Tag Archives: World Championships

The Countdown to Kontiolahti!

kontiolahti

It’s not long to go until the World Championship in Kontiolahti, Finland. The fifth of March will see the first event take place which is the Mixed Relay and continue for two weeks until the last race on the fifteenth. It has been 16 years since Kontiolahti last held the World Championships which was watched by over 40 million people on TV. They are very excited to be hosting the event and have made a lot of improvements to the facilities since the last time.

The stadium is located 15km North of Joensuu which is in Eastern Finland in the North Karelia region. It has played host to many top class events both in biathlon and cross country skiing. To update the facility they had a budget of 3.7 million euros to spend over a period from 2011 to 2014 to be ready in time for the World Championships. In that time they have implemented a new lighting system in order for TV to broadcast in the evening and they have extended both the Main Building and Media Centre.

Kontiolahti is probably most famous for its track. It is a one of the toughest that the biathletes race on all year and the painful part comes when you reach the now infamous Kontiolahti wall. The steep hill comes cruelly near the end of each circuit just before you get to the finish line. Some athletes love it like Johannes Boe who won all three races there last season and Darya Domracheva who won her first World Cup race there and also 2 Junior WC gold medals. Others find it really hard to pace themselves over the course to leave them enough energy at the end to get up the hill. The shooting range also comes at the highest point on the course and so can be affected a lot by the wind. You can be sure that this World Championships is going to be a tough one!

The Finnish team have some chances of getting some medals at their home Championships. Kaisa Makarainen will be a big favourite to take a medal if not multiple medals. It’s her home track and she won all three races there last season on the World Cup. They also have Mari Laukkanen who came an impressive third in the Sprint behind Makarainen in Kontiolahti and will also benefit from home advantage. There are also opportunities in the Relays but it will probably require mistakes from other nations to let the Finns have a chance of a medal. With the home tracks and home crowd though anything can happen.

Back in 1999 when Kontiolahti last held the World Championships the German team dominated proceeding and won 6 golds including two for Sven Fischer. For the women the Ukraine’s Olena Zubrilova won 3 golds. In the Men’s Mass Start a certain Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won bronze and I bet he didn’t think he would be back 16 years later with a chance of winning yet another medal to add to his enormous tally.

I am really looking forward to the Championships. It will be interesting to see who can handle the pressure and if any of the home heroes can step up and deliver medals for the home crowd. Hopefully it won’t be as cold as the last time either when temperatures ranged from -29 to -37 degrees Celsius! After Oslo everyone will be heading out to Finland to start their preparations. It’s time to start the Countdown to Kontiolahti!

For more information on Kontiolahti and the World Championships see:
http://www.kontiolahtibiathlon.com/
Follow @KlahtiBiathlon on Twitter.

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C’Mon-a Brorsson!

brorsson

The Swedish women’s team have had a pretty hard time of late. They didn’t perform well on the World Cup and they didn’t even take a team to Sochi for the Winter Olympics. Since the retirements of Helena Ekholm and Magdalena Forsberg they have been struggling to bring through new talent of the same calibre. It wasn’t all doom and gloom however as we saw in the European Championships in Nove Mesto.

Mona Brorsson took gold in the Pursuit race to put a smile back on Swedish faces. She did in in some style too coming from a 12th place start to beat Victoria Padial into second place. It was the highlight of a fine season for Mona on the IBU Cup and she also claimed her first ever World Cup point back in her home race in Oestersund taking 40th place in the Individual. She was able to build on her success from the previous winter when she enjoyed a great IBU Cup season, made her debut in the World Cup and also won a bronze medal in the CISM World Military Winter Games in the patrol.

Born on the 28th of March 1990 Mona comes from Koppomsvägen in Värmland, Sweden. She studied at biathlon college in Torsby and then went on university in Oestersund where she still lives and trains. She currently competes for Finnskoga IF after spending 12 years with her local club Beteds SKF. Mona started out as a cross country skier like many biathletes but saw sense and picked up a rifle at age 10 to begin her road to becoming a professional biathlete.

Mona has had a great couple of years as her results show. There will probably be a bit more pressure on her shoulders in the coming season however as Sweden looks to improve the performance of its women’s team. The whole team will be under scrutiny with the retirements of Bjorn Ferry and Carl Johan Bergman and the wish of national coach Johan Hagstrom to deliver at least one medal at each of the World Championships leading up to Pyeongyang 2018. The main target being for the team to win medals there and obviously for the women’s team to prove they are deemed good enough to go next time.

As a member of the development team geared toward winning medals in Pyeongyang Mona still has a lot of work to do but fortunately she also has time on her side. At 24 she still has 4 years until the next games and can gain a lot of valuable experience from the World Cup and World Championships. She has been named in the A team for this year along with Hanna Öberg, Sofia Myhr and Anna Magnusson. As the eldest member of the team a lot will be expected of her.

So what can we hope for from Mona come December and the start of the new season? Well adding to her 1 World Cup point should be her first target. Some good solid TOP 40 finishes would be a great way to build her confidence on a bigger stage. Forming a good relay team with the other Swedish women is of great importance too and also getting into the Mixed Relay team with the likes of Freddie Lindstroem and Tobias Arwidson can only help her improve. Most importantly she needs to continue to enjoy biathlon and help the Swedish ladies get back on track! You can do it! C’Mon-a Brorsson!

Follow Mona on Twitter: @monabrorsson

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Read Mona’s blog (in Swedish): http://monabrorsson.weebly.com/

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Dutch courage!*

chardine

It’s flat. It doesn’t have a lot of snow. It’s more famous for windmills, tulips and clogs and a liberal attitude to just about everything. The Netherlands is not a place you would readily associate with biathlon. You would however be wrong! Not only do they have biathletes, they have a whole family of them!

All born in Waddinxveen the Sloof family comprising of brothers Joël and Luciën and sister Chardine are taking the biathlon siblings thing to a whole new level! Especially as their coach just happens to be their dad, Eddy! Despite being the youngest, the most successful and probably best known of the three is Chardine. She burst onto the scene in 2012 at the Junior World Championships in Kontiolahti winning two gold medals in the Individual and the Pursuit. In doing so she made history by becoming the first Dutch athlete to win a World Championship.

JoelSloof

Moving to Sweden in 1999 obviously helped all of the Sloofs in biathlon as The Netherlands neither has the weather conditions or facilities to support professional biathletes. Torsby is the location the family chose and it has paid off as all three children have done well in biathlon. The eldest brother Joël born on the 15th of November 1988 has had most experience on the IBU and World Cup. He has had some good results in the past year finishing from around 50th to 95th on the World Cup and a 51st place in the World Championship Individual in Nove Mesto was a great achievement. Luciën born on the 7th of June 1990 is obviously slightly less experienced but has produced some good Top 50 results in the Junior World Championships and also in the European Championships.

luciensloof

However the Sloof family don’t have the monopoly on Dutch biathlon. The recently retired and brilliantly named Herbert Cool had a good career and there is another up and coming biathlete Jarl Hengstmengel, who placed a credible 48th and 68th in the Individual and Sprint respectively in the Junior World Championships in Obertilliach this year. He trains in Germany and has set a goal of becoming one of the Top 50 in the World. As an 18 year old he has great ambition and also the time to try and achieve it. He is aiming high and there is nothing wrong with that unless you are on the shooting range of course!

jarl

So there you have it, The Netherlands has quite a few good young biathletes coming through. It just shows you that you don’t need hills or snow to be good at winter sports. A little help is required of course in these cases from Sweden and Germany but a bit of Dutch courage can take you a long way.

Good luck to all of them!

You can follow all The Sloofs and Jarl on Twitter and Chardine, Luciën and Jarl on Facebook. I strongly recommend you do so – they need your support!

You can find out more info at: http://www.sloofbiathlon.com
(It’s in Dutch but you can translate it easily with an online translator.)

