Tag Archives: World Cup

Wax on, Wax off?

There is big news in the world of wax – Mr Miyagi has been appointed head wax technician for the Japanese team! Of course he hasn’t! He was waxing cars and also more importantly he is a fictional character! No the real big news in the wax world is the banning of fluorinated wax from this season!

What is it and why I can hear you all thinking. Well let me take you back in time to explain all……

A wax miracle

Back in a time called “the eighties” when people wore shoulder pads and wondered ‘Who shot JR?’ (It wasn’t a biathlete by the way!) fluorinated wax was introduced in both in cross country and alpine skiing. It was a game changer in terms of increasing the speed of the skis. Fluorinated wax basically creates a barrier between the ski and the snow which repels both moisture and dirt therefore reducing the friction and increasing speed. It can take minutes off a skiers time especially in cross country skiing over longer distances.

The science bit

The wax is known by a few different names – fluorocarbon, fluorinated or just plain fluoro. From there it gets a bit complicated unless you are a scientist!

The chemical found in the wax is made from raw perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) compounds. Although not found in large quantities in the wax they are more commonly used to coat frying pans (Teflon), raincoats and even pizza boxes.

In the USA many of the compounds found in fluorinated wax products contain ingredients listed in the American Toxic Substances Control Act. The acid has been found to cause liver and kidney damage as well lung problems. In 2010 a study showed that ski technicians had on average 45 times more fluorocarbon in their blood as nonskiers. While it is unlikely to have a big impact on recreational skiers or indeed the athletes it could have a negative impact on the technicians. This however has long been known and it’s why you see the wax techs wearing masks so they don’t breathe in any harmful fumes.

There are two types of ski wax that contain PFOA. The C8 wax contains eight fully fluorinated carbon molecules and C6 which contains six. The C6 is said to be less toxic than the C8 although the C6 has not been as intensively studied as yet.


The legal bit

Fluorinated wax has already been banned in the USA in high school and college nordic skiing and also in the youth and amateur leagues in Europe for some time. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), a policymaking branch of the European Union, will begin enforcing its ban on the sale, manufacture, and import of all “nonessential” C8 products in Europe from July. Hence the reason it can no longer be used in biathlon.

The biathlon bit

There are two big problems that banning the wax is going to create. The first is for the wax teams. They have to find an alternative to fluorinated wax that does a similar job. It won’t be easy. The wax manufacturers are working furiously to come up with alternatives to replace it but no one knows yet how good they will be. I’m sure the wax techs are already busy experimenting with other solutions and could be testing things like candle, turtle and even ear to replace the miracle wax! 😉

The second problem is a big one. Unfortunately biathlon is not immune from cheating as we have already seen with doping. Now however we are facing another form of doping – ski doping! There will be a big temptation to use the fluorinated wax even after it is banned as it does offer a competitive advantage and can take minutes off an athletes ski time.

This means that skis are going to have to be tested for traces of the banned wax which brings up all kinds of questions. Firstly an accurate test has to be found which will show the presence of the wax and one that will do it quickly. Next it will have to be decided when to test the ski – before or after the race. Remember most athletes have multiple pairs of skis so it could be possible to send one pair to get tested and then swap them for a pair with the wax on before the race begins or even after.

Who do you test? Will it be like the drugs testing? Maybe the podium finishers and then a random selection from the rest of the field. Will they target people based on changes in their ski times? If they ski around the same speed as the previous year will that arouse suspicion?

There is also the issue of those athletes who are using skis from last season which may still have traces of the wax on them. Will there be a limit on acceptable traces in the first year it is banned and what is that limit? Not all teams can afford sets of new skis every season for all their athletes so it is going to be an issue.

If you do catch anyone using the banned wax what is the punishment going to be? Will it be like doping and see athletes face a ban? Or will they have time added to their race time to mitigate the advantage gained? Will they receive a warning and a second chance if they are caught once?

It’s a bit of a minefield but luckily that is the job of the wax teams and IBU to sort out and not me! Good luck to them!It will be a very interesting season in the wax trucks that is for sure!

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C’Mon-a Brorsson!

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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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Kazakhs-Yan Savitskiy!

yansavitskiy

Cleverly disguised as the German team last year (the ski suits were hard to distinguish) the Kazakhstan biathlon team enjoyed a pretty good season. One biathlete in particular achieved some of his best results ever. Yan Savitskiy was born in Ridder, Kazakhstan on April the 29th 1987 and achieved a career best result in the World Championships in Nove Mesto finishing 11th in the Individual.

Last season also saw him produce his best result on the World Cup finishing 16th in the Sprint in Anholtz. He followed that up with 3 further TOP 20 finishes and 2 in the TOP 30. He finished the season in 52nd place in the Total Score up 18 places from the previous year. He was 22nd overall in the Individual event which was his highest placing from all the different disciplines.

Yan is one of few biathletes who has already won a gold medal at a major games. He won relay gold in his home Asian Games in Almaty in 2011. Having already competed at the 2010 Vancouver Games this gives him some much needed experience in preparing for and competing in Sochi in February.Almaty is also bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and so they will be looking to all their winter sports stars to try and raise the profile of Kazakhstan as an Olympic venue. Any success their athletes provide is sure to help them in their campaign.

So what does this season hold for Yan? Well his results so far in the first third of the season have been nothing to write home about.He got a 30 second penalty in the Pursuit in Hochfilzen for starting outwith the 3 second interval but still recorded his top results so far finishing 51st in both the Sprint and Pursuit. Hopefully he is saving his best form for after the Christmas break! His best event from past results would seem to be the Individual and that is probably his best chance of achieving a TOP 10 result both on the World Cup and at the Olympics. It would be an amazing result for Kazakh biathlon and Yan himself if he could do it. It would also be a boost for Asian biathlon in general.

If anyone can pull this major achievement off it has to be Kazakhs-Yan Savitsky!

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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!!!

Targeting success! Season Preview: Women

wobiath

Calm yourselves people! I know the season starts on Sunday but there is still time for a little preview of the women’s competition. These kinds of seasons only come around every four years so there is a lot to get excited about and there will be a lot of focus on the Olympic Games in February. However there is still the small matter of the World Cup Tour to get on with first.

This year we find ourselves kicking off in Oestersund again and unlike last year I am hoping it will throw up some unexpected results. Tora Berger won all 3 races and went on to dominate the entire season. Obviously she is again the favourite to do so and to win medals in Sochi. While I am a huge fan of Berger and her amazing achievements I would like to see the prizes shared around a bit!

So who can we expect to challenge her in her final season? Well last year’s runner up Darya Domracheva could certainly give her a run for her money. A little more consistency for Dasha would really give Tora something to worry about. Veteran Andrea Henkel showed that age is no barrier to success with a fantastic season last year and Zaitseva also has a wealth of experience and a home Olympics to motivate her.

Don’t forget the young guns who are hot on Berger’s heels. A great end of season from Soukalova made a lot of people sit up and take notice of her and of course Germany’s Miriam Gossner is still a contender despite her pre-season injury problems. If that isn’t enough consider the double pronged attack from the Semerenko twins,and not forgetting their Ukrainian colleague Pidhrushna. Then there is Kuzmina, Mäkäräinen, Dorin Habert and Teja Gregorin to throw into the mix. Not to mention the successors to the Norwegian throne Synnøve Solemdal and Ann Kristin Flatland.

There is a lot of talent in women’s biathlon at the moment. It’s going to be a great season to follow and somehow I don’t think Berger will have it all her own way this time around. The unpredictable nature of the sport due to the shooting element means that nobody quite knows what’s going to happen and this year has the potential to be one of the best yet. I suggest you sit back and enjoy the fireworks – 2013/14 is going to be cracker!

Good luck ladies!

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Targeting success! Season Preview: Men

biath

It’s that time of year again folks! After an eternity (well just summer and autumn really) biathlon is back! The season kicks off on Sunday in Oestersund with the mixed relay followed by the Individual,the Sprint and finally the Pursuit. So the boys will be back on track with all guns blazing-literally! It’s a big season for everyone with the Olympics starting in a mere 3 months so what can we expect form the men’s side this year?

Well as you might have guessed the big favourite has to be Martin Fourcade. Five Chrystal globes last season and a handful of medals from the World Championships makes him the guy they will all be gunning for. Unfortunately for the others like a French wine he seems to be getting better with age.

What about his main competition this season. Well the top two on his tail have to be the Russian ladies favourites from Norway Emil Hegle Svendsen and Tarjei Bø. These boys will be very hard to beat as illness hit seasons for both of them last year were still better than most others full seasons.

Beyond these three who else is left to challenge. There is a whole team from Russia who can do well but with their main aim the home Olympics in Sochi I can’t see them putting too much effort into winning a Chrystal Globe. Elsewhere we have the Germans. A poor season last year by their own high standards should see a highly motivated Peiffer, Birnbacher and co. launch a major attack on the podiums this year.

We should also see continually improving athletes like Jakov Fak and Dominik Landertinger being a challenge to Fourcade’s dominance and closer to home he will have to watch out for his French teammates and of course his own brother. Have I forgotten someone? Oh yes – young Ole Einar Bjørndalen! You can never count him out for a race win but a Globe will be much more difficult.

