Laura Dahlmeier gives us her impressions of the final competitions in Beijing, the Men's and Women's Relay and the Mass Starts. The two-time Olympic Champion explains the incredible success of Norway, JT Boe, Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, and Quentin Fillon Maillet at these Olympics.
The windy conditions and slow snow in otherwise beautiful surroundings in Zhangjiakou in the mass start summed up the biathlon competitions in Beijing. They demanded calculated risk-taking from the athletes. Fast shooting in the irregular gusts of wind proved to be a better strategy than waiting for the right moment and losing valuable time. None of the women fighting for the medal shot clean in the last shooting, and only Vetle Sjaastaf Christiansen managed to go 5/5 from the men. The winners Justine Braisaz-Bouchet and JT Boe shot fast, knowing they might miss a shot or two, and relied on their great skiing form. The biggest champions take the conditions as they are and adapt. Experience also played a vital role in Beijing as JT Boe, Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, and Quentin Fillon Maillet showed with winning five medals each.
Norway was impressive in Beijing. Their whole season planning was a build-up to the Olympics. By setting clear goals, the Norwegians knew in advance that their form would vary throughout the season. They stayed calm when the media put pressure on them. They never lost their peace of mind, trusting the process. The Norwegians trained in the strong winds when possible and used wind simulators when needed. They did everything within their powers to spend as much time in the conditions that resemble Beijing. Norwegian athletes learn to naturally believe in their physical and mental abilities from a very young age; that is why they were so good at making the most of their all capabilities in China. As for their men, JT Boe’s shooting this season is not as consistently accurate as it was in some of the past ones. He compensated misses with superb skiing - the high altitude and slow snow played into his hands. Johannes knows how to let the skis glide and work for him. His brother Tarjei rounded up his career with two individual Olympic medals as they were amiss in his trophy collection. In the last days, I also admired Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen. He kept his cool in the deciding shooting in the relay and the mass start, look at the difference it made! One clean shooting decided between going home as an Olympic winner or finishing fourth.
The German women also nailed the timing at the beginning and the end of the Beijing 2022 Games. Denise Herrmann won a gold medal in the Individual as all her skills and ambitions came together in a perfect race. Despite the challenging start in the mixed relay - as her shooting accuracy dropped well below her usual standard - Vanessa Voigt showed great potential in China. Their bronze medal in the women's relay was a great team performance, and it was beautiful to see the tears of joy in the athletes. This season was particularly tough on Franziska Preuss. She has missed eight weeks of training and competitions due to injury and illness and got her reward at the end. On the other hand, the German men lived through a genuine thriller in the relay as they were one of the four teams fighting for gold in the last shooting. Unfortunately, the luck swung the other way, but that is how things are in the sport. They stayed true to the slogan: We win and lose as a team. They gave everything to fulfill their Olympic dream and were close to a medal on a few occasions. They were in good form on the skis but still a notch behind the leading nations, so it all came down to the shooting. When we draw the line below these Games for the German team, we can say that it is a bit unfortunate for the men to go home without any medals and that the women did well.
The transition back into the weekly routine of the World Cup is never easy after the Olympics. 4 years ago, I flew home to Frankfurt from PyeongChang, and there was a lot of media interest upon my return. But I just wanted to see my family, friends, and mountains, and relax and do what I like to do. Olympic Winter Games are a very intense experience. As an athlete, you need to focus five, six times in two weeks. When it is all over, the stress relief is enormous. This year more so, as athletes lived with the constant fear of contracting C-19 and not being able to compete. After a few days of rest, it makes sense to go on the skis from the pure joy of moving and feel the freedom. The last days before the re-start of the World Cup, it's good to get back into the competition mold. Marte and Quentin are the leading athletes in the Total Standings, and despite finding new highs in Beijing, I believe they will continue with their winning form. They are in such good condition and had such a successful experience that they can manage a shaky competition or compensate for a slight drop of skiing speed with accuracy on the shooting range. On top of everything, the fight for the Crystal Globe is a unique motivation. If the fans fill the stands in the last week in Oslo, it will be even more exciting - especially for Roeiseland.