Head 2 Head
Jakov Fak is probably one of the least known but most successful biathletes in the sport. Although only 30 –years-old, his biathlon career reaches all the way back to the 2002 IBU YJWCH in Ridnaun, Italy where he finished a forgettable 64th in the youth sprint with six penalties. Since that time, the Croatian-born Fak who now competes for Slovenia has gone from also-ran to World Cup winner, Olympic medalist and World Champion.
He competed for his home nation Croatia in the early part of his career, but only first came into the spotlight at the 2009 IBU World Championships in Pyeongchang. Earlier in that season, he started training with Slovenian Coach Uros Velepec, who recognized Fak’s potential. Before the IBU WCH, Fak only had a single promising result, 15th in the 20K individual at Hochfilzen. However, by later that winter, the hard training started to pay off with a personal best 14th in the WCH sprint. then a couple of days later, he stunned the pundits with 19-for-20 performance in the 20K individual, taking the Bronze medal, just 17.1 seconds behind the legendary Ole Einar Björndalen. Later that week, he competed in his first-ever mass start. That one competition set the stage for the next chapter in Fak’s career.
By the 2009-10 season, and another year with the hard-driving Velepec, Fak’s talent on the tracks was starting to show, but shooting remained his weak spot. On a bad-weather day when an early start number was an advantage, Fak drew number 4 for the Vancouver Olympic sprint. That day, he shot clean for only the third time in his World Cup career and finished 14 seconds back, winning the Bronze medal, his second major medal in two seasons. After that Olympic year, he began competing for Slovenia. The post-Olympic season saw him on the World Cup podium, but disaster struck. His fingers were frostbitten on a very cold day at the Fort Kent (USA) World Cup. Months of painful treatments saved the fingers but cost him training time. The pain was forgotten when he became IBU World Champion in the 20K individual that season at Ruhpolding and was part of the Silver medal mixed relay team. The next season, he followed with an IBU WCH sprint Bronze and 3rd in the World Cup Total Score.
The Sochi OWG was his first miss of the podium in a championship since 2009, with a close 4th place in the mass start. However, he bounced back with his second IBU World Championship title at Kontiolahti in 2015, taking the mass start. He ended that season by winning the final competition of the year, also a mass start. After 2015 and another 3rd in the Total Score, Fak battled illness on and off until the spring of 2017. At that time, he reunited with Velepec who now coaches the Ukrainian women. An illness/injury free summer with the old coach brought Fak back to the top. Three podiums in December 2017 brought his career total up to 24. 91% shooting success brought the resurgent Fak back to third once again in the World Cup Total Score at the beginning of 2018.
*Fak added to his resume with a Silver medal in the 20K individual at the Pyeongchang OWG and finished 6th in World Cup Total Score in the 2017-18 season. *