and mistakes from others meant that victory would be his. These two have been far and away the best biathletes in Kontiolahti and thoroughly deserve their massive points haul.

Second was sufficient for Martin Fourcade to take the Overall title for the third year in a row which is quite outstanding. Bjorn Ferry was third and must be wondering why he is retiring at the end of the year. All other biathletes take note-announce you are retiring at the end of next season and you will win lots of races! Look what it did for Bjoerndalen. Now he isn’t retiring his results are getting worse.(Although that could also be a tough season and he is no spring chicken!)

The women’s podium was completed by Darya Domracheva and Olga Zaitseva. Domracheva came from 20th to second but looked too tired to try and outski Kaisa. Other performances of note in the Pursuits came from Anais Chevalier 30th to 8th, Marte Olsbu 43rd to 11th, Magdalena Gwizdon 36th to 12th and Yana Romanova 33rd to 13th. For the men it was Andrejs Rastorgujevs 41st to 6th, Christoph Sumann 45th to 11th, Freddie Lindstrom 29th to 13th, Benedikt Doll 22nd to 7th and Simon Schempp 21st to 9th.

Now we are going to Norway for the last three races of the season 😦 The men’s titles are pretty well wrapped up but the women’s are all to play for. The races in Kontiolahti were great and well attended, a good sign for the World Champs next year and hopefully we will see more home glory there for the FIN-spirational ladies!

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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!

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A RELAY great ending to the Olympics!

ukraine

Well that’s it! It’s over for another 4 years. What a great Games it has been and for Martin Fourcade, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen,Darya Domracheva, Anastasiya Kuzima and Emil Hegle Svendsen they get to say they are Olympic champion for the next 4 years until we get to Pyeongchang 2018!!!

The last races were they relays and we started with the first ever Mixed Relay to be included in the Winter Olympics. Unsurprisingly it was won by Norway and meant that Ole Einar Bjoerndalen became the greatest ever Winter Olympian winning his 13th medal. It was nice to see both him and Tora Berger take gold together in what is their last ever Olympics. Svendsen and Eckhoff also picked up their second medal of the Games. The Czech Republic were second winning their 5th Olympic biathlon medal in Sochi. It meant another silver for Moravec to take his total to three, a second medal for both Soukalova and Soukup and a first for Veronika Vitkova. Taking a well deserved bronze was Italy. Some assured performances from Wierer, Oberhofer and Dominik Windisch meant that Lukas Hofer had a pretty straight forward final leg to clinch the medal.

Next was the Women’s Relay which saw a well deserved and quite poignant, given the problems in their country, gold medal go to Ukraine. The team of Vita and Valj Semerenko, Olena Pidrushna and Julia Dzhyma were fantastic. It just shows you though how small the margins are in biathlon between winning and losing. On the third leg Valj Semerenko hit the last shot with her last spare round. If she had missed the Ukraine wouldn’t even have got a medal. She hit it under tremendous presssure and they went on to clinch gold. Russia came in second with a strong team of Yana Romanova, Olga Zaitseva, Ekaterina Shumilova and Olga Vilukhina. In third were Norway giving Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff their third medals of the Games and a first for Fanny Horn and Ann Kristin Flatland.

The best relay was saved for last however as on the final shoot of the Men’s Relay there were still 4 teams in contention for gold. Russia, Norway, Germany and Austria all came in to the range together. If you were going to put your house on who would hold their nerve between Svendsen, Shipulin, Schempp and Landertinger you would go for Svendsen every time. However he was the one who buckled under the pressure and allowed the other three to fight it out for gold while he went on the penalty loop. In the end Anton Shipulin took gold for the home nation in a fitting end to an amazing Olympic Games for biathlon. Along with Alexey Volkov, Evgeny Ustyukov and Dmitry Malyshko they final gave the great crowds in the Laura stadium what they had been waiting for – a Russian victory. The silver went to the German team of Erik Lesser, Daniel Boehm, Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp. Bronze went to a deserving Austrian team of Cristoph Sumann, Simon Eder, Daniel Mesotitsch and Dominik Landertinger.

That is the Olympic Games in Sochi over as far as biathlon is concerned. It has been fantastic with great racing, great crowds and great biathletes. We only have another 4 years to go until the next one in South Korea but it is a little sad that we are saying goodbye to some fantastic biathetes like Bjoerndalen, Berger, Henkel, Ferry, Bergman, Zaitseva, Mesotitsch and Sumann who have either announced their retirement or are very unlikely to compete in another Olympics. They still have the rest of the season to go and I am just happy we had a RELAY great end to the Olympics!