*just so we’re clear I mean Dutch courage as in brave people who are Dutch. I am not advocating drinking alcohol for courage(as the saying means in English) before doing biathlon!Although……


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Hurricane Murphy!

murphy

Don’t panic! It’s not the weather forecast for the rest of the week in Oestersund.( Well at least I hope it’s not because it would make the shooting pretty interesting and it’s been windy enough already!)It is in fact the title of my post about New Zealand biathlete Sarah Murphy. The nickname “hurricane” comes from her tendency to arrive, cause some kind of disaster and then leave. Slightly worrying for someone who uses skis, poles and a rifle in her chosen sport!!!

Sarah was in fact born in Canada but has dual nationality with New Zealand. She decided to represent New Zealand as she would become their first female biathlete and give her a chance to develop the sport in the country. However it is a choice that has probably made her life a lot more difficult. With no funding from her country and a difficult qualifying standard set for her for the Olympics she has a lot more on her mind than just training.

She has found a lot of help however from within the close knit and extremely nice biathlon community. She travelled with the Ukrainian team for 2 seasons and the Slovenia wax team took care of her skis last season. However like biathletes from the “smaller” biathlon nations she still struggles for funding in what can be a very expensive sport.

Sarah was lucky enough to compete in the Vancouver Olympics, which having grown up in Canada were also her home Olympics. A fantastic experience for anyone I am sure even though her results were maybe not all she was hoping for. She was only 22 at the time so the experience of a Games would surely have made up for any disappointment with her performance.

Still young in biathlon terms Sarah is just 25 years old. She has a lot of time ahead of her to improve and if she could break into the Top 40 this season it would be a massive achievement for her. She has finished just outside the Top 40 on two occasions and she definitely has the potential and desire to get there.

It would be amazing if Sarah can qualify for the Olympics(not least because she will celebrate her birthday right in the middle of it!). For New Zealand to have a representative there can only help to grow the popularity of the sport in that country. The residents of Sochi might not like a bad weather warning but I would love to see Hurricane Murphy hitting The Laura Stadium in February!(I just wouldn’t want to clear it up afterwards!)

Good luck Sarah!

You can follow Sarah on Facebook and Twitter and she also has her own blog:
http://murphy-biathlon.blogspot.co.uk/

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Update as of 20/01/2014.Unfortunately Sarah isn’t going to make it to Sochi! A total travesty of justice if you ask me!!!

Golden ANEV-ersary?

anev

Krasimir Anev is a Bulgarian biathlete who was born in Samokov on the 16th of June 1987. He is probably better known for his performances at the European Championships than on the World Cup tour but that is starting to change. He has won 5 European medals to date including at last season’s event in his home country in Bansko. He took the bronze medal in the Individual event to cap off a fine 2012/13 season.

It began way back in Oestersund where he achieved his best result on the World Cup by finishing 8th in the Individual. This seems to be his best event as it has also provided him with 2 other European medals, a silver and bronze, and saw him round off the season with a 13th place finish in Sochi. Other impressive results for Anev include an 11th place finish in the Sprint in the World Championships in Nove Mesto and a further two 19th position finishes in Pursuit events in Nove Mesto again and also in Oslo.

This led to an overall finish of 38th on the Total Score for the season and 10th place in the Individual standings. He helped Bulgaria to 14th place in the Nations Cup just behind the likes of Switzerland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Bulgaria boasts some excellent biathlon facilities. Belmeken is a great training centre, there is also Borovets and of course there is Bansko where the European Championships were held and is a regular stop on the IBU Cup. It has produced some very good biathletes like Ekaterina Davofska who won an Olympic gold medal in Nagano in 1998 and is now the President of the Bulgarian Biathlon Federation, and also Irina Nikulchina who won bronze in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

So what are Bulgaria’s expectations for Anev this year? He needs to push on from the success he has had in European Championships and be more consistent on the World Cup. A first podium in the World Cup is not out of the question for him especially in the Individual event. I imagine they will be hoping for another Olympic medal to add to the Bulgarian collection but it will be a very difficult task for Anev considering the competition. However if he continues to improve and gain experience you never know what he could produce in the Individual event in Sochi. It has been 16 years since Bulgaria won an Olympic Gold in the Individual so could 2014 be a golden ANEV-ersary? It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

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Soukalová: Sing when you’re winning!

soukalova

Singing sensation and biathlete, Gabriela Soukalová proved what a great competitor she is and the excellent progress she is making in her career by winning all 3 events on the final stop of the World Cup last season. Taking top spot in the Sprint, Pursuit and Mass Start in Khanty-Mansiysk really put Soukalová in the spotlight for next year’s World Cup and Olympic Games.

