The Big 3: Boe, Roeiseland and Fillon Maillet

While the last targets were still being closed in the men’s mass start, JT Boe stood in the finish area, his face turned towards the rest of the field, the grand champion looking back at the two weeks of high-paced, high-stakes drama in the high altitude, extreme cold and gusting winds of Zhangjiakou. JT had just won his fourth Olympic Gold, upping his final medal count in Beijing to five and rewriting history with Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Quentin Fillon Maillet. No man or woman had ever won five medals at the Olympics before JT Boe, Olsbu Roeiseland, and Fillon Maillet accomplished that feat in Beijing. 

JT Boe’s four golds in the mixed relay, sprint, relay, and mass start matched those of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who won the individual, sprint, pursuit, and relay at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games before he ran out of competitions, as the mass start was only added to the Olympic programme in Torino 2006 and the mixed relay in Sochi 2014.

To be named in the same context as Bjoerndalen left Boe, who also won a bronze in the individual, almost breathless, as he carefully chose his words: “Ole Einar is the biggest King of biathlon. To be named in the same sentence with him is a reason for celebrations.” JT Boe now needs a pursuit triumph in Milano-Cortina 2026 to complete his golden Olympic collection and do one better than Bjoerndalen, who won Olympic gold in all disciplines but the mass start.

Olsbu Roeiseland's triple-gold from Beijing 2022 equaled Darya Domracheva’s pursuit-individual-mass start gold collection from Sochi 2014. While Marte won gold in the sprint, pursuit, and mixed relay, she also won bronze in the individual and mass start, becoming the first biathlete to win a medal in all four individual disciplines in one Olympic Games. Olsbu Roeiseland found the recipe for mastering nervous energy at the career-defining two-week competitions two years ago, when she took a week off in the middle of the season to allow her body to breathe and her mind to sharpen, before she stormed the IBU World Championships Antholz-Anterselva 2020 and won all seven available medals, including five gold. She followed the same pattern this season and again delivered when it mattered most. Nobody but the Norwegian has won 12 out of 13 available medals in just one IBU World Championships and one Olympic Winter Games.

Fillon Maillet won gold in the individual and pursuit and added silver in the sprint, mixed relay, and men relay. No Frenchman, not even Martin Fourcade, has ever done that. Like Olsbu Roeiseland, Quentin worked long and hard to reach the pinnacle of biathlon. If others train hard, I trained harder, he says. Fillon Maillet spent most of the last summer searching for high altitudes and cold weather. He trained in special conditions to learn how to block out the noise in the brain when history asks questions. Fillon Maillet found a perfect adversary in JT Boe in Beijing 2022 as their daily forms swung from great to outstanding and back to great and never, rarely ever dropping below that margin. When Boe missed his shot for the individual gold, they both went into the last lap with two misses, but Fillon Maillet out-skied Boe by more than 30 seconds. The reverse happened in the sprint: they both shot 9/10, but Boe was in better form that day. In the crazy winds during the pursuit, Fillon Maillet skillfully played the wind in perhaps the toughest competition of the season and shot 20/20 while the rest of the field missed 5.5 shots on average. Boe was unfortunate with the wind in the pursuit, but Lady Luck, who wants her approval to be earned, nodded to him in the mass start. Fillon Maillet also withstood the pressure of being the anchor in the medal-winning relays (French men waited since Torino 2006 for this prestigious honour), and brought home two silver medals for his teammates and his nation.

Photo: Christian Manzoni

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