IBU at 25: Future Stars Wierer, Schempp, Boe, Koukalová & More at 2009 YJWCH
The 2009 IBU YJWCH in late January/early February 2009 started bitterly cold, with temperature dropping near minus 30C. Yet as the competitions approached, it warmed up. With that “warm” spell providing almost spring-like conditions, some of the biggest stars in biathlon today started to twinkle as they grabbed captured medals of Gold, Silver and Bronze.
IBU YJWCH Success Story
The YJWCH has been one of the many big success stories in the past 25 years since the founding of the IBU in July 1993. It has been the international competition starting block for many of the sport’s stars; the first place where they went-head-to-head with their peers from other nations. Although there have many memorable IBU YJWCHs with youthful big names, the 2009 edition was filled with future fan favorites, many of whom will be back at that same venue next February, 10 years later.
Six months to go before BMW IBU World Cup 7 is the perfect time to take a stroll down memory lane with a few athletes.
German Sprint Stars
Two of the biggest stars in 2009 were German teammates Nicole Wötzel and Miriam (Gössner) Neureuther. Wötzel, as a reserve won the junior individual and sprint, plus pursuit and relay Bronze medals. She retired in 2013 with Canmore as her career highlight. Neureuther, on the other hand went on to becoming a popular and medaled member of the German World Cup squad, with three World Cup wins, two IBU WCH Relay Gold medals and cross-country Olympic Silver medal on her resume. The smiling Garmisch Partenkirchen resident gave birth to a daughter Matilda last winter and is now pursuing a comeback in cross-country.
Speedy and Earrings
Back in 2009, Neureuther had the nickname of Speedy Gonzales, because of her devastating ski speed. That speed carried her to the pursuit Gold medal, despite eight penalties! Likewise, she won the sprint Silver medal, with five penalties to Wotzel’s one. Obviously, Miri has always been more than fast on the tracks. In those Canmore competitions, Neureuther was wearing the same earrings as another German star, Magdalena Neuner.
Silver for Vitkova
Finishing 11.1 seconds behind Neureuther in that pursuit and claiming the Silver medal was none other than 2018 Olympic Sprint Bronze medalist Veronika Vitkova. Vitkova had only four penalties that day. She also won a Gold medal in Canmore, shooting clean as the leadoff leg for the Czech Republic Women’s relay team.
Anchor Leg for Gabi
Another of the biggest stars in recent biathlon history, the not-currently-competing Gabriela Koukalová anchored that Czech Republic relay team to the Gold medal, the only YJWCH medal of her career. She finished 8th in the individual, and 15th in both the sprint and pursuit in Canmore. Koukalová among other things won the 2016 World Cup Total Score, Olympic medals and the 2017 IBU World Championship sprint title.
Luki’s Sprint/Pursuit Double
Ski speed was likewise a big factor for the double Gold medalist Lukas Hofer. Typical of many youth and junior competitors, Hofer was fast enough to outrun the penalties and claim the sprint/pursuit double, with two and six penalties respectively. These days, Hofer is still fast but much more careful on the range, which has led him to two Olympic mixed relay medals, WCH and World Cup medals. After the 2009 sprint, Hofer, realizing his weak point commented, “This was a really big race for me. I was very fast on the skis and the shooting was very good for me because I only had two penalties!” Silver medalist and future Swiss star Benjamin Weger had one penalty.
Bronze Medalist Tarjei
The sprint/pursuit Bronze medalist was none other than future World Champion and 2011 World Cup Total Score winner Tarjei Boe. He shot clean in the sprint and after three first stage pursuit penalties cleaned the next three stages.
Schempp Never Saw Him
Silver medalist Simon Schempp shot a bit better (two penalties) than Boe in the pursuit. The future Olympic medalist and Mass Start World Champion knew Hofer would win that day. “I did not think I could win, because Lukas runs very fast and I never saw him at the shooting range.” Five years later, Schempp and Hofer would tie in the Antholz sprint, giving both their first World Cup victories.
Alexey and Erik
The Junior 15K individual in 2009 found two familiar faces on the podium. Russia’s Alexey Volkov won the Silver medal, with two penalties. German quipster, 2015 Pursuit and Relay World Champion and three-time Olympic medalist Erik Lesser matched his Russian rival but finished 1.7 seconds farther back to claim the Bronze medal. Sochi Olympic Pursuit Bronze medalist Jean Guillaume Beatrix also had two penalties but finished fourth in that competition. FYI, Hofer has 10 one-minute penalties to finish 44th!
Lesser would later team up with Schempp and Pyeongchang Pursuit Bronze medalist Benedikt Doll and IBU Cup stalwart Florian Graf for the Junior Men’s Relay Gold medal.
Doro’s Second Gold Medal
Another Italian speedster who had a World Cup mass start win at Canmore in 2015 and will surely be on the scene next February is Dorothea Wierer. Back in 2009, Wierer, while still a youth, won her second IBU YJWCH title in the youth pursuit. She also anchored the Italian youth relay to a Bronze medal. Wierer, now known for her shooting as much as her ski speed admitted at that time that prone shooting was her Achilles Heel. “The prone shooting was not so good, but the standing was perfect. I am happy to win a Championship this year again.” Two years later, Wierer won Junior titles in the sprint, pursuit, and individual at the same IBU YJWCH Championships in Nove Mesto na Morave, the site of BMW IBU World Cup 3 this coming season.
34 World Cup Podiums
As the saying goes, the rest is history; Wierer now has 34 World Cup podiums, to OWG medals and three WCH medals on her resume in addition to those IBU YJWCH medals.
Medals for Erlend
Erlend Bjoentegaard was another youth Gold medalist in 2009; first claiming the sprint Silver medal, missing the Gold medal by two seconds. He matched his two sprint penalties in the pursuit, but that time easily took the Gold medal, with a 25 second win over Ludwig Ehrhart of France. Although “happy” with the sprint Silver medal, the 19-year-old Norwegian whose father was both an athlete and coach admitted to being “much happier” with his Gold medal and personal best 18-of-20 shooting in the pursuit. This past season, the now 28-year-old picked up his first individual World Cup podium with third in the Antholz mass start. He closed last season with another step up, second place and a personal best clean shooting in the season-ending Tyumen mass start.
Tiril: Post-Canmore Success Story
One 2009 non-medalist of note back then, with five OWG medals, four IBU WCH medals and has five World Cup victories could be considered a post-Canmore success story That person is none other than Bjoentegaard’s teammate, Tiril Eckhoff. Eckhoff finished 8th, 20th and 14th in the youth individual, sprint and pursuit, respectively. She also led off Norway’s 5th place Junior Women’s relay team.
Rosanna, Scott, Dominik, Juliya and…
Beyond this select group, there were many other familiar World Cup competitors who were in those championships including Canmore native Rosanna Crawford, her teammate Scott Gow, Olympic Gold medalists Fredrik Lindström and Dominik Windisch, Switzerland’s Serafin Wiestner, Maren Hammerschmidt, Juliya Dzhyma and…more. Like those who won medals in 2009, they will be probably all flash back once or twice next February to those youthful days 10 years ago.
BMW IBU World Cup 7 will be held February 4-10, 2019 at the Canmore Nordic Center.