The field is undoubtedly the strongest ever. The home team Germany boasts a full squad of both men and women led by Olympic Champion Denise Herrmann, her Olympic Bronze medal teammates and the men’s squad with World Cup winner Johannes Kuehn, Philipp Nawrath and Co. World Champion Benedikt Doll is expected to miss the big show, due to the recent birth of his first child. Men’s Assistant Coach Uros Velepec commented, “I will be watching how everyone shoots, to see if they are confident and taking risks. We have done some controlled tests but this is different. We are not peaking for this, but getting in some races is what we need before the German Championships in Oberhof which is very important for our athletes.”
Sweden is competing at the IBU SBWCH for the first time ever, bringing all of their top athletes except 2018 Olympic Champion Hanna Oeberg. The team comes to Ruhpolding a week after their Summer National Championships, where Elvira Oeberg and Martin Ponsiluoma both recorded hat tricks, with Oeberg shooting clean in the individual and sprint. Anna Magnusson and Mona Brorsson had strong showings in Oestersund as did Blinkfestivalen mass start winner Linn Persson. Sebastian Samuelsson, a close second to Ponsiluoma in the three Oestersund competitions gives the Sweden a strong 1-2 punch.
Czech Republic comes to the Championships with a full team of both seniors and juniors, hoping to match their 13 medals from last year at Nove Mesto na Moravě. 2021 Gold and Silver medalist Marketa Davidova, IBU YJWCH double Gold medalist Tereza Vobornikova and 2021 SBWCH Sprint/Pursuit Gold medalist Michal Krcmar lead the talented team. Italy is sending four competitors, pinning their medal hopes on Dorothea Wierer and Lisa Vittozzi. 2012 SBWCH Sprint Gold medalist Wierer and Junior Relay Bronze medalist Vittozzi return to the Summer Champs for the first time since then. 22-year-olds Tommaso Giacomel and Didier Bionaz will start for the Italian men.
Ukraine comes to Ruhpolding with a strong team despite the challenges presented by the ongoing war. 2019 Pursuit World Champion Dmytro Pidruchnyi after serving active duty in the Ukrainian Army leads the men’s team. Olympic and World Champion as well as seven-time SBWCH medalist Olena Bilosiuk World Champion and Olympic Gold medals leads women’s team, that includes her Olympic Gold Medal Relay Gold teammates Yulia Dzhima and sixteen-time SBWCH medalist Valja Semerenko.
Beyond these senior-level stars, there are plenty of other top competitors filling out the 29-nation, 300+ entrant field. A solid junior group has many IBU YJWCH stars including Germany’s multi-medalist Alfred Engelmann and teammate Junior Individual World Champion Lisa Spark, Slovenia’s five-time YWCH medalist Lena Repinc, and Czech Republic’s Junior Gold medalist Jonas Marecek, all potential biathlon stars of the future.
The highlight of the SBWCH this year comes on Sunday with the senior Gala Mass Starts. These competitions will look a lot like a BMW IBU World Cup mass start: the top 15 in last season’s WC Total Score qualify, the 2022 IBU SBWCH medalists and the remaining spots going to the top point winners in Ruhpolding. There is a nice prize money pool for all of the IBU SBWCH competitions; the top six get a check with 5,000 Euros for the Gold medalists. Yet, the Gala Mass Starts take the prize money a step further, with 15,000 Euros to the winner and cash down to 15th place. It should quite a battle with names like Herrmann, Vanessa Voigt, Oeberg, Wierer and Davidova lining up for a head-to-head battle. The men’s competition could be an all-Sweden affair with most likely Ponsiluoma and Samuelsson going against a group that could include several Germans, Tero Seppala, and Krcmar.
It should be a fun, exciting week with fast shooting, close finishes and surprises as the Biathlon Family convenes in Ruhpolding for a little warm-weather preview of the upcoming BMW IBU World Cup season just three months away.
Live streaming on the website begins with the senior super sprints on Friday and continues through the weekend.
IBU SBWCH Schedule (All times CET):
Thursday 25 August
10:15 Jr. Men Super Sprint Qualifying
12:00 Jr. Women Super Sprint Qualifying
14:30 Jr. Men Super Sprint Final
15:45 Jr. Women Super Sprint Final
Friday 26 August
10:30 Men Super Sprint Qualifying
12:15 Women Super Sprint Qualifying
15:10 Men Super Sprint Final
16:25 Women Super Sprint Final
Saturday 27 August
10:00 Jr. Men Sprint
12:15 Jr. Men Sprint
14:45 Men Sprint
17:00 Women Sprint Sunday 28 August
11:00 Jr. Men Pursuit
13:00 Women Gala Mass Start
15:15 Men Gala Mass Start
17:00 Jr. Women Pursuit
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni