Can anyone beat Johannes?

The Johannes Thingnes Boe everyone marvelled at last season was superb and spectacular, winning 19 competitions; virtually unbeatable! With that in mind, a group of his rivals, including several who have beaten the Norwegian, chimed in on what it takes to defeat the four-time IBU World Cup Total Score winner.


Three-time World Cup Total Score runner-up Sturla Holm Laegreid, with as much up-close experience with JT as anyone, knows what makes his teammate tough to beat. “The physical aspect is his biggest talent. His body is just made for skiing fast…He is incredible on the tracks…It is almost an accepted fact that you have to rely on him to make mistakes to get the victory. Now he has worked out his shooting; that makes him basically unbeatable.”

Yet, Laegreid thinks the key to beating JT is, “I have to step up and put more pressure on him, both in percentage and shooting efficiency. I hope I can breathe on his neck and he will feel more pressure… He has too much gap and confidence now…I need to be my best. I do not have to beat him every time. But if I am consistently close, he knows that he has to shoot clean, because he knows I will.”


Emilien Jacquelin got the best of JT twice on the biggest stages, winning the IBU World Championships Pursuit Gold medal In Antholz and Pokljuka. Jacquelin chuckled and hesitated before replying, “Seriously, for myself, I have to be 100%. I know I am able to make the shooting necessary to battle with him and try to ski with him. On the track, he is so amazing. I need to take some risk; that is the only way. That is the sport, it is biathlon. We work for that. The French team works to be the best that we can be; anything is possible!”

Finland’s Terro Seppala did not have an answer, but suggested, “I think he can skip one training season and still beat everyone.”


2017 IBU World Sprint Champion Benedikt Doll has won ahead of JT on three occasions. He most recently finished 28.9 seconds behind the Norwegian last March in the Oslo sprint. Doll admits to a simple formula, “Clean shooting, good skiing…perfect skis and hope that he has a bad day!”


Martin Ponsiluoma finished on the podium in front of JT five times, but won just one of those times, in the Kontiolahti 20 km individual last November. “That is a tricky question. We will see if he is as strong as last year, but you still have to ski even faster than last year and shoot better. I beat him two times last year and will try to beat him some more times this year!”


Tommaso Giacomel has never beaten JT, but came close in the Ruhpolding 20 km individual last January. “I would have beaten him in Ruhpolding if I would have shot four times zero. He had two mistakes and I had one. He is a huge talent. It is difficult; all of the other guys are not as talented as he is, even though there are many talented guys. You just have to have the perfect day, the legs of your life and the shooting of your life and hope he stumbles just a little bit!”


2022 World Cup Total Score winner Quentin Fillon Maillet with a dozen wins over JT, more than anyone else thinks about it all the time. “I will try to beat him again (in the Total Score). I hope so; I work for that every day.”


Sebastian Samuelsson has four career victories including winning the IBU WCH Mass Start last February when the Swede shot clean while JT toured the penalty loop three times. “For me it is not about beating Johannes if he is not the best. Last season he was the best. I want to beat everyone and I think I have to improve my shooting. I am focusing a lot on shooting faster, but I also need to hit more targets. I know on my best days my skiing is not on the level of Johannes, but it is still good enough to compete if I shoot well.”


The optimism of Norwegian teammate Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen summarises the attitude needed to wrest the top spot from JT. Christiansen, second to JT twice last season and owner of a single 2019 win over him, remains optimistic. “He’s played some mind games with us on Instagram about his rollerski sessions and shooting, but I try my best every year and I think I get a little bit closer… Maybe this is the year to beat him. I said it before, but I am saying it again!”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Igor Stancik, Jerry Kokesh

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