Biathlon Experts' Roundtable 2023/2024

November 25 and the BMW IBU World Cup season-opener in Oestersund are rapidly approaching. After months of preparation, the battles for Yellow, podiums and IBU World Championships medals will get underway.

We asked our panel of retired biathlon stars/experts to give us their thoughts on who will rule in the 2023/24 season:

Arnd Peiffer, Olympic and IBU World Champion

Tiril Eckhoff, World Cup Total Score Winner, Olympic and IBU World Champion

Lowell Bailey, IBU World Champion, US Biathlon High Performance Director

Denise Herrmann-Wick, Olympic and IBU World Champion

Michal Slesingr, IBU World Champion, World Cup winner, with 442 Career Starts

How firm is Johannes Thingnes Boe's grip on the Total Score before the season begins and who will be his biggest challenger this year?

This was probably the easiest question to answer with the consensus going to Johannes Thingnes Boe.

Slesingr summed up:

“JT Boe is so strong that it will be really hard to challenge him. There are strong athletes like Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, Sturla Holm Laegreid, Tarjei Boe, Benedikt Doll, Emilien Jacquelin, Quentin Fillon Maillet, Martin Ponsiluoma, Sebastian Samuelsson, and a few others who I expect to be consistently strong. I think they will challenge him in individual races but not so consistently that it will tear the big Globe from Johannes.”

Former teammate Eckhoff adds with a qualifier:

“I think Johannes will for sure be the favourite to win the Globe this year as well, but I think Sturla Holm Laegreid will give him a tough fight.” Peiffer concurred, “Johannes seems to be in top form again this year. In Sjusjøen, he won the preparation races almost effortlessly. In my opinion, his biggest competitor is Sebastian Samuelsson.”

Both Slesinger and Eckhoff admitted that nothing is ever a “given” in biathlon and things can change rapidly. Herrmann-Wick adds:

“I think Johannes is in really good shape but it’s a long season. The biggest challenger for Johannes, I think is one of his own teammates. But I hope there are a lot of guys who challenge him so we can see