Retirement Good-byes to Daniel Böhm and Andreja Mali
This past weekend saw two veteran biathletes Daniel Böhm of Germany and Andreja Mali of Slovenia say good-bye to the sport. Both left with a lifetime of biathlon memories and few regrets, with one final competition to close the door on their careers.
*Decision Feels Good
Böhm ended his biathlon career that started back in 1999 with a two penalties and 17th place in the IBU Cup pursuit at Ridnaun. He said in a Facebook post, “After a long time in the biathlon circus, I have decided to bring my career to an end and assume a new challenge with the Border Police. This decision was for me, of course, not easy. I had a really great time as an athlete. But it feels good and right to now take this step.”
Before this rather quiet ending to his career, Böhm was a long-time journeyman for the German team, bouncing from the IBU Cup to the World Cup team until the 2013-14 season. That year, he solidified his spot in the top circuit and made German Olympic team for Sochi. Sochi was undoubtedly one of the highlights in his career. Teaming with Simon Schempp, Arnd Peiffer and Erik Lesser, he claimed a Silver medal in the relay. That propelled him into the next season on the World Cup squad and his best World Cup season, finishing 18th in the Total Score. He was on and off the German relay team that World Cup season.
When it came to the IBU WCH in Kontiolahti, he was back with his Sochi teammates. They had one of those amazing days that happen in biathlon; the Norwegians looked like the favorites with the Boe brothers, Svendsen and Björndalen. Yet the German team found something extra and won the Gold medal with just three spares, 15.6 seconds ahead of the Norwegians. That day teammate Erik Lesser said, “It was really close; we were all looking at the last shooting like every relay. It was a good ending for Germany this time.”
Böhm added, “You know the pressure is always the same, Olympics or World Championships. You have to retain your high focus or you will not be on the top. You cannot take it easy. Of course, always winning Gold is easier said than done!”
Last season, he focused on the IBU WCH in Oslo, but his results all season were below expectations, even with a couple of relay podiums. After the North American World Cups, he ended his season to focus on this year. He trained with the A team but did not make the World Cup squad and finished his career on the IBU Cup.
Thanks to “the Best Team”
Daniel Böhm leaves biathlon with 105 World Cup starts and medals at every Championship level: German National, IBU YJWCH, IBU OECH, WCH, and Olympic. He thanked those who helped him throughout his career including, “First and foremost is my family that always stood behind me in even in the hard times, of which there were more than enough …Coach Mark Kirchner, who taught me a lot… and the best biathlon team in the world! Without you, you would only have half as much fun and there would never been as much success.”
Andreja Mali: One Final Relay
Several hundred kilometers east of Ridnaun, Slovenia’s Andreja Mali closed her long career anchoring the Slovenian women’s relay in her home stadium at Pokljuka. After the competition, she was carried out of the stadium on the shoulders of teammate Klemen Bauer. Mali was a member of the Slovenian World Cup team for all of the 21st century, making her World Cup debut in 2001 after moving from cross-country. In that time, she had 340 World Cup starts, competed in three Olympic Winter Games and every IBU World Championship since 2003.
“Like to Train”
Mali was one of those biathletes who seldom made the headlines, but stayed in the sport she loves, always trying to get better. In late 2015, she commented, “Every year, I say that I am going to retire. Then here I am at a training camp getting ready for a new season…I like to train, really like to train. The competitions are maybe my weakest point; I just like this sport.” Accordingly, the next step in her life is coaching biathlon.
Silver Medal: Dreams Come True
Yet throughout her long career, the 39-year-old had just a single podium at the World Cup level and it was a memorable one. At the 2012 IBU World Championships, Slovenia came into the mixed relay ranked 19th with no one thinking this small nation could top the powerhouses like Germany and Russia. However, Mali and her teammates Teja Gregorin, Klemen Bauer and Jakov Fak finished just 20.2 seconds behind Norway to win the Silver medal. Mali was almost beyond words that day, saying, “This was my first World Championships medal; dreams do come true.”
Fun Days and Friends
Yet for this quiet but very funny lady, biathlon was always about something more than winning medals. Biathlon for her was about the good times and friends made along the way. She is particularly close to Romania’s Eva Tofalvi and Weronika Nowakowska of Poland. “It is not always about results, it is about the fun days and friends…We try to get together at almost every World Cup; to have a coffee, talk about the competitions and have few laughs. The time we spend together is …just it.” Nowakowska admitted that the three of them are not just biathlon friends but “friends for life.”
Teammate Bauer said in a tribute to his long-time teammate, “Malči, it won’t be the same without you. You always made it fun. We are going to miss you a lot!”
The IBU and the Biathlon Family congratulates Daniel and Andreja on their careers and wishes them success in their next endeavors in life.