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Sochi so far: Biathlon Royalty!

sprintsochi

Phew! A rest day for biathlon today and just in time for me to calm down a bit from my ridiculous over excitement and keep you up to date with what’s been happening. We have had 4 races so far – 2 Sprints and 2 Pursuits. Unless you have been on a trip to the moon or deep under the ocean you will have heard by now that the King of Biathlon Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won the Men’s Sprint race on Saturday. His highness claimed his 12th Olympic medal and equalled the record of his fellow countryman Bjorn Daehlie. The Women’s Sprint was won by Queen Kuzmina who successfully defended her Olympic title from Vancouver.

The Prince and Princess of Pursuit were Martin Fourcade and Darya Domracheva who both showed amazing ski speed and backed it up with highly accurate marksmanship to take their first ever gold medals. The other medallists so far have been Dominik Landertinger and Jaroslav Soukup who took silver and bronze in the Sprint. Soukup’s achievement was all the more amazing after recovering from an arm injury that doctor’s thought might mean he would never ski competitively again. Well he showed them!

In the Women’s Sprint silver and bronze went to Olga Vilukhina, who pleased the home crowd, and Vita Semerenko. The other Pursuit medals went to Ondrej Moravec and Jean Guilliame Beatrix and for the women Tora Berger and Teja Gregorin who won Slovenia’s first ever medal in Olympic biathlon.

The Czech Republic are having a great games so far with 2 medals for the men in 2 races and are looking very good to win more in the relays. Gabriela Soukalova looks back on form in the Pursuit coming from 29th to finish 4th. France have also done well again with 2 medals from 2 races and a very good Pursuit performance from young Simon Destheiux who went from 46th to 21st. They will be difficult to beat in the Men’s Relay.

On the other hand Norway’s Crown Princes, Svendsen and the Boe brothers, have been a little bit off the pace. They haven’t raced competitively since Ruhpolding but will no doubt come in to form for the latter races. The German team haven’t performed very well either with the exception of Schempp but will still be in with a chance especially in the relays.

The Olympics can bring out the best in people. Even thought they might not win a medal for it some of the biathletes have been performing really well. JP Le Guellec finished 5th in the Sprint an improvement on 6th place in Vancouver and he was leading the Pursuit race up until his unfortunate fall on that treacherous corner. Tobias Arwidson of Sweden outperformed his much more experienced countrymen Ferry and Bergman by being one of only two men to shoot clear in the Pursuit – the other being silver medallist Moravec. You also have to feel for Anton Shipulin who came so close to a medal in the Sprint at his home games. Hopefully he will get something from the remaining races.

For the women Karin Oberhofer and Dorothea Weirer of Italy did exceptionally well in the Sprint finishing 4th and 6th. Anais Bescond had a great race finishing in 5th and Switzerland’s Elisa Gasparin finished 8th beating her big sister Selina. In the Pursuit Ann Kristin Flatland made up a lot of places finishing 9th from a start bib of 24 and Olga Zaitseva showed some encouraging form coming from 28th to finish 11th. Sunsan Dunklee has also been breaking all kinds of US records finishing 14th in the Sprint and 18th in the Pursuit.

Tomorrow is the Men’s Individual and then it’s the Women’s turn on Friday. I am not even going to try and predict any medallists as it’s a difficult one to call with the 1 minute penalty per missed target. The gold medals in Sochi so far have been dominated by biathlon’s royalty but can anyone beat them in the next races? You will just have to watch and see!

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Going for Gold!Part 2

women olympics

The heat is on, the time is right,
It’s time for you for you to play your game,
’cause, people are coming, everyone’s trying,
trying to be the best that they can,
when they’re going for going for gold!

The heat is definitely on! With only 3 days until the women’s opening race on Sunday in Sochi there is just time for a final preview of the female biathletes. They kick off just like the men with the Sprint event followed by the Pursuit, the 15km Individual, the Mass Start, the Mixed Relay and finally the Women’s Relay on the 21st of February.

This is probably one of the most open Olympic Games for a while on the women’s side.There are some favourites of course but no one athlete has really dominated the World Cup so far like Tora Berger did last season. Of course Tora is still one of the favourites to win gold but her problems in the standing shoot have left the door open for the other biathletes. Particularly impressive so far this season is Gabriela Soukalova. She has won 3 races and is the leader of the overall World Cup. Her wins in the Individual races mean she is likely to medal in that event in Sochi but she could be on the podium in more than one race.

