IBU OECH: Thin Air, Challenging Tracks in Beautiful Ridnaun
Just as Antholz provided a winter wonderland backdrop for BMW IBU World Cup 6, Ridnaun, just 90 km to the northwest will be an equally beautiful setting for this week’s IBU Open European Championships. Almost 300 athletes including some big names from the BMW IBU World Cup circuit are on hand for one of the season’s highlights.
Thin Air and Lots of Snow
This traditional IBU Cup venue has morphed over the years from a basic facility to what is now a very modern, compact stadium set into the mountainside. Set at 1439 meters, the air is a bit thin and the tracks challenging. All of the loops run through open meadows and end with an uphill range approach. Medals this week will be hard-earned.
Still, conditions are excellent, with almost 2 meters of natural snow on the ground. At one point, so much snow fell that the target line was almost buried. IBU Cup Race Director Felix Bitterling commented, “We had a lot of fresh snow in the past days, about a meter which made it quite challenging for the Organizing Committee, but they are doing a great job, everything is prepared super well here. The preparation has started months before the competition and is set now. The weather forecast looks good for the next few days, on Friday and Saturday it can change a bit. We just hope there will not be too much snow on Friday so we have equal conditions during the sprints.”
Olympians and IBU Cup Regulars
This year’s Championships have a mixture of IBU Cup regulars, World Cup regulars who are not going to the Olympic Winter Games plus a smattering of those headed to Pyeongchang but here for one or more final tune-up competitions. Browsing the men’s entry list finds Simon Fourcade, Jean Guilluame Beatrix, and Emilien Jacquelin of France, Michael Rösch of Belgium, Ole Einar Björndalen of Norway, Lowell Bailey of the USA, Dmitry Malyshko, Evgeniy Garanichev and Alexey Volkov of Russia.
The women’s field includes Nadezhda Skardino of Belarus, Alexia Runggaldier and Karin Oberhofer of Italy, Monika Hojnisz of Poland, Nadine and Karolin Horchler of Germany, Paulina Fialkova of Slovakia, and Susan Dunklee of the USA. Of course not all of these big names will be in every competition; some will be just in the sprint/pursuit and some in the relays. Regardless, this group will enhance every competition this week.
Malyshko “Good Results at this Venue”
Malyshko, an Olympic Relay Gold medalist in Sochi, has been on the IBU Cup circuit all season winning the Obertilliach sprint earlier this season. He realizes winning here is no easy task. “My main goal for the OECH is to show stable results. I started pretty well at the IBU Cups but then I got sick. Now I’m totally recovered and feel good. Ridnaun is a beautiful place, but you have to remember about the altitude and that he track is tough here. At the same time, I always have good results at this venue.”
In a season that has not gone perfectly, the 30-year-old Russian goes to his young family for motivation. “When something goes wrong or you have to get extra motivation, I think about my family, especially my older son who understands everything. He watches TV, points at the every athlete, says that it is daddy; that he gives me positive energy. My twins are just learning how to crawl, but sure they will start following biathlon soon.”
The schedule for the week:
Wednesday January 24
10:00 Men’s 20K Individual
13:30 Women’s 15K Individual
Friday January 26
11:00 Men’s 10K Sprint
14:00 Women’s 7.5K Sprint
Saturday January 27
13:00 Men’s 12.5K Pursuit
15:00 Women’s 10K Pursuit
Sunday January 28
13:00 Single Mixed Relay
15:00 Mixed Relay