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World Cup 2016/17: Men’s Review!

Well my season preview for the men started like this:

“Martin Fourcade is the red hot favourite. If he stays fit and healthy all season he will win the Overall Title for the 6th year in a row.”

My season review starts like this:

“Unsurprisingly I was right!”

Yes Monsieur Fourcade has done it again! He won his sixth Overall Title this season and he clinched it in Korea at World Cup 7. In an extraordinary season for Martin he won 14 races out of 26, finished on the podium 22 times and won all the small crystal globes in the Sprint, Pursuit, Individual and Mass Start. I ran out of words to describe his achievements a long time ago but what he has done this season is absolutely incredible and may never be repeated – unless he does it again next season! 😉

Fourcade ended the Total Score with 1322 points ahead of Anton Shipulin in second with 918 points and Johannes Boe in third with 812.

Rookie of the year went to Sweden’s Sebastian Samuelsson who was 43rd in the Total Score with 169 points in his first full World Cup season aged 19.

The season started way back in Oestersund at the end of November. The first race was the Individual and Martin Fourcade won that. (Just a word of warning this will be something of a theme throughout the review!) Second went to Johannes Boe and a surprise third to Vladimir Chepelin. The Sprint was next and another win for Fourcade with home favourite Freddie Lindstroem taking second and Arnd Peiffer third. Lastly was the Pursuit which Fourcade DIDN’T win! It went to Anton Babikov and was his first World Cup victory. Maxim Tsvetkov was second and Fourcade was third.

Next we went to Pokljuka where Martin Fourcade won the Sprint with Johannes Boe second and Anton Shipulin third. The Pursuit also went to Fourcade with Emil Hegle Svendsen second with his first podium in a while and Shipulin was again third.

Nove Mesto was next and guess what Martin Fourcade won the Sprint. Shipulin was second and Svendsen third this time. Fourcade also won the Pursuit with Shipulin staying in second and Quentin Fillon Maillet moving from 16th to 3rd. We had the first Mass Start of the season here which was also won by Fourcade. Simon Schempp got his first podium of the season in second and Anton Babikov was third.

After Christmas we headed to Germany and Oberhof. Here was when Martin Fourcade failed to get on the podium for the first time finishing 8th in the Sprint. He did have bib 23 so I think maybe he doesn’t like me! 😉 Julian Eberhard won the race with Michal Slesingr in second and Dominik Windisch third. It was so nice to have some different biathletes on the podium for a change. The Pursuit of course went to Fourcade and Arnd Peiffer went from 15th to second with Windisch staying in third. The final race was another Mass Start this time won by Simon Schempp with teammate Erik Lesser in second and Fourcade third.

We stayed in Germany with round 5 in Ruhpolding. Fourcade took yet another Sprint victory and he was joined on the podium by Eberhard in second and Svendsen in third. The Pursuit also went to Fourcade with Svendsen in second and Michal Krcmar getting his first ever podium finish in third.

By now it was pretty obvious who would win the Overall Title but apparently you still have to hold the rest of the races so we went to Antholz! This time Fourcade didn’t win a race! What a shock! Anton Shipulin who always does well here won the Individual with Fourcade in second and Serghiy Semenov third with his first podium of the season. We also had a Mass Start which Johannes Boe won giving him his first win of the season. Quentin Fillon Maillet was second and Anton Shipulin third.

In February came the World Championships in Hochfilzen. Really we would have expected Fourcade to dominate this but he didn’t. The Sprint race went to Benedikt Doll by just 0.7 seconds in front of Johannes Boe and Fourcade was third. He did win the Pursuit race with Boe taking another silver and the legend that is Ole Einar Bjoerndalen winning yet another medal taking the bronze. The Individual went to an amazing performance from Lowell Bailey who took gold in front of Ondrej Moravec in silver and Fourcade took another bronze. The Mass Start was won by Simon Schempp with Johannes Boe in silver again and Simon Eder taking bronze for the home nation.

I know Fourcade came away with a gold and 2 bronze medals from the individual races but considering how many races he has won on the World Cu we were expecting better. Especially if you compare him to Laura Dahlmeier who got 3 golds and a silver. He says he just wanted to win one gold at the event which he did but I think he may have left a little disappointed.

Next we moved to PyeongChang and to the Olympic track. Here Julian Eberhard took his second win of the season in the Sprint race with Lowell Bailey in second continuing his good form. Fourcade was third which meant that he clinched the Overall Crystal globe for the 6th time. To celebrate he went on to win the Pursuit race with Anton Shipulin coming from 23rd to second and Julian Eberhard holding on for third.

