Tag Archives: Synnøve Solemdal

World Champs 2016: The Relays!

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Friday at the World Championships was Women’s Relay day. It was a fantastic day! What a great race the women put on. It was exciting from start to finish.

The Norwegian team of Synnoeve Solemdal, Fanny Horn Birkeland, Tiril Eckhoff and Marte Olsbu took the gold medal and sent the crowd wild. They also made sure those gold jackets made by the Norwegian Biathlon Team didn’t go to waste! It was such a good performance by the home team and a thoroughly deserved victory. These ladies haven’t had the easiest time over the last few years for various reasons and I was happy to see them pick up the gold.

It was far from simple for them however. In a close race Finland handed over at the first exchange in the the lead thanks to Kaisa Makarainien’s opening leg. At the second exchange Rosanna Crawford handed over in first place for Canada followed closely by many teams. The third leg would prove to be pretty decisive as Tiril Eckhoff shot clean again and handed over a 23 second lead to Olsbu. Unfortunately for Marte she was being chased by Laura Dahlmeier and Marie Dorin Habert!

Oslbu had to use 2 spare rounds in both her shoots and came out of the range for the final time just 5 seconds in front of Dorin Habert who had skied fast and shot clean in the stand to overtake Dahlmeier. In a heroic ski Olsbu held off the Frenchwoman and crossed the line to the acclaim of the crowd and her teammates.

Silver went to the French team of Justine Braisaz, Anais Bescond, Anais Chevalier and Dorin Habert. The German team of Franziska Preuss, Franziska Hildebrand, Maren Hammerschmidt and Laura Dahlmeier took the bronze.

In 4th were Poland, 5th Ukraine, 6th Czech Republic, 7th Italy, 8th Kazakhstan, 9th Slovenia, 10th Sweden, 11th Russia, 12th Austria, 13th USA, 14th Slovakia, 15th Canada, 16th Switzerland, 17th Finland, 18th Belarus, 19th Japan, 20th Bulgaria, 21st Romania, 22nd China, 23rd Korea.

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The Men’s race wasn’t as close as the Women’s but the results were very exciting! Ole Einar Bjoerndalen got his gold medal as part of the Norwegian team alongside Tarjei Boe, Johannes Boe and Emil Hegle Svendsen. Emil also managed to vanquish the Relay from Sochi where he lost the gold medal and King Harald looked pleased with the Relay double.

The silver medal went to Germany with Erik Lesser, Benedikt Doll, Arnd Peiffer and Simon Schempp. The bronze medal went to Canada, that’s right I said Canada! In a quite magnificent display they took third place with Scott and Christian Gow, Nathan Smith and Brendan Green. I can’t overstate how amazing an achievement that is for the Canadian Team and very well deserved.

At the first exchange it looked like Germany were in control with a great leg from Erik Lesser. However Tarjei Boe on the second leg for Norway and his brother Johannes on the third left Svendsen with a comfortable lead of 30 seconds. All he had to do was shoot well and he did to secure gold. The Germans used 5 spares but couldn’t fight the Norwegians on the tracks. Christian Gow and Brendan Green shot clean in legs 1 and 4 and the team only used 5 spares in total.

The French and Russians were never really in the race and the penalty loop for Austria didn’t help their chances. They finished 4th with the Czech Republic in 5th, 6th Russia, 7th Sweden, 8th USA, 9th France, 10th Switzerland, 11th Italy, 12th Slovakia, 13th Bulgaria, 14th Estonia, 15th Belarus, 16th Ukraine, 17th Slovenia, 18th Romania, 19th Finland, 20th Kazakhstan, 21st Poland, 22nd Japan, 23rd Lithuania, 24th Belgium, 25th Latvia.

So the Relays are done and the locals go home happy with 2 gold medals. Tomorrow is the last day of these World Championships 😦 but they end with the Mass Starts 🙂

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WC7: Canmore Review 2016!

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Biathlon has swum across the pond this season to take the World Cup across to North America! The first stop is in Canada and we found ourselves in beautiful Canmore. With stunning views and plenty of snow we got to experience biathlon in a winter wonderland.

The first race to take place here was the Men’s Sprint on Thursday. It was won by Martin Fourcade who shot clean to win the race by a comfortable 15.7 seconds. Anton Shipulin came second also shooting clean and Simon Schempp was third with 10/10 too. In fact there were a lot of zero scores on a great day for doing biathlon. Fourth place went to Austria’s Julian Eberhard who missed 2 shots but is skiing amazingly fast. He finished 45 seconds behind Fourcade but if he ever hits all the targets he will be able to beat him. The Austrian Men’s team are in great form at the moment with Simon Eder and Dominik Landertinger in fifth and sixth. Macx Davies was top Canadian in his home race with clean shooting in 25th place.

The Women’s race on Friday threw up a few surprises in part due to the windy conditions. Olena Pidhrushna won for only the second time in her long career. She shot clean and finished 7.5 seconds ahead of Poland’s Krystyna Guzik. Maybe everyone should retire and then make a comeback! It has certainly done Pidhrushna good. It was also Guzik’s second time finishing in second place which is her top finish so far. In third was Dorothea Wierer with yet another podium. The biggest surprise though came in the form of Latvia’s Baiba Bendika who shot clean and finished in 5th place which is a huge personal best for her. Her previous best was 41st so these are also her first ever World Cup points. Germany’s Karolin Horchler also got a personal best in 9th as did France’s Celia Aymonier in 13th.

Saturday began with the Men’s Mass Start and if you thought it was windy on Friday, Saturday was worse! The start of the race had to be delayed due to the strength of the wind. There was a happy ending through the gale though as Italy’s Dominik Windisch won his first ever race on the World Cup. He missed 4 shots but managed to out ski his competitors on the final loop to taste victory for the first time. Second place went to Benedikt Doll who also missed 4 shots and in third was Quentin Fillon Maillet.

The ladies race was slightly calmer although not for Italian fans as they were very excited to see an Italian double as Dorothea Wierer claimed victory! She missed one shot and finished ahead of her rivals for the overall title. Marie Dorin Habert was second and Gabriela Soukalova third. Gabi has certainly enjoyed her time in Canmore as she had time to cross the line backwards to entertain the fans!

The weather was kinder on Sunday for the Relays. We began with Single Mixed Relay and France put out their World Team Challenge winners Martin Fourcade and Marie Dorin Habert. They won by a comfortable margin of 45 seconds and led the race from start to finish. In fact it would have been more surprising if they hadn’t won. Austria also put out a strong team of Lisa Hauser and Simon Eder their best shooters and it paid off as they finished second. Completing the podium in third were the Norwegian duo of Hilde Fenne and Lars Helge Birkeland proving that you don’t need the A team!!

The final race in Canada was the Mixed Relay and similar to the Single Mixed Relay it was dominated by one team. This time it was the German team of Hildebrand, Preuss, Peiffer and Schempp. They only required 4 spare rounds and won by over a minute. Second place was taken by the Italians who have had a remarkable round in Canmore. Wierer, Oberhofer, Hofer and Windisch even survived a penalty loop to finish ahead of third placed Norway. Olsbu, Solemdal, Os and Bogetveit just beat the American team by 2 seconds. It was a great performance from the US Team who head to their home race next week. Home team Canada also had a great race ending their home World Cup round in sixth place.

It has been a good few days in Canmore with great organisation and facilities. There have also been good supportive crowds and all that was missing really was a home podium. The weather was difficult with the unpredictable wind which biathletes hate but we spectators love and it threw up some different results and winners. We leave Canmore with Martin Fourcade and Gabriela Soukalova still in the yellow bibs and now we move across the border to the USA to Presque Isle in Maine and I am sure they will do a great job just like Canmore did. When are we coming back?!!! 🙂

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Gianluca Marcolini: The Interview!

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Gianluca Marcolini from Frassinoro, Italy is one of the top ski technicians working in biathlon at the moment. Previously he worked in cross country skiing and was ski technician to the likes of Stefania Belmondo and Dario Cologna. In 2013 he switched to biathlon to work with the Russian team in the run up to and during the Sochi Olympics. In 2014 he took up a position with the Norwegian team and he kindly took some time to talk to me about his job.

You can follow Gianluca on Twitter: @marcolinigluca

How did you become a ski technician? Are you just a frustrated athlete or do you prefer the equipment/technical side?

I’ve always been a lover of ski wax and skis as a child, I was an athlete as a young man but always with the passion of a ski technician.

You currently work for Norway. How does an Italian gets a job waxing for the Norwegians?

I work for Norway and I’m proud to work for them. It is the most I can ask, a dream come true. I consider myself privileged to have the honour to work for the number 1 nation in the world.

Have you ever had waxidents (accidents with wax)?

I’ve never had problems with my work, I have always tried to use the maximum precautions.

What advice would you give to someone who would like to be a ski technician?

The advice I could give to a person who wants to start the job of ski/wax tech is just to have a lot of passion and love the job.

What are the best and worst things about being a ski technician?

