The Finnish superstar reflects on the first three weeks of the season, explains why we have seen many different results and a few surprises and offers explanations for the exciting overall performances of Sweden and Belarus. The former Crystal Globe winner also takes a look ahead to Le Grand Bornand and the challenging conditions there.
The first few weeks of the season are already over: we have seen many different results, a few surprises and some teams started very well in Oestersund and Hochfilzen: for example Sweden and Belarus.
Of course, I don’t know the Swedish team’s exact training over the summer – but Sebbe, Elvira and Hanna are all young. Sebastian and Hanna have been on the top already for a few years but still: at that age, you improve a lot in one year. You don’t really need to do anything special. You just train and when you have as much talent as they have, you keep moving forward all the time. When I look back how it was with me, I think until 27 or 28 I just trained and made those steps forward – after you turn 30, it gets a lot tougher to keep your level. And I also believe they have strong coaches and the training philosophy of Wolfgang Pichler is still a big influence, even if you don’t see him in the World Cup anymore.
Dzinara Alimbekava and Hanna Sola already had good results last winter but now they are in the second year with their Austrian coach Reinhard Goesweiner. When you get a new coach, the first year you get to know each other but now in the second year, I am sure the work has been much better for everybody. Also, I know Mari Eder has been training with them all summer – Mari lives in Austria and she knows Goesweiner. It is always good when you have someone new on your team – it was good for her but also for the Belarusian women. Mari is a good skier and they all came into this new season looking good on the tracks. For me, it has been nice to see the Belarusian women on top again because it reminds me of when I competed with Darya Domracheva – now Sola and Alimbekava are second and third in the Total Score; only behind Marte Olsbu Roeiseland (in my eyes one of the coolest at the shooting range right now!).
Now we are off to Le Grand-Bornand and I’m looking forward to the fantastic French crowds cheering on their athletes! I still remember the last time we went in 2019. It was raining so much and everybody was freezing because of the rain – but this week, it looks like we will get sunnier weather. I hope we see Doro, Tiril and Johannes on the podium again. I’m sure they trust the work they did in the summer but that would be important for them. I have been in their position that people expected a lot from me and the start of the season was not as good. I can feel how they feel. But the winter is long – and the season highlight in Beijing is still 2 months away, so I’m sure their good results will come.
p.s. I have been impressed and really happy about the success of Tero Seppälä, Olli Hiidensalo and Suvi Minkkinen, all reaching career-bests! But Tero being at the flower ceremony in Oestersund was something really important for Finnish biathlon!
In order to receive the Experts' Corner at the beginning of every World Cup week, subscribe to "This Week In Biathlon". Olympic Champions and Total Score Winners analyse the competitions and give their valuable insights!