Kontiolahti replaced Tyumen for round 8. A new venue but the same winner. Martin Fourcade won the Sprint by 0.6 seconds from Ondrej Moravec in second. It was Fourcade’s 13th victory breaking the record in the men’s field for most races won in a season. Emil Hegle Svendsen came third. The Pursuit race went to Arnd Peiffer with Simon Eder in second and Svendsen taking third again.

The final round of the World Cup was in Holmenkollen, Oslo. The Sprint was won by home favourite Johannes Boe with Martin Fourcade second and Anton Shipulin third. The pursuit went to Shipulin with Fourcade second and Johannes Boe third. The final race of the season was of course won by Martin Fourcadejust like the first one! Andrejs Rastorgujevs was second getting his first podium finish on the World Cup and Simon Eder was third.

With the individual races not being very competitive as we might like the Relays provided some different results. They were won by France, Norway, Germany and France again on the World Cup and by Russia at the World Championships.

The Single Mixed Relays went to France in Oestersund with a team of Fourcade and Dorin Habert, and to Austria in Kontiolahti with Simon Eder and Lisa Hauser.


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Kontiolahti 2017: The Mixed Relays!

The final races in Kontiolahti were the Single Mixed and the Mixed Relay. Martin Fourcade decided to have a day off and would not compete in either race. To be fair he deserves a bit of a rest!

The Single Mixed Relay contained some strong teams and the team with the top shooters would prove to be the best. It was Italy who took the lead after the first leg with Lisa Vittozzi on great form using just 1 spare. However Lukas Hofer went on the penalty loop 3 times on the prone leaving them no chance. He was great yesterday finishing 6th in the Pursuit and terrible today! He also did a similar thing in PyeongChang. He is possibly the most inconsistent biathlete ever!

That left the USA and Austria in contention for victory with some great shooting from Lisa Hauser, Simon Eder, Susan Dunklee and Lowell Bailey. Dunklee actually had a fall on the downhill but didn’t injury herself or her equipment.

Germany were also in the mix with Laura Dahlmeier and Roman Rees as were France with Anais Chevalier and Jean-Guillaume Beatrix.

In the end it was Eder’s fast and accurate shooting on the last leg that won it for Austria. He hit 10/10 in lightning speed to win by 32 second in the end. The race for second and third came down to a sprint finish with Roman Rees leaving the range in second after a clean shoot in his final stand. Lowell Bailey needed 1 spare and was just behind the German. Bailey stayed behind until the last few metres when he managed to get his ski ahead and take the second place for the USA. Germany were third and France finished 4th. The two top teams both needed just 5 spares with Germany using 6 and France 8.

The Mixed Relay was later in the evening. France got a great start with Marie Dorin Habert taking the first leg. She used 1 spare but handed over in the lead. She was 4 seconds in front of Iryna Varvynets of the Ukraine and 7 seconds ahead of Italy’s Dorothea Wierer. Japan were in 4th with Fuyuko Tachizaki and Austria 5th with Dunja Zdouc. Norway went on the penalty loop twice with Marte Olsbu.

France also controlled the second leg. Germany moved into second with another fantastic relay leg from Maren Hammerschmidt. She needed 2 spares to hand over in front of Slovakia in third after two great legs from Paulina and Ivona Fialkova. The Ukraine were in 4th with Olga Abramova and Russia in 5th with Irina Starykh. After the first prone the USA with Joanne Reid were up to 3rd but after her stand they dropped back to 9th.

The men took over in the third leg. Simon Desthieux for France needed 4 spares and finished with a lead of 25 seconds. He was chased by Benedikt Doll who needed 3 spares. Sergiy Semenov for Ukraine moved into third but Matvey Eliseev for Russia and Tomas Hasilla for Slovakia had bad standing shoots to allow Michal Slesingr to move the Czech Republic up to 4th.

Quentin Fillon Maillet took the final leg for France and he was followed by Arnd Peiffer for Germany, Dmytro Pidruchnyi for the Ukriane, Michal Krcmar for the Czechs and Evgeniy Garanichev for Russia. The top 3 teams all needed 1 spare on the prone. Russia shot clean but the Czech Republic went on the penalty loop.

It all came down to the final standing shoot. Just the way we like it to! France and Germany both missed two shots and Fillon Maillet had some trouble loading his spare rounds. He did really well to keep cool and hit the remaining targets to give France the win. Germany were second. Ukraine needed 1 spare but Russia just avoided going on the penalty loop with the last spare round. Ukraine were third showing they are a great relay team. Russia were 4th ahead of Norway who came back to finish in 5th.

