Tag Archives: Tora Berger

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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Antholtz: Ital never be forgotten!

antholz

Wow what a World Cup round we had in Antholz-Anterselva! Round six on the tour did not disappoint and we saw 3 new winners and a host of other biathletes recording their best ever results. Not a bad time to do it seeing as the Olympics are coming up and some places in the teams are still up for grabs.

This round started with the Women’s Sprint event which was won by Anais Bescond of France. Her first ever win on the World Cup came in front of Andrea Henkel and Darya Domracheva. It was a great boost for French women’s biathlon especially with the injury to Dorin Habert and a loss of shooting form for Brunet. Fourth place was taken by a fantastic Susan Dunklee who recorded her best finish ever too and was really close to getting on the podium herself.

The pressure of such good results and leading the Pursuit was too much for Bescond and Dunklee as they didn’t continue their form in the Pursuit race. Instead it was the cool head and experience of Andrea Henkel who got the win. It was her 22nd win on the World Cup her first one coming in 1998. What an amazing biathlete she is!Second place went to another biathlete getting a career best result Nadezhda Skardino of Belarus who performed really well and beat Tora Berger into third position. Tora produced a storming last lap to overtake her own teammate Tiril Echhoff who also put in a great performance moving from 14th to 4th but couldn’t match Berger’s skiing on the final leg.

Other movers in the Pursuit race were Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier who started bib 21 and finished 7th, China’s Chaoquig Song who stared 30th and made up 20 places with some immaculate shooting to finish 10th.Poland’s Weronika Nowakowska also did well finishing 15th from a starting bib of 36. The women’s races overall where great to watch in Antholz and have definitely wet the appetite for Sochi as anyone could win there!

The men’s races were no less exciting! In the Sprint Simon Schempp and Lukas Hofer shared the win after some initial confusion with the timing. A first win for both of them but sweeter for Hofer as it was his home race. They beat Arnd Peiffer into third and it’s great to see him back on the podium after a tough season last year. Bjorn Ferry returned to the Top 10 finishing in 6th and Krasimir Anev also got back in there with a season’s best result to take 7th and followed up with 5th in the Pursuit. Canada’s Brendan Green produced an amazing result to finish 8th his best ever finish in the World Cup.

In the Pursuit Schempp held his nerve and made it two wins out of two with an impressive display of physical, and particularly mental, toughness. Hofer was not able to match this and dropped down to 20th.Second place saw Jean-Guilliame Beatrix of France achieve his best result ever and he could have taken the win but for a missed target on the last shoot. Third went to Norways Henrik L’Abee-Lund who produced his best finish this season. I just hope it’s not too late for Olympic selection. Fourth place went to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who made up 16 places from a start number of 20 in a terrific display.Other noteworthy performers were France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet who moved up from 32nd to 14th and Norway’s Martin Eng who started 53rd and finished 34th.

Unfortunately on Sunday the Women’s Relay was cancelled on the second shoot due to thick fog, that appeared as if from nowhere, with the Russian team in the lead. It’s a shame as there were still some decisions to be made and places to be won on the Olympic teams but the coaches will just have to decide based on previous races. It is the third cancelled race this year. The men were luckier and faced only a 30 minute delay before the start. France took the victory with a strong team and Sweden finished second improving from 4th last time out. Germany were third, a penalty loop from Andi Birnbacher of all people cost them any chance of victory. Canada finished a very impressive sixth rightly described as “frickin awesome” by JP Le Guellec! Belarus finished 7th from a ranking of 21st and had a great race too.

So that concludes all the World Cup rounds before the Olympics.The next races will be in Sochi! Antholz-Anterselva was again a fantastic round with great crowds and great tracks if not the great weather we usually expect there. This top venue provided some unforgettable moments for all the biathletes who achieved their career best finishes. For Simom Schempp, Anais Bescond and especially Lukas Hofer it means this season’s Antholz : Ital never be forgotten!!!

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Selina: On a “Swiss roll”!

selina

Switzerland’s Selina Gasparin has had the best season of her career so far. She has claimed the first ever victory for her country and followed it up with the second just for good measure.Both of these victories came in the Sprint event, the first historic win in Hochfilzen and hot on it’s heels the second win in Annecy just one week later.

Selina was born in Samedan, Switzerland on the third of April 1984. She is the eldest of the Gasparin sisters who all compete together in the relay team. She is also part of the Swiss Border Police. Coming from an alpine county she lists her hobbies as mountaineering and the slightly less dangerous knitting. Useful if you need a jumper to keep you warm on the mountain! She speaks 5 languages, German, English, Italian, Romansh as you would expect but also Norwegian! Now the last time I looked Norwegian isn’t an official language of Switzerland!

There is a very good reason for this however. Switzerland is much more famous for alpine skiing than other winter sports and so there coaching and facilities are not as developed as in countries. For this reason Selina decided to move to Norway where she immersed herself in the world of biathlon and cross country skiing. She then returned home with this knowledge to pass on to her fellow athletes. It was a great move for her but also a brave one as it’s not easy to leave your country and family to go to a foreign place and it shows what a strong character she has.

Prior to this season her best result was a fourth place in the Individual race in Oestersund in 2012. To make the jump onto the podium is not as easy as you might think and Selina has proved what a great biathlete she is by doing it. Especially considering the competition around in female biathlon with the likes of Berger, Domracheva,Soukalova and Makarainen and a host of others to compete with. By backing it up with another win straight away she proved it was no fluke. Where she might be disappointed is with her subsequent performances in the Pursuits. Unused to the pressure of being chased down in the lead was probably an explanation for this but she can only improve by using these experiences to learn and grow as a biathlete.

She has also helped the Women’s Relay team qualify to compete in Sochi which is a huge achievement both for Swiss biathlon and the Gasparin family. As it makes up 75% of the team Mr and Mrs. Gasparin must be so proud of Selina along with her sisters Aita and Elisa. Their chances of a medal in the games are slim with extremely strong competition at the front but you never know. A Top 6 finish I think would be like a medal for them(ok maybe not exactly like a medal but you know what I mean!!). Individually however Selina has a great chance of getting a medal especially in the Sprint event which seems to be her best. Being in great form going into the Olympics is always a good thing and she is certainly on a Swiss roll!

Good luck Selina!

You can follow Selina on Facebook and Twitter and she has her own website:
http://www.selinagasparin.ch/

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There’s no Ru-hpolding back now!

biathlon-ruhpolding-wm

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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