Finally the season is almost upon us! Unfortunately it’s a bit different this year due to Covid-19 but we have biathlon to watch again which makes everything seem a bit better.
The World Cup kicks off in Kontiolahti with two rounds. First the ‘season opener’ on the 28th of November followed by round 1. Next comes two rounds in Hochfilzen. After Christmas we head to Oberhof for two rounds then to Antholz. February will see the World Championships in Pokljuka. However the end of the season is still up in the air after the recent cancellation of the Beijing round. It should feature Nove Mesto and Holmenkollen but it is yet to be finally confirmed.
The women’s World Cup is going to be awesome! We have quite a few ladies in contention for the Overall Title this season and anything could happen. Let’s take a look at the contenders.
The hot favourite is of course the one and only Dorothea Wierer! She has won the Total Score for the past two years and defending the women’s title is a pretty amazing feat. She has the experience and the confidence to make it three but it will be a tough ask. Only Magdalena Forsberg has won the overall more than two years in a row (she won 6 consecutively) but can Doro join her? We all know her shooting is incredible but she isn’t the fastest skier. There are others who will make her life very difficult.
Last season was incredible from Tiril Eckhoff just missing out on the Overall Title in the final race of the season. Who knows if we had gone to Holmenkollen maybe she could have won it but we will never know.
She made a massive step forward in her shooting thanks in no small part to her coach Patrick Oberegger. She is a phenomenal skier and a real fighter but can still suffer from inconsistent performances. Last season will have given her a lot of confidence and with a bit of luck on her side this could be Tiril’s year.
It’s not just Wierer she will have to overcome however. There will be a big challenge from her own teammate Marte Olsbu Roieseland. It was clear at World Championships just what a talented biathlete she has become in the past few years. Last season she focused on them and won a stunning 7 medals in 7 races. If she puts that effort into the World Cup then the title could be hers. On the other hand it is much harder to maintain form and consistency across a whole season rather than the two weeks of a championships.
Finishing third in the Total Score last time around was Denise Herrmann. She was only 48 points behind Wierer in the end. Obviously her skiing is her big strength but her shooting is improving all the time. She hit the perfect 20 in the Individual last season which takes some biathletes many years to achieve in a race if they do it at all. She put together a great season only finishing outside the top 20 on two occassions. If she hadn’t had a bad round in Hochfilzen she could have had her hands on the big crystal globe.
Another biathlete hoping to snatch the big globe from Wierer is Hanna Oberg. She was 4th last season improving from 5th the season before. I guess that means she will be 3rd this time! She has a good chance this year and can handle the pressure at the top. However she does tend to drop outside the top 10 on too many occasions so she will have to work on consistency. At 25 she is the youngest of our top five favourites as all the others are 30 or 31.
Elsewhere on the World Cup French duo Julia Simon and Justine Braisaz will be looking to add to their victories from last season and to move up in the Overall from 8th and 9th respectively.
Lisa Vittozzi will be hoping that this season goes a lot better for her. She was one of the favourites for the big globe last time around after a stellar season in 18/19. It just didn’t happen for her though with no wins and a 10th place finish in the Total Score.
Searching for their first taste of victory on the World Cup will be Ingrid Tandrevold and Paulina Fialkova. They have both come very close with several 2nd place finishes each. Lena Haecki is also getting to closer to a maiden victory and with a little luck she could do it this time. Monika Hojnisz-Starega had a really impressive year in 2019/20 and will also want to stand on top of the podium for the first time at a World Cup.
Look out for her to break into the top 10 on the Overall and for Marketa Davidova to do the same. If they can cut down on results that fall outside of the top 20 it is a definite possibility for both women.
Other names to keep eye on are Milena Todorova and Elvira Oberg. Both youngsters had stand out performances last season.
This has to be the season when one of the US women finally wins a race! Susan Dunklee has been close on several occasions and Clare Egan could get up there too.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Stina Nilsson. She has switched sports from cross-country to biathlon but may not be seen for a while at World Cup level. Since the IBU Cup doesn’t start until January and the Swedish women’s team is super strong we may not see her race until 2021.
We will be missing Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht this season as she has recently announced she is pregnant with her second child. Congratulations to her!
It will not be a normal year that is for sure so expect some unexpected results along the way. It’s going to be a strange one and the strangest thing so far is writing a preview without Kaisa Makarainen! I’m sure we will see her in Kontiolahti though just not on the tracks.
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