Well that concludes some great racing from Kontiolahti and we only have 1 more World Cup left before the end of the season in Holmenkollen! NO say it’s not true!!! 😦

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Hochfilzen 2017: The Men’s Relay!

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It was back to sunshine for the Men’s Relay at the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen. We had a field of 26 starting the race and it was another great one.

The first leg went very well for all the top teams. Erik Lesser had a great leg shooting 10/10 and handing over in the lead. He was followed by Jean Guillaume Beatrix who also hit 10/10. Lowell Bailey continued his good form with just 1 spare needed, Bjoerndalen needed 2 spares as did Hofer and Volkov. Pyrma and Mesotitsch used 1 each so it was all pretty close at the first exchange. Andrejs Rastorgujevs went out very fast on the first leg for Latvia and was leading up until the standing when he ended up on the penalty loop!

Benedikt Doll took over for Germany and although he used 1 spare on the prone he used 3 on the stand and risked a penalty loop. Quentin Fillon Maillet had a much better leg than in the Mixed Relay and used only 1 spare. Maxim Tsvetkov, Dominik Windisch and Sergey Semenov were all brilliant shooing 10/10. Emil Svendsen used 1 spare as did Leif Nordgren but Julian Eberhard needed 4. All of that left France just in the lead in front of the chasing pack.

The third leg is usually where things can be decided. Anton Babikov didn’t put a foot wrong shooting 10/10 and put Russia firmly in control of the race. Behind him Simon Eder, Arnd Peiffer, Simon Desthieux and Vladimir Semakov all needed to use 3 spares. Tarjei Boe ended Norway’s chances by going on the penalty loop on his standing shoot. Italy’s Guiseppe Montello had a fine leg using just 1 spare.

That left us with the final leg to go and Anton Shupulin in the lead. He was chased by Martin Fourcade and after him came Dominik Landertinger and Simon Schempp. Italy and Ukraine were left fighting for the minor placings with Thomas Bormolini and Dmytro Pidruchnyi racing for 5th and 6th.

Shipulin was comfortable on the prone hitting all 5 to maintain his lead. Fourcade also hit them all but Landertinger and Schempp both needed 1 spare. So that left one fight for gold and silver and another for bronze. Shipulin missed a target in the stand but hit quickly with his spare to keep a gap over Fourcade who again shot clean. Landertinger needed a spare but Schempp didn’t and they were together leaving the range.

Shipulin went out hard and Fourade couldn’t catch him giving Russia their first gold of these Championships. France took silver but there was a great fight for bronze.

It looked like Schemmp was going to sit in behind Landertinger and use his sprint finish to beat him. Landi had other ideas and when they got to the final climb he threw everything at it going up like a rocket. He managed to break Schempp and held the gap all the way to the line and gave Austria their first medal at their home World Championships. It was great and the hosts deserved a medal for putting on a great show here in Hochfilzen. Plus Germany have got loads of medals already -it’s time to share!

Fourth place went to Germany, Italy were amazing to get 5th, Ukraine were 6th, the USA were excellent in 7th inspired by Lowell Bailey, Norway were 8th, Bulgaria took 9th and the Czech Republic 10th.

11th Sweden
12th Slovakia
13th Canada
14th Kazakhstan
15th Japan
16th Switzerland
17th Romania
18th Slovenia
19th Belarus
20th Finland
21st Estonia
22nd Latvia
23rd Korea
24th Poland
25th Lithuania
26th Great Britain

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Hochfilzen 2017: The Men’s Individual!

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What can I say about the Men’s Individual in Hochfilzen! What a fantastic race and an even better result! Another fine day at the World Championships and history was made!

Lowell Bailey won the Men’s Individual! He became the first ever American to win a biathlon World title. In fact biathlon is the only winter sport that America has never won a World Title in. Not anymore! Thanks to outstanding shooting from Bailey he will go down in the history books and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. He has been unlucky this week finishing 4th in the Sprint and 6th in the Pursuit but finally in the Individual no one could beat him. It’s his first ever win having a previous best of second.

He managed to out ski Ondrej Moravec, who took the silver, by 3.3 seconds. Moravec also shot 20/20 but had started earlier than Bailey. In fact Bailey was bib 100 and so kept us hanging on right until the end.

Bronze went to Martin Fourcade who couldn’t make it 4 Individual World Titles in a row. He missed 2 shots but still did really well to finish in third place. He has a medal in every race so far.

Fourth went to Erik Lesser with 1 miss, 5th to Sergey Semenov also with 1 miss. In 6th place was Michal Krcmar who shot 20/20, 7th went to Anton Shipulin with 2 misses and in 8th was Johannes Boe also with 2 misses. In 9th was another Norwegian Lars Birkeland with a single miss and 10th went to Benjamin Weger also with 19/20.