What I like best though about the opening round of the IBU World Cup is that no one really knows what shape they are going to be in at the start and it can throw up some unexpected results. Take the first Sprint podium last year which saw JP Le Guellec win his first race and Alexis Boeuf and Cristoph Sumann take second and third.

So who is going to win the prizes this time round? Well looking into my Chrystal Globe I can see victory for……now that would be telling!!! All I know for sure is that it’s going to be one hell a season with so many male biathletes at the top of their game and all competing for the few Olympic medals on offer. My advice – just sit back and enjoy the show and whoever wins the Globes and medals will thoroughly deserve them all!

Good luck guys!

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Hungary for biathlon!

hungaryfans

What’s the one thing I love more than biathlon? Biathlon fans of course! Finding people with the same kind of passion for a sport as you is great and if they come from all different countries and cultures so much the better. It has nothing to do with the fact that they are the same people who read my blog! Honestly!;-)

Hungary might not be the first country you would associate with biathlon but it is there that a group of guys got together via their shared love of biathlon and created (the imaginatively titled!) Biathlon Fans Hungary.

It was through the medium of the internet (useful thing that internet!) that 5 guys from all around Hungary met on forums and community pages to share their passion for biathlon in a country which is dominated by football, handball, water polo,volleyball and other non-winter sports. András, Ákos, Sanyi, Szilveszter and Dani had never even been to a race before when they first started communicating.

That was all about to change however when the intrepid Dani decided to go to his first race in Nove Mesto to watch a World Cup event. Inspired by their friend, András, Sanyi and Szilveszter went to the World Championships in Ruhpolding to watch their favourite, Magdalena Neuner, at least once before she retired. That was when they decided as a group that they should go to last season’s World Championships in Nove Mesto and what a time they had!

Not content with just watching the events by day they also had a plan for how to fill their evenings as well! Already an international fan club after David and Antoine joined from France they made even more friends by organising parties and inviting many people from the stadium to join them which eventually included some of the biathletes! They now have an official t-shirt and also their own blog which I highly recommend and they are the first official IBU registered fan club from Hungary. So bereft of biathlon this summer they organised a tour and visited amongst other places Obertilliach,Ramsau and Pokljuka to meet and interview some biathletes during their summer training. That’s dedication for you!

What makes these guys special is that they support everyone in biathlon. I imagine like any fan they have their favourites but it doesn’t stop them encouraging and shouting for all the biathletes. Like me they take an interest in everyone who takes part from Fourcade and Berger at the top to less well known biathletes from non traditional winter sports countries as you can see from their great interviews on their blog. I don’t know what their plans are for this season but if you see a bunch of friendly faces in red t-shirts making a lot of noise at any of the World Cup rounds this season be sure and say hello. I am sure they would love to meet anyone who is as Hungary for biathlon as they are!

Well done guys! Keep up the amazing support and those great interviews!

Read the blog: http://biathlonfanshungary.blogspot.co.uk/
And join their Facebook page!

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Gwizdon:In Pole position.

gwizdon

Winner of the Sprint race in Sochi last season Magdalena Gwizdoń laid down a marker for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. She followed that up with a 5th place in the Individual the same weekend. She obviously liked the track and was good form around the time the Games will take place next year.

Magdalena Gwizdoń was born in Cieszyn, Poland on the 4th of August 1979. She has already represented her country in two Olympic Games with her best result coming in 2006 when she finished 7th in the relay. Last year was probably her best season in biathlon since 2006/7. During that season she appeared 3 times on the podium winning her first World Cup race, the Sprint event, in Oestersund and performed admirably in her debut Olympics.

Last season she achieved four Top 6 finishes including those great results in Sochi and meant that she finished 15th in the Total Score just one place behind her compatriot Krystyna Palka. She finished just outside the Top Ten in 11th place in the Sprint standing which judging by past results is her best event. A 12th place finish in the Individual,16th in the Pursuit and 21st in the Mass Start standing helped Poland to a 7th place finish in the Nation’s Cup.

As a member of the Polish military she was also eligible to take part in the CISM World Winter Games in Annecy at the end of the World Cup season. The Polish ladies sprint team finished 5th with Magdalena finishing 25th individually. Overall the Polish women’s team performed very well last season winning 2 medals at the World Championships in Nove Mesto. Unfortunately Magdalena didn’t win one but her vast experience is bound to have played a part in helping Palka and Monika Hojnisz in their success.

At the age of 34 Gwizdon is coming towards the end of her career. Like many of the other women competitors in biathlon she seems to have saved her best form for last. It was over 6 years between her 2 World Cup victories and she is producing some of the best performances of her career now. Hopefully she will continue this form into the new season and I would love her to see her in Pole position to get a medal in Sochi as just reward for all her hard work and dedication over her long career.

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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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