The three-time Olympic Gold medalist retired from biathlon at the top of her game, finishing second and third in the World Cup Total Score and three discipline crystal globes in her last two seasons. She closed her career with four victories in the 2018/19 season, including a sprint/pursuit double at the season-ending Oslo BMW IBU World Cup. That season, she also won her first and only IBU World Championship title, taking the women’s sprint in Oestersund.
Kuzmina is the only women in Olympic Biathlon history to win a Gold medal in three consecutive Olympic Winter Games, taking the sprint in 2010 and 2014 and the mass start in 2018.
The recently turned 39-year-old’s return to biathlon comes at an important time for Slovak Biathlon. The retirement of Ivona Fialkova and sister Paulina on maternity leave, gives the Slovaks a youth-filled roster for a major IBU Championship at home next January.
At her press conference today, Kuzmina, acknowledged that her task of returning to Championship form will be a challenge. “I can't predict at all how I will perform at the European Championships because we don't know what this competition will look like, depending on the strategies of the different countries. I have no idea what results I could achieve there, but I'm not just coming back to greet the fans.”
Kuzmina, known as a tireless worker, will undoubtably put in the necessary effort to be in the best form possible. “It will be very, very difficult because I would like to bring joy to the people again and not disappoint them.” The IBU OECH will be her first IBU competition of the season, just days after completing the obligatory six months in the IBU anti-doping program. Should the mother-of-two find a good level in the Osrblie competitions, she did not rule out competing in the BMW IBU World Championships the next month at Nove Mesto na Moravě or even the final BMW IBU World Cups.
Successful or not, the return of Anastasiya Kuzmina to biathlon adds a bit of anticipation and intrigue as well as a few more chances see a legend of the sport in the upcoming 2023/24 season.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Petr Slavik