Home team Austria finished with Eder in 12th, Eberhard in 14th and Mesotitsch in 15th. They will be desperate to do well in the Relay and the Mass Start to win Austria a medal.

Emil Svendsen was back in action after collapsing at the end of the Sprint race and he finished 27th. Further back Great Britain’s Scott Dixon grabbed a personal best in 69th with 2 missed targets.

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Hochfilzen 2017: The Pursuits!

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Now I warned you not to the miss the Pursuit races, didn’t I! That turned out to be good advice! We were treated to two races at the World Championships in Hochfilzen today and they were both great.

First we had the Women’s Pursuit in the morning and we had drama from the first shoot. Dahlmeier and Koukalova settled down on the mats together but Gabi had some trouble with her rifle and took a long time to fire her shots. It looked like the shells were not ejecting properly and so this affected her focus and in the end she missed 2 targets and it looked like her medal chances were over.

Dahlmeier also missed a target but still managed to complete her penalty loop to stay in the lead and that’s where she remained for the whole race not missing another shot. It means from three races she has 2 gold medals and 1 silver!

Sneaking up from 27th was Darya Domracheva. After having her first child in October and returning to action in January she has had some trouble with her standing shooting. Not today however! She hit 20/20 to win the silver medal and did what is known in biathlon as a ‘Dorin Habert’!

Third place unbelievably went to Koukalova! After her terrible first shoot she also missed another at the first standing but came back to claim bronze. She was helped a bit by the others missing especially Makarainen who was in with a medal chance until she missed on the final shoot.

Russia’s Irina Starykh, back from her drugs ban, was 4th hitting 20/20, Justine Braisaz was 5th from 28th, Marie Dorin Habert took 6th, Makarainen was 7th, Anastasiya Merkushyna hit another 20/20 in 8th, Celia Aymonier was 9th and Dorothea Wierer came from 21st to finish 10th.

Other good performances came from Pualina Fialkova who went from 31st to 13th, Alexia Runggaldier from 43rd to 15th hitting 20/20 and Baiba Bendika hit another perfect score coming from 50th to finish 27th.

The men’s race started in the afternoon and saw Martin Fourcade win his first race here at the World Championships. He missed just 1 target and controlled the race to win by 22 seconds. Johannes Boe held on to his second place despite missing 3 targets, but skiing incredibly well, giving him 2 silver medals.

Third place went to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen! Starting from 8th and no doubt inspired by his wife’s fantastic performance in the women’s race he missed just 1 target to win the bronze medal. He is incredible! I have run out of words for that man! That is his 45th World Championship medal! Let’s just say that there will be a party at the Bjoerndalen’s tonight!

Anton Shipulin had a very good race coming from 21st to finish 4th, Ondrej Moravec kept his 5th place position from the Sprint, Lowell Bailey was 6th ahead of Krasimir Anev in 7th. Completing the Top 10 were Julian Eberhard in 8th, Tarjei Boe in 9th and Simon Schempp in 10th.

Sergey Semenov did really well starting 41st and finishing 15th, Quentin Fillon Maillet went from 43rd to 22nd and Martin Otcenas from 47th to 24th.

Well we now have 2 days off to recover before the next race on Wednesday which is the Women’s Individual followed by the Men’s on Thursday. Will Dahlmeier get another medal? Can anyone beat Martin Fourcade in that event? There is lots to look forward too!

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Antholz 2017: The Individuals!

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It’s World Cup round 6 ( I know, already!) and we find ourselves in the beautiful surroundings of Antholz-Anterselva. On Thursday the women were racing yet again! They have had a particularly tough schedule since coming back after the Christmas break and I am sure competing at altitude is not helping with tiredness.

This is possibly one of the reasons for the bad shooting in the Individual but the main reason was the strong gusty wind conditions. In fact you could say the conditions on the shooting range were Krapfen!! 😉 ( a fried doughnut of South Tyrol). With some biathletes missing 10 shots out of 20 it was mainly in the shooting range that this race was decided.

That meant of course that Laura Dahlmeier won the race but ironically she wasn’t the best shot on the day however her superior skiing helped her claim the victory. It also meant that she took back the lead in the overall and will wear the yellow bib in the mass start.

Not a single women shot 20/20 but the closest to that with 19/20 were Anais Chevalier who was second and Italy’s Alexia Runggaldier who was third. It was Runggaldier’s best ever result on the World Cup and getting your first ever World Cup podium at home is really special and made a great start to the World Cup for the Italians.