The best things are when your team wins and I’m able to do my job well. The worst thing for me doesn’t exist if you are supported by a group of wax techs, coaches, staff and athletes with whom you can talk openly, even when you are wrong, to try to find the mistake because that’s the only way you can grow positively.

How much input do biathletes have when choosing wax for skis? Who makes the final decision?

I think it’s important to have a good feeling with the athletes when testing skis both in training and before the race. The final decision for the selection of cross-country skis is taken between the ski technician and the athlete, but many times it takes just the ski tech to choose the skis and the products to be used on the racing skis.

Are you responsible for preparing all the skis or are you assigned to certain biathletes?

I mainly follow three athletes, Johannes Bø, Tarjei Bø and Synnøve Solemdal, but the whole group of ski technicians work together in harmony and help each other.

Describe your typical race weekend? What are your responsibilities, how much time do you spend waxing, tests, etc.?

I do not help on the tracks or shooting range during the race. I think the hours we spend in the ski room are already a lot. There is no timetable to start and finish it’s just when you think you’ve achieved the result you wanted. I sometimes go to help the coaches on track to give supplies to athletes.

Is the world of wax quite secretive? Do you have special formulas that you don’t want other teams to know about?

I try to do my work based on my experience and my professionalism. If I have any product or solution that I feel is good I want only my team using it and I don’t want it to be disclosed to the other teams.

What do you do in summer? Roller skis don’t need wax so what to do until the start of the new season?

In summer I talk with the ski companies, I go to the companies to research and test new skis for next season to try to always have the top skis.

The Italian biathlon team is doing really well right now. Why do you think that is?

I think that the Italian team is working very well both on shooting and on their physical abilities. When the Italians are strong in the race I’m happy, but I’m much happier when the Norwegians win.

Quick fire questions:

Favourite track biathlon: Holmenkollen
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Johannes Bo
Favorite event: (sprint, pursuit, etc.): all of them
Favourite Ski Tech: all of them
Favorite food: Pizza
Favourite singer/band: U2
Favorite Movie: Fast and Furious 6
Favorite team sport: cycling
Favourite TV show: quark

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One ‘Eck hoff a biathlete!

Winner of three Olympic medals at her first attempt and more importantly winner of biathlon 23’s Rising Star award 2013/14 Tiril Eckhoff has had an amazing season. Born on the 21st of May 1990 she represents Fossum IF as well as the Norwegian national team. At 24 she has been on the scene a little while but last season saw her rise to the top of the biathlon ranks and start challenging the main contenders.

She stated her intentions early on in the season by finishing 5th in the Individual in Oestersund. She backed it up with third in the Pursuit in Annecy for her first ever podium on the World Cup and then took 4th in the Pursuit in Antholz to make her one of the ones to watch in Sochi. Her perceived inexperience in the top competitions didn’t hold her back as she came away with 2 bronze and 1 gold medal from Russia.

Her performances in the relays were excellent and backed up by some very talented and experienced teammates she won gold in the Mixed Relay and bronze in the Women’s relay. To prove she wasn’t just carried by the others but was an integral part of the victories, she also bagged herself an individual bronze medal in the Mass Start behind Domracheva and Soukalova.

Her great results didn’t finish there though as on her return to World Cup racing in Pokljuka she took two 5th place positions in the Pursuit and Mass Start when the rest of the Norwegian team seemed to be a bit jaded after the Olympics. She finished 9 times in the TOP 10 and maybe the only small disappointment from the season is that she couldn’t convert her great form into a win.

She has a lot of pressure on her shoulders competing for Norway and will have even more next year after her great results last season. That coupled with the retirements of Tora Berger and Ann Kristin Flatland makes her, along with Synnøve Solemdal, one of the top 2 female biathletes in her country. She will also have a new coach next season. It just happens to be a familiar face as it is her older brother Stian Eckhoff. It seems biathlon is a bit of a family affair in the Eckhoff household as her sister Kaja is also a biathlete.

So under the guidance of big bro next season Tiril will be looking to get that first World Cup win under her belt. I think she will have bigger ambitions than that though. If she continues her consistency from last season and adds some wins she has to be in contention for an individual Crystal globe if not the overall title. She will also be looking to win some more medals in the World Championships in Kontiolahti to keep her Olympic medals company. She won’t have it easy however as the Women’s competition is extremely strong. Whatever happens we already know that Tiril is one ‘eck hoff a biathlete!

Follow Tiril on Twitter: @TirilEckhoff

* to be ‘one heck of something’ means to be really good at something eg. Messi is one heck of a footballer.

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Season Review 2013/14: Women

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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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Going for Gold!Part 2

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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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