Head 2 Head
Lukas Hofer is one of the athletes who blossomed from an IBU YJWCH World Champion into a consistent performer on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit. Although he made his international debut in an IBU Cup at Martell in March of 2006, his career took off in 2009. That year at the IBU YJWCH in Canmore, Canada, Hofer won both the sprint and pursuit, mainly with his ski speed, racking up six penalties in the pursuit while sharing the podium with future stars and rivals Simon Schempp and Tarjei Boe. After that breakthrough, the 21-year-old graduated immediately to the World Cup circuit, getting his first starts just a few weeks later at the pre-Olympic World Cup in Vancouver. That first taste of the World Cup circuit led to what has become a permanent spot on the Italian team.
Hofer’s first full season was mostly about getting experience. However there were two big highlights: the first clean shooting day of his career in the Hochfilzen sprint and his first Olympic Winter Games at Vancouver. The next year was different as the young Italian racked up a nice string of top 10 finishes, a second place relay podium in his home stadium at Antholz and then a season topper. That season topper came in the final competition at the 2011 IBU World Championships. Leading the mass start for most of the way, he missed one shot in the final standing stage to fall from the top spot but held on for a WCH Bronze medal.
The next three seasons added high points that any biathlete would love to have on their resume. He anchored the Italian relay team to victory in the Oberhof relay in January of 2012. The next year, he returned to Khanty Mansiysk and the podium with his first individual World Cup podium, second in the sprint. He followed that winter season with the sprint Gold medal at the IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships, ironically in Forni Avoltri, Italy. Yet the big one came on a snowy afternoon in his Antholz home stadium in January 2013. Hofer wearing bib number 35 had a single penalty, but crossed the finish line with the fastest time of the day and what looked like the win. Yet, his old rival Schempp, starting with bib 61 managed to shoot clean and push through the hard conditions and cross the finish line in the exact same time. Hofer and Schempp tied; the Italian had his first-ever World Cup victory.
One more year, and the big moments continued to come. Hofer now had a world Cup individual and relay win, an IBU WCH medal on his resume. On mountain left to climb: the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Hofer, anchoring the mixed relay, took the tag from Dominik Windisch in third position; shot clean with no spare rounds and held the place to the finish and the Bronze medal for Italy.
Over the next few seasons, leading up to the 2017-18 season, various untimely injuries and illnesses slowed his progress, but there were some more podiums with the mixed relay team and several top ten results. Finally healthy and injury-free, Hofer heads towards his third Olympic Winter Games on a career-best torrid pace. There were no podiums up to January but a half dozen top tens put him in fourth place in the World Cup Total Score, a career high going into Pyeongchang.
What do you remember about your first biathlon competition?
To be honest, I do not remember anything. But I do remember was my first Italian Championships, where I had my first win.
When did you realize that you could be good at this sport?
During my first years, I was not very focused and motivated, but I am a person who always wants to fight and try to reach beyond my personal limitations. When I moved to the youth category, I realized that if I trained harder, I could be first. From that point I pushed harder and harder to become a good biathlete.
What is your routine to get ready on race day; is it always the same?
Sleep as much as possible to recharge my batteries, then a good breakfast and a short run outside to wake up my body. Later I eat a normal lunch, listen to some music, dry shooting and then off to the stadium.
Given the option, would you rather run, rollerski, cycle…or?
Easy choice, running; I am a nature lover and love the mountains and running outside. Then if possible, take my kite and fly back home!
Describe a perfect day off from training or competition?
During the World Cup circus, I like to sleep late, go for a long walk or explore the city with my teammates. During the summer, I spend a lot of time with friends and especially flying with them and then watch movies in the evening.
Best advice anyone ever gave you?
Do not think about your limits, pass them. I can always push myself; it is very motivating.
What is the hardest thing about biathlon?
Combining perfectly the cross-country and the shooting.