Her results earlier in the season were an indicator of what was to come. Three podiums in Pokljuka, a win in the Sprint, 2nd in the Pursuit and a 3rd in the Mass Start, mean that when she is on form there is no stopping her. It also means these must be her 3 favourite events!

Gabriela Soukalová was born on the 1st of November 1989 in Jablonec in the Czech Republic. She started to compete in biathlon in 2005. She topped of a great season last year by helping the home nation to a mixed relay bronze medal in Nove Mesto at the World Championships. Having recovered from illness last summer and again around Christmas it is not surprising that her best form came towards the end of the season.

She is becoming increasingly known for her singing as well as biathlon. She provided the soundtrack for biathlonworld TV’s ‘The Spy Who Loved Biathlon’ with her version of ‘For Your Eyes Only’. She has also sung at press conferences –‘summertime’ being one example from last year. She also performed at the Closing Ceremony in Nove Mesto with her version of No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak’. A video also exists of her wandering through a forest singing ‘Scarborough Fair’.

A beautiful girl with a beautiful voice but what can we expect of her on the World Cup this season and for the Sochi Games? If she can produce the same form she showed in Pokljuka and Khanty she is a serious contender for a medal in one or more of the individual events. As football fans often say ‘you only sing when you’re winning’ I get the feeling we will be hearing many more songs from Gabriela both next year and well into the future.

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Vamos Victoria!

padial

Having visited the beautiful Andalusian city of Granada, Spain it’s not the kind of place you would imagine as the home of a biathlete. But that’s exactly what it is. Granada is the home to Spain’s first Olympic biathlete Victoria Padial Hernandez. The 25 year old has been cross country skiing from a young age and took up the sport of biathlon in 2007.

In her first 3 years of competing she managed to qualify for the IBU Cup, the World Cup and also the Vancouver Olympic Games. A pretty meteoric rise considering that she has done it all with only the assistance of her coach, family and sponsors without any funding or help from Spain’s funding bodies. A common occurrence in fact from athletes who are not from traditional winter sports countries.

Despite this she has put in some very good performances on the World Cup. Her best result came in Sochi where she finished 40th in the Individual event – a good sign for the forthcoming Olympics. She also finished 44th in the Oberhof Sprint and 45th in the same event at the World Championships in Nove Mesto. A 47th in Holmenkollen and 49th in Oberhof were her best results in the Pursuit.

This summer seems to have gone well for Victoria as she achieved an excellent bronze medal in the Summer World Championships held in Italy. She finished a creditable 8th in the Sprint and turned that into 3rd in the Pursuit. Hopefully these results will translate onto the snow and she will be able to break in to the Top 40 on a regular basis.

Victoria had a pretty consistent season last year finishing regularly from around 40th to 60th position. She needs to improve on her standing shoot but she has plenty of time to do this and the more experience she gains through the World Cup and Olympics the better she will get. Her summer experience should help her in this and maybe the fact that this is an Olympic year. Seasons that contain an Olympic Games can often throw up some unusual results as the top athletes can take their eye of the ball a little to concentrate on the Games. If Padial can take advantage of this and continue her great progression we may see her in the Top 30 and she can show the Spanish authorities what they are missing.

Vamos Victoria!

For more information about Victoria in English and Spanish check out her website:
http://victoriapadial.es/
She has a calendar out now!
She is also on Facebook and Twitter and also has her own channel on Youtube! Where she gets time to train for biathlon with all these social media committments I do not know!;-)

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