Germany’s Erik Lesser’s first career podium was second place in the December 2007 IBU Cup Junior 15 km individual; by the time he retired, his resume showed 45 BMW IBU World Cup individual and relay podiums. Known for his amusing and frank comments to the media as well as his shooting skill, Lesser put an exclamation point on a career that included two Silver Olympic medals in 2014 and IBU World Championship Pursuit Gold in 2015, in the final trimester of this past season. Going out in a nostalgic blaze of glory, Lesser hit 104 of his last 110 shots in individual competitions, winning the Oslo pursuit, placing second in the Kontiolahti pursuit and third with Franziska Preuss in the Otepaeae single mixed relay.
Switzerland’s Selina Gasparin, balancing motherhood and professional sports for the past seven years left biathlon after a career that started in 2004. Her legacy in Swiss winter sports is historic: the first and only to date Swiss Olympic biathlon medalist, Silver in the Sochi women’s 15 km Individual. She and sisters Elisa and Aita comprised ¾ of the equally historic Swiss women’s relay team that had three podiums in the 2019-20 season.
Gasparin’s teammate Benjamin Weger never won a medal after his Sprint Silver medal at the 2009 IBU YJWCH, but the Swiss veteran picked up five podiums over the years. The 2018 Pyeongchang OWG was a career highlight, with sixth place in both the 20 km individual and the pursuit.
Italy’s Dominik Windisch leaves biathlon as the most decorated Italian male biathlete, winning Olympic Sprint and Mixed Relay Bronze medals in 2018, as well as Mixed Relay Bronze in 2014. Windisch’s biggest moment was at the 2019 IBU World Championships, coming to the mass start’s final standing stage in 13th position, he shot clean, speeding past the field for the Gold medal.
France’s Simon Desthieux is a member of an elite club with Olympic, IBU World Championships, and IBU Junior World Championships Gold medals. A staple on the French relay teams that collected 29 podiums, Desthieux had two BMW IBU World Cup victories in the 2020/21 season.
Desthieux's teammate Anais Bescond's career started on the IBU Cup circuit back in 2004 and closed it with 365 career starts. In a 16-year career, Bescond won eight IBU WCH medals, but shined the brightest at the Pyeongchang 2018 OWG with Mixed Relay Gold plus Pursuit and Relay Bronze medals. Bescond loved and excelled in relays, picking up 43 relay podiums with her teammates, with her final individual podium coming in front of the huge 2021 Annecy Le Grand Bornand home crowd.
More to come on these French stars in future articles.
Long-time US pillars Susan Dunklee and Clare Egan hung up their rifles after this season; read our deep-dive on the changing of the guard in US Biathlon here.Egan and Dunklee Retire; US Team Looks Forward
Dunklee and Egan’s teammates 2008 IBU Youth WCH Bronze medalist, three-time Olympian and World Cup regular Leif Nordgren, and Hallie Grossman, who competed mainly on the IBU Cup circuit also called it a career.
Slovenia’s Klemen Bauer after making his international debut at the 2002 IBU Junior World Championships graduated to the IBU Cup, winning several times before taking an IBU JWCH Bronze medal in 2007, and having a 399-start BMW IBU World Cup. Bauer’s career highlights were near-miss 4th place in the 2010 Olympic sprint and an IBU World Championships Mixed Relay Silver medal in 2012.
Czech Republic’s Eva Puskarcikova was part of the heyday of the Czech women’s team between 2014 and 2016 when they won four women’s relays. She left biathlon with a recently upgraded 2014 Olympic Women’s Relay Bronze medal and a 2020 IBU WCH Mixed Relay Bronze medal.
On the men’s side, Sochi Olympian Tomas Krupcik also retired.
Amanda Lightfoot of Great Britain, the only British woman in the BMW IBU World Cup circuit for many seasons, ended her 15-year career that included the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Winter Games after posting a career-best 20th in the 2022 Antholz 15 km individual.
Belgium’s Tom Lahaye-Goffart, who competed mainly in the IBU Cup closed his career after three starts at the Beijing Olympic Winter Games.
Two Estonian veterans also left the sport after long careers. Two-time Olympian Kadri Lehtla’s career began back in 2007, including 217 World Cup starts. Kalev Ermits competed in three Olympic Winter Games over his nine-year World Cup career.
Maren Hammerschmidt won the IBU Youth WCH Sprint in 2008 and two years later the IBU Junior Sprint World Championship. She had two individual podiums and was part of six winning women’s relay teams on the World Cup circuit, including running a leg on Germany’s 2017 IBU WCH Gold medal-winning women’s relay team.
Her teammate Karolin Horchler, the 2017/18 IBU Cup Total Score and Sprint Score winner as well as the 2016/17 IBU Cup Individual Score retired after a 14-year international career.
Poland’s Magdalena Gwizdon started her career at Oestersund on December 9, 1995 and closed it on March 11, 2022, spanning a record 529 starts. She competed in four Olympic Winter Games and won twice on the World Cup circuit. Gwizdon’s teammate Karolina Piton also left the team after an 18-year career.
Sweden lost three experienced competitors to retirement: Bettan Hoegberg, Torstein Stenersen, and Ingela Andersson. Hoegberg competed in two Olympic Winter Games but 2020 was her highlight season, winning the IBU Cup Total Score, Sprint and Pursuit Scores. Andersson’s biggest success was also in the IBU Cup where she won several times, while Stenersen was part of Sweden’s winning relay team at the 2018 Hochfilzen World Cup.
Two Canadian Olympians ended their careers: Scott Gow and Megan Bankes. 2016 IBU WCH Relay Bronze medalist Gow closed his final season with the top two results of his career, 4th in the Oestersund 20 km individual and 5th in the Beijing OWG 20 km individual. 2017 IBU Junior WCH Gold medalist Bankes ended her career after competing in the Beijing OWG.
Japan took the biggest hit numbers-wise of the retirements with Kosuke Ozaki, Tsukasa Kobonoki, Sari Maeda, Yurie Tanaka and Asuka Hachisuka among those who finished their careers.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni