5 things we learned in Kontiolahti

Biathlon showed a united front of support for Ukraine. Quentin Fillon Maillet equaled Martin Fourcade’s streak of six consecutive pursuit wins in one season. Erik Lesser finished second in the pursuit while saying a prolonged goodbye to biathlon and helping Ukrainian colleagues convey the message of Russian war atrocities. Stina Nilsson followed Denise Herrmann’s transformation from a cross-country champion to a biathlon force, and Johannes Dale found winning form in the IBU Cup in Lenzerheide.

Biathlon family stands united for Ukraine

In one of the most challenging weeks for the world and sport in recent memory, the biathlon family stood united in support of Ukraine. Norway’s women relay expressed their opposition to the war on their headbands, and most of the athletes carried signs of support for Ukraine on their equipment. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the International Biathlon Union has already committed to helping the Ukrainian biathlon family by providing financial, logistical, and sports-technical assistance to the athletes and the federation. It also started a fundraising campaign that will be open until the last day of the World Cup finals in Oslo-Holmenkollen on 20 March 2022. 

A great athlete and even more extraordinary man Erik Lesser

Activating every atom of energy his body had to offer, Erik Lesser finished second in the pursuit in the venue where he became a pursuit world champion seven years ago. Although Lesser is ending his career, he is not leaving biathlon. After a year of sabbatical, he plans to work as a coach. Always ready to help others and never shy from voicing his opinion, Erik connected with his Ukrainian biathlon colleague Anastasiya Merkushyna to communicate with his 30,000 Instagram followers in Russia, urging them to speak up against the senseless war. 

Sleeping a lot, helps Fillon Maillet equals Fourcade’s pursuit-winning record 

Including Beijing 2022, Quentin Fillon Maillet has won six consecutive pursuits this season and equaled Martin Fourcade’s record-winning streak from the 2016/2017 season. Fillon Maillet has not been beaten in the pursuit since Hochfilzen and hit 114 out of 120 targets for a phenomenal 95% accuracy. Fourcade has also closed 114 out of 120 targets in his six consecutive pursuit wins in 2016/2017. There is just a detail differentiating Fillon Maillet’s and Fourcade’s achievements: Quentin has never missed more than two shots in any of his six wins, whereas Martin missed three shots in one of his winning performances. Fillon Maillet singled out sleeping a lot as one of his secrets for staying in form throughout the season.

Stina Nilsson on Denise Herrmann’s path

In the sprint of Kontiolahti, in her only 13th BMW IBU World cup race, Stina Nilsson captured her career-first podium. It was an overwhelmingly emotional moment in the life of a cross country sprint Olympic champion from PyeongChang 2018. Nilsson spent most of her rookie biathlon season 2020/2021 in the IBU Cup and counted eighth place from the pursuit in Brezno-Osrblie as her best result. Her transformation from a world-class cross country skier to an emerging force in the biathlon world cup resembles Denise Herrmann's. German Olympic and world champion switched to biathlon two seasons after winning a relay cross country bronze in Sochi 2014 and scored her first back-to-back podiums, which happened to be the wins, in her only 11th and 12th world cup competition in Oestersund.

Dale finds his winning ways in Lenzerheide

Johannes Dale was one of the breakthrough stars of the 2020/2021 season. He scored his first BMW IBU World Cup win in the sprint of Hochfilzen and added a bronze in the individual and a silver in the mass start at the IBU World Championships Pokljuka 2021. After back problems in the summer, his form slumped, and Dale joined the Norwegian IBU Cup team after the disappointments in the first two world cup weeks in Oestersund. After decent performances at the IBU Open European Championships in Arber in January, Dale won the sprint in Lenzerheide last week. That gave him hope to return to the world cup competitions in at least one of the remaining two weeks of the season.

Photo: IBU/C. Manzoni

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