Laura Dahlmeier’s Shining Crystal…and Medal Collection
It seems like Dahlmeier has been around for years, yet she is just four years removed from her IBU YJWCH Sprint Gold medal in 2013. Her star has been on the rise since that year’s IBU WCH in Nove Mesto na Morave; a clean-shooting debut in the women’s relay. She has done nothing but improve each season, climaxing this season with her first-ever Crystal Globes, for the individual, pursuit and the biggest prize of all, the World Cup total Score. On the way to her three crystal trophies, she also was the unquestioned biggest star at the IBU World Championships, winning five Gold medals and one Silver medal. Hard as it is to believe, Dahlmeier is just 23 years old. Few athletes (except Magdalena Neuner) ever reach the pinnacle of their sport as such a young age.
Like the six-time winner Fourcade, the young German star asserted herself from the first days of the new season in Östersund. She put her team that eventually finished second in contention with sterling second leg in the mixed relay. A couple of days later, with two one-minute penalties beside her name, she skied to victory with the fastest course time to win the women’s 15K individual. The stage was set. The Laura Dahlmeier who usually missed parts of December due to illness and injury was well-prepared, healthy and ready for the season of her life. She donned the Yellow Bib and wore it all month. Two more wins in the Pokljuka sprint and pursuit put her solidly atop the Total Score by the holiday break, with 410 points to Kaisa Mäkäräinen’s 312 and Gabriela Koukalová’s 305.
As the New Year rolled around, she announced that the sprint/pursuit in Oberhof was off the schedule, but she would be on the line for the mass start. “My coaches decided that a few more days of training and rest were important.” That suddenly put the Yellow Bib up for grabs; Koukalová was in Yellow. At the same time, Dahlmeier had always deferred regarding the World Cup Total Score/Yellow Bib and Big Crystal Globe as not her focus early in the season. Koukalová supplanted her in that top spot for 12 days, until the second 15K individual of the season in Antholz. Two penalties again, but another win for the German, while the Czech star finished 24th; put Dahlmeier back in Yellow for good.
Amazing Run: Wins, Medals and Shooting
That day in Antholz kicked off an amazing run for Dahlmeier. In the next 12 competitions (9 individual, 3 relays), the results looked like this: 2nd, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 1st! In that span of the IBU WCH, Pyeongchang and Kontiolahti World Cups, the Yellow Bib fired 120 shots in the 9 individual competitions and hit 115 of them, a brilliant 95% success rate.
First Crystal: Individual Perfection
Dahlmeier was the star of the IBU WCH with 5 Gold medals (individual, pursuit, mass start, relay and mixed relay) plus a sprint Silver for good measure. No one other than Gabriela Koukalová stood atop the WCH podium in Hochfilzen, an outstanding feat, maybe never to be seen again in this generation. Among those Gold medals, she secured her first-ever small Crystal Globe, with her perfect 3-for-3 victories in the individual competitions. As the World Cup circus packed for the long trip to Pyeongchang and the end of the season, she now had 903 points to Koukalová’s 857 in the Total score.
“Great Dream Come True”
The four competitions with three wins and a second in Korea and Finland sealed the deal for Dahlmeier on the big Crystal Globe. Beaming with huge smile, she was almost speechless. “It is amazing…I have no words. It is such a great dream come true at this moment; just amazing.”
With the big Globe in hand, the last week in Oslo became a victory lap of sorts. She had a chance to claim the sprint globe, with a 28 point lead before the start. However an out-of-character 31st place let that one slip away. The 41-point lead in the pursuit score over Mäkäräinen after Kontiolahti looked like a better bet. Although the Finn finished second in Oslo, Dahlmeier’s hard-won 9th place was enough to give her another small globe to close the season.
Overwhelming Her Rivals
The now top-ranked woman in biathlon can be forgiven for the slight end-of-season letdown. She had a brilliant year. It was the one that many had been predicting for some time. Her route to the three globes was not an easy one. Although the numbers showed 1211 points to runner-up Koukalová with 1089, the German never had the hundreds of points bulge like Fourcade. She proved to be the best by overwhelming all of the top women when it counted the most, at the IBU WCH and in the weeks that followed. The three pieces of crystal that are now in her trophy case may be the first, but surely will not be the last. When Laura has some spare time this summer, she might want to add some extra shelves for the next rounds of medals and trophies.
Part 3: Gabi’s Two Crystal Globes Next week