There were only another two women who missed just one target, Olga Poltoranina of Kazakhstan and Canada’s Emma Lunder whose 21st place was her personal best result. Among the others Gabriela Koukalova missed 6 targets as did Domracheva and Wierer and Selina Gasparin missed 10.

The men’s race was on Friday was of course was won by Anton Shipulin or as I have called him for years Ant-holz Shipulin because of his love of this place. He always races well in Antholz and is obviously very comfortable with the altitude. Not even Martin Fourcade could stop him winning here. Well actually he could have if he hadn’t missed 2 targets to Shipulin’s one miss but that 1 target was the difference as Anton won by 41 seconds.

Third place went to Sergey Semenov who is fantastic in the Individual. He missed just one target on the final standing shoot and was only 56 seconds from the lead time. If he had hit 20/20 the race would have been his.

In fact there was only one man who did shoot clean and that was Lenart Oblak from Slovenia who was 35th with a career best result. Another personal best went to Lorenz Waeger of Austria who was 20th with 2 misses. I am not sure what they are feeding the Canadians (probably some sort of maple based syrup) but they got another personal best this time from Scott Gow in 17th.

Ole Einar had another good race coming 4th, Lowell Bailey continued his good form in 10th and his teammate American new comer Paul Schommer came 33rd in his first World Cup race!

So now we move on to a weird programme of the Women’s Mass Start and the Men’s Relay tomorrow! Not the normal schedule but it should be a good day of racing!

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Season 2016/17 Preview: Men

Oestersund, Pokljuka, Nove Mesto, Oberhof, Ruhpolding, Antholz, PyeongChang, Tyumen and Olso! Are you ready? It’s almost time for the new biathlon season to begin! That means it must be time for a season preview too so here it is!

Looking back over previous previews they all read more or less like this. Martin Fourcade is the red hot favourite. If he stays fit and healthy all season he will win the Overall Title for the 6th year in a row. Potential challengers are Johannes Thingnes Boe, Tarjei Boe, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Simon Schempp and Anton Shipulin. They are all capable of beating Fourcade in a single race but don’t seem to have the consistency over a whole season to win the big Crystal globe.

Preview finished!

Only joking! As the top places are nearly always the same for the men I decided that this year’s preview should move away from the elite and see what’s happening a little bit behind them. Who are the up and coming biathletes to look out for? Who could get their first win or first podium? Who should be doing better? That’s what I am going to look at before season 2016/17 gets under way.

It’s sometimes hard to believe but there are some well established biathletes who have yet to win a race on the World Cup. The most famous is probably Simon Fourcade. He has achieved many podium results but never higher than second. Surely this season he will get to the top step. Fellow Frenchman Quentin Fillon Maillet has also come within a toenail of winning but again second place is his best result. Germany’s Benedikt Doll will be hoping to grab his first win. Tim Burke is another who will want to come first instead of second place as will Sergey Semenov and Benjamin Weger.

Expect a strong season from the Austrian team. Simon Eder was 5th last season in the overall title and Dominik Landertinger was 9th. With Julian Eberhard getting his first win and Sven Grossegger achieving a personal best of 5th they will be a dangerous squad this year.

Hoping to get their first taste of the podium are Andrejs Rastorgujevs who has a few 4th positions to his name already. Klemen Bauer also has a personal best of fourth as does Simon Desthieux and Krasimir Anev.

Scoring points on a more consistent basis will be the goal for biathletes like Mario Dolder, Leif Nordgren, Macx Davies, Kalev Ermits and Martin Otcenas.

Make sure you look out for some of the younger biathletes this season who will be trying their best to impress their coaches and the fans. Watch out for Sean Doherty to continue his rise to the top. The likes of Rene Zahkna, Rok Trsan and Fabien Claude will be pushing hard to do well. Keep an eye out too for Sebastian Samuelsson who has been picked for the Swedish team to make his debut in Oestersund and Felix Leitner who will start his first World Cup race for Austria.

On the other hand it’s about time Freddie Lindstrom had a better season. We haven’t seen him on the podium since 2013. Lukas Hofer didn’t have a great season individually either and it would be good to see him back on form. Jakov Fak will be hoping to improve as will Ondrej Moravec.

There are many more biathletes to watch out for but too many to mention here. The Germans are always dangerous with Peiffer and Lesser showing some good form in patches last time.

Last but not least expect new dad Ole Einar Bjoerndalen to pop up with a few podium finishes and don’t be surprised if he adds more World Championships medals to his vast collection in Hochfilzen. That’s if he can cope with the sleepless nights of course!

Hopefully it will a great season with some more first time winners and some great races. The title race might not be close but we can look forward to some great battles in individual races. Bring it on boys!!!

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