The run of races after Christmas showed that Darya Domracheva is also back on top form after a quiet start to the season. Germany(Oberhof and Ruhpolding) in particular was a strong period for her and she has a great chance of winning a few medals in Sochi. Kaisa Makarainen had exactly the same run of form as Domracheva and could also feature on the podium. Her skiing is excellent but her shooting might mean that she can’t quite reach the top step.

These four will be contending for medals in all the races but they are not the only ones. Selina Gasparin has come into her own this season and with 2 Sprint victories she can’t be discounted to do the same in the Olympic Sprint.The Semerenko twins are always there either on or around the podium. Valj seems in better form than Vita but the Olympics could change that. Olga Zaitseva will be under extreme pressure to deliver in her home Olympics and her form has been patchy up to now and so it will be difficult for her in Sochi. I think she will be able to rise to the occasion and handle the pressure with her vast experience. Another veteran in with a shout is Andrea Henkel. She thrives in the big competitions and I wouldn’t be surprised if she follows up her silver in last years World Championships with another medal in Sochi.

On the other hand there is a lot of good young talent emerging this year. Germany have a strong young team and it’s possible that Laura Dalmeier could spring a shock and take a medal(she also shares her name with the stadium – a good omen?).Anais Bescond is coming off the back of a first win in Antholz and will be full of confidence. Tiril Eckhoff is currently having the best season of her life and she too could challenge at the sharp end. My only concern for these girls is lack of experience in the really important competitions and the huge pressure they will need to cope with.

There is also Veronika Vitkova, Marie-Laure Brunet, Synoevve Solemdal, Anastasiya Kuzmina and Olena Pidhrushna who have the capabilites of winning medals. The women’s side is really tough to call at this Olympics. The relay is exactly the same. Russia, Norway, Ukraine and Germany are the ones most likely to be fighting for the top three spots but any penalty loops could destroy their chances and leave the door open for teams like France, Belarus and also Canada if they can better their amazing performance in Annecy.

In the mixed relay the same teams will be involved at the front. I would also throw in The Czech Republic, who won the only mixed relay of this season in Ostersund, and Italy to pick up any places lost by any bad performances from the top teams. All in all the women’s races are going to be very exciting and pretty unpredictable. It would nice to see some of the Russians on the podium in their home Games but whoever takes the medals will do so in one of the most difficult and competitive years and so will fully deserve their victories when they are going for gold!

Good luck ladies! Especially those lucky enough to wear bib 23!!!

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There’s no Ru-hpolding back now!

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World Cup 5 is finished already! Where did the time go? We only have one more WC round before the Olympics start in February! Ruhpolding as usual did not disappoint. Huge crowds, decent conditions and some exceptional performances by the competitors saw to that! It started on Wednesday with the Women’s Relay followed by the Men on Thursday,then we had the Individuals and finally the Pursuits.

The Women’s Relay was great entertainment. It was won by a strong Russian Team, Germany took second and Norway third. The result tells you nothing about the race though. Franziska Preuss had a disaster in the first leg which ended with a penalty loop but her teammates Sachenbacher, Dahlmeier and Hildebrand were all amazing to pull Germany up to second. Tiril Eckhoff had a similar meltdown on the first leg and again her team of Flatland, Solemdal and Berger pulled off a brilliant third place. However you can’t beat a Russian team of Glazyrina, Zaitseva, Starykh and Vilukhina who are shooting so well by going on the penalty loop and they got a well deserved victory.

The same type of things actually happened in the Men’s Relay the next day. Johannes Boe has more than likely shot himself out of a starting place in the Olympic Relay team by missing 6 shots out of 8 in the first prone shoot and leaving his team with an impossible task. They did however finish a respectable 9th with Tarjei Boe, Christiansen and Svendsen having great races individually. The winners after five long years of waiting were the Austrian team of Sumann, Mesotitsch, Eder and Landertinger. A thrilling final lap saw Landi just pip Germany and Simon Schempp into second and Russia finished a solid third. Elsewhere Slovenia met their qualification for Sochi finishing 7th, Italy again did well in 6th and Sweden laid down their medal winning credentials finishing 4th with some great shooting performances.

Onto the Women’s Individual and Pursuit which were both won by the on form Gabriela Soukalova who must be a strong favourite for the Olympic titles. Second went to Darya Domracheva continuing her great form from Oberhof and Veronika Vitkova finished an impressive third. The stand out performances though came from Andorra’s Laure Soulie who took her best ever result of ninth, Germany’s Franziska Hildebrand in fourth her highest place finish and Japan’s Fuyuko Suzuki who claimed 13th also a career best. Second and third in the Pursuit went to Berger and Makarainen who are both getting better and better especially in terms of their skiing right in time to go to Sochi. Other impressive movers in the Pursuit were Preuss 16th to 4th,Eckhoff 25th to 7th,Brunet 21st to 10th and Bescond 29th to 11th!

Over on the Men’s side a certain Mr. Svendsen comfortably won both races before he goes home and continues his Olympic training. Shame he won’t be in Anholtz but Fourcade and Bjoerndalen will be there. Russian’s Volkov and Ustykov took second and third in the Individual and are making it hard from them not to be selected for Sochi. Jakov Fak returned to form after injury and illness finishing 4th and Simon Fourcade seems to be back on track finishing 7th. Tobias Arwidson achieved a career high 17th place and Johannes Boe bounced back from the relay by finishing 8th. In the Pursuit Fak took second and Garanichev not wanting to be overshadowed by his Russian teammates was third. Tarjei Boe did yet another amazing race taking 6th from a start bib of 37! Other big moves came from Eder 16th to 4th and Sumann 27th to 8th continuing their good form from the relay.

So after 2 fun weekends in Germany the World Cup circus heads to Anhotlz-Anterselva. It’s the last World Cup round before the Olympics and it’s where the final teams will be decided to get on the plane to Sochi. For many biathletes it’s their last chance to impress the selectors so there’s no Ru-pholding back now! Go for it everyone and good luck!

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The Swede Smell of Success!

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Well that’s Oestersund over for another year. A disrupted calendar due to high winds but pretty interesting all the same. It began what feels like about 10 years ago with the mixed relay. The Czech Republic won with a very solid performance from all 4 athletes and with a little help from Martin Fourcade who proved he is in fact human and not just a lean, mean, biathlon machine.

He soon put all that behind him though by winning the Individual by over 2 minutes with an “in your face doubters” kind of display. What’s most remarkable about this guy is that after a disaster in the relay and 4 days to sit and dwell on it he comes out and shoots clear. His mental strength is unbelievable and you can’t help but be impressed by the way he handled the situation. We know his physical ability but to have that mental toughness is why he will be so hard to beat this season. Many people would have crumbled after the relay but he comes out even stronger and wins the Sprint too just for good measure. Four-midable!

On the women’s side Tora Berger didn’t get off to a great start either. She also had a bit of a shocker in the relay. Like Fourcade she worked her way back on to the podium finishing 3rd in the Sprint.Elsewhere Gabriela Soukalova started where she finished last season with an impressive performance in the Individual and Ann Kristin Flatland had a great race to win the Sprint. It was great to see Marie-Laure Brunet get the podium that her amazing shooting deserves and Olga Zaitseva making it in there too after a rocky start for Team Russia. Slovakia also earned a podium through Kuzmina.

Special mentions have to go to the French men’s team especially Jean-Guillame Beatrix for his 4th place in the Sprint and Baptiste Jouty for an amazing 13th place in the same race.In fact the French men had 5 finishers in the TOP 40. Also to Fredrik Lindstrom for restoring some home pride in a tough meet for the Swedes. What might have been if he hadn’t fallen we will never know but I like to think he would have won. Tim Burke also hit some early season form in the Sprint and his fellow North American JP Le Guellec proved that he must really like Oestersund by getting a 4th place in the Individual to follow his Sprint win last year. The Austrian men also performed very well in the Individual with Eder in second, and Mesotitsch in third after competing in Idre in the IBU Cup.

The Italians also had some great results from both the men and women. Oberhofer and Weirer both finished in the TOP 10 -a first for Italy and Hofer and De Lorenzi repeated the feat for the men. Kadri Lehtla was the only woman to shoot clear in the Individual and earned her a career best 15th place. Andorra’s Laurie Soulie was also having the race of her life in that event right up until the final shoot.If she hadn’t missed 3 targets she could have made the TOP 5.

On the other hand it was a bit of a disappointing weekend for the big guns from Norway and Russia especially on the men’s side with no podiums for either team.If you are a fan of theirs though you shouldn’t worry too much. I think they both have a master plan that involves peaking in time for the Olympics and if last season’s World Championships are anything to go by the Norwegians at least will be bang on form for Sochi.

It was unfortunate that both the Pursuits were cancelled. It seems my powers of weather forecasting are brilliant as I did predict a hurricane in my last post! Not to worry though the fun starts again in Hochfilzen on Friday. Fourcade, Soukalova, Flatland and the Czech relay team leave Oestersund with the Swede smell of success but can they repeat it in Austria? You’ll have to wait and see!

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