The Blinkfestivalen is one of the highlights of these several weeks of international competitions with super sprints on Friday, the shooting duel and mass starts on Saturday, all contested in Sandnes’ city centre. This year’s field is simply loaded with the home team Norway, their usual nemesis France, Germany and the Ukrainians all scheduled to start.
“Mr. Blinkfestivalen” goes for three-peat
The Norwegians are expected to be at almost full force with their whole squad entered except Johannes Thingnes Boe. Yet, JT may not be missed because “Mr. Blinkfestivalen” Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen who won both the super sprint and mass starts the past two years is back, going for a three-peat. Still, it is likely teammates Sturla Holm Laegreid and Tarjei Boe will do their best to stop Christiansen. Quentin Fillon Maillet, hoping to get the World Cup Total Score title back next season and Emilien Jacquelin will challenge for the French team. Germany’s full squad making the trip north to Sandnes for the first time has the accomplished Benedikt Doll and Roman Rees; former IBU Pursuit World Champion Dmytro Pidruchnyi leads the Ukrainians.
Although without the retired Tiril Eckhoff and Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, the Norwegians have the speedy Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold leading the charge. French Olympic Mass Start Gold medalist Justine Braisaz-Bouchet will make her return to competition after a baby break with rising star, last year’s mass start second place Lou Jeanmonnot making a nice 1-2 punch for the tricolor. Veteran Franziska Preuss also will make her return to competition for the German team with the sharpshooting Vanessa Voigt making the women’s field very competitive.
Biathlon takes centre stage on Friday 04 August and Saturday 05 August. All competitions are broadcast live on NRK.
15:55 Shooting Duel, Men and Women
18:55 Super Sprints Men/Women
15:45 Mass Start Quarterfinals Men/Women
19:22 Mass Start Semifinals Men/ Women
20:25 Mass Start Finals Men/ Women
After a Covid-19 break, City-Biathlon returns to Wiesbaden on Sunday afternoon 13 August with an international field plus a special “retirees” race. The two nine-person mass starts both have strong fields; Norwegians Tarjei Boe and Laegreid will go up head-to-head against Sweden’s Martin Ponsiluoma for the men’s title. The local crowds will be cheering for Doll and Rees, with 22/23 Blue Bib winner Niklas Hartweg ready to take down the established stars. In a unique addition to the field, brothers Fabien and Florent Claude will battle for the win and family supremacy.
Past Wiesbaden winner Dorothea Wierer will lock horns with Sweden’s Hanna Oeberg, young Austrian Anna Gandler and local favourites Voigt, Hanna Kebinger and Sophia Schneider in a battle for the women’s win.
However, the day’s highlight might possibly be appearances by Olsbu Roeiseland, Eckhoff, Denise Herrmann-Wick, Vanessa Hinz and Maren Hammerschmidt in what is being billed as the “Farewell Race.” Do not expect any amazing performances but a lot of smiles, hugs and a few tears shed along the way as these recent retirees wave goodbye one final time.
City Biathlon will be broadcast live on ZDF in Germany and in some other European countries, more information to follow.
12:15 Women’s Qualifying
12:40 Men's Qualifying
13:10 Farewell Race
14:30 Women's Final
15:30 Men's Final
This year’s IBU SBWCH at Slovakia’s Brezno-Osrblie venue features super sprints, sprints and the Gala Mass Start for seniors and super sprints, sprints and pursuits for juniors. Twenty nations are expected to be on hand for the four competition days. Although the host nation will be missing their biggest stars Paulina Batovska Fialkova who is on maternity leave and her sister Ivona who recently retired, the near-by Czech Republic will have a full squad for local fans to cheer for. Leading the charge will be ten-time SBWCH medalist Marketa Davidova and teammate Michal Krcmar who has five podiums. Davidova and Krcmar both have three SBWCH Gold medals in their trophy case.
Krcmar could easily add to his medal collection, but several tough opponents will do their best to grab a medal or two. Sweden’s Peppe Femling who won Silver and Bronze medals will be going after Gold to complete his SBWCH collection. Germany’s Lukas Fratzscher, winner of last season’s IBU Cup Super Sprint Score will be going after a win in his specialty and Ukraine’s Dymytro Pidruchnyi is always a podium threat.
Pidruchnyi’s teammate Yulia Dzhima, winner of several IBU SBWCH medals plus an Olympic Relay Gold medal will challenge Davidova for medals in the women’s competitions. At the same time, Germany’s 2023 IBU OECH Individual Gold medalist Lisa Maria Spark will be going for her first podium at the SBWCH.
The schedule for the Osrblie competitions follows (finals only); television broadcast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
11:30 Junior Women Super Sprint Final
15:15 Junior Men Super Sprint Final
11:30 Women Super Sprint Final
15:15 Men Super Sprint Final
10:00 Junior Women Sprint
12:00 Junior Men Sprint
14:30 Women Sprint
16:40 Men Sprint
10:30 Junior Women Pursuit
12:15 Junior Men Pursuit
14:15 Women’s Gala Mass Start
16:15 Men’s Gala Mass Start
The first part of “rollerski season” wraps up on the weekend of 01 September with the biggest show of the summer, the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival on the Le Pȃquier meadow alongside deep-blue Lake Annecy in France, just steps from the vibrant city centre. As usual, the three-day star-studded extravaganza expects more than 10,000 fans to enjoy a huge party featuring a nighttime pop concert, fan village, the elite biathlon and cross-country competitions and ends with mass participation running biathlons.
While Blink and Wiesbaden both have strong elite fields, the MFNF has an equally elite field that is energized by the boisterous crowd and the event’s unique French ambience. This year’s edition of the MFNF has fields as strong as ever. 2022 winner Quentin Fillon Maillet and 2021 MFNF winner Laegreid will be on the start, both looking to become the first two-time victor in Annecy. The route to victory will be full of roadblocks, in the form of teammate Laegreid’s teammate Christiansen, Doll, French twice World Champion Emilien Jacquelin and teammate Fabien Claude. The MFNF always brings in a rising star or two and this year’s choice is Italy’s 23-year-old Tommaso Giacomel who finished 12th in last season’s Total Score
Lisa, Marketa and Co.
On the women’s side, 2019 winner Lisa Vittozzi returns after her rebound 2022/23 BMW IBU World Cup season where she finished third in the Total Score. Vittozzi will have her hands full with last year’s MFNF winner Davidova, World Cup Total Score winner Julia Simon and Tandrevold chasing on the flat, fast course. Braisaz-Bouchet will also be on the start, taking another step in her comeback season with two MFNF newcomers Lena Haecki-Gross and sharpshooter Vanessa Voigt ready to challenge the big stars.
The MFNF will be broadcast on the L’Équipe channel and eurovisionsports.tv/ibu/ on Saturday, 02 September with the Women’s Mass start at 16:05 and the Men’s Mass start at 16:55.
It should be a fun month of appetizers for the upcoming winter season in the IBU’s 30th year. If the opportunity arises to get to one of these competitions, do it. The weather will be warm, the competitions hot and the stadiums filled with biathlon’s brightest stars.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Jerry Kokesh, Archive