"Biathlon has been my life almost for along as I can remember and it's weird to envision a life without it. The last year, I have been somewhat on the sidelines, so it feels like a natural translition to the decision I have now made that I will retire. It's weird and a little sad - but also really lovely in a way" (Tiril Eckhoff in the press release of the Norwegian Federation)
Tiril Eckhoff is the next big champ to announce her retirement from biathlon the week - joining Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, Anais Chevalier-Bouchet and Denise Herrmann-Wick. The BMW IBU Total Score Champion from 2020/2021 has won a total of 23 medals at Olympic Winter Games and World Championships across her career - 12 of them shining golden.
The 32-year-old Norwegian’s career spanned 14 seasons from the 2008 IBU YJWCH to 2021/22 when she sealed a sprint/pursuit double at Holmenkollen with a clean last standing stage in the pursuit vaulted her to a runaway victory. That last victory in the stadium she competed in as a child and won her first IBU WCH Sprint Gold medal in 2016 was almost like a farewell. She skied the last loop joyously, bounding up the hill behind the range, taking a Norwegian flag, waving, and bowing to her fans down the finish stretch. Later she commented, “It was like a dream come true. It means so much to do well here in front of my home crowd. It was incredible; too much emotions to say.” Maybe that sums up Eckhoff’s career, emotion and success-filled, always-quotable, and funny. She was brilliant on her best days and everyone felt for her in the times when everything went sideways.
Eckhoff’s brilliance was center stage in the 2020/21 season when she won the long-coveted Women’s World Cup Total Score Crystal Globe as well as the Sprint and Pursuit Score globes. With thirteen victories that season, she was also the shining star at the IBU World Championships, taking Sprint, Pursuit, Mixed Relay and Women’s Relay Gold medals plus Mass Start Bronze and Single Mixed Silver.
In 288 career World Cup starts, the Norwegian star racked up 29 individual victories, 14 were in the sprint. Eckhoff was a sprinter at heart, always fast on the tracks; one of the rare talents able to outrun a couple of penalties to seal a victory. Although she downed 83% of her targets in the 2020/21 season, the shooting range was never her best friend. In the years leading up to her peak in 2019/20 (2nd in the Total Score) and 2020/21 seasons, she struggled on the range. Under the calm guidance of Coach Patrick Oberegger, she found her way back and was better than ever. That resilience was typical of Eckhoff’s whole career; she never gave up.
Over the course of her career, Eckhoff was always at her best on the biggest stages, fifteen IBU WCH medals and eight Olympic medals in her trophy case. Although she won three medals at 2014 Sochi and two at 2018 Pyeongchang, her prospects looked dim heading into Beijing 2022; not a single individual podium before the Games. Yet in Beijing, she won Mass Start Silver, Pursuit Bronze, and Mixed Relay Gold. Eckhoff’s talent and quick smile will be missed, but there is no doubt Tiril Eckhoff will enjoy the next chapter of her life. Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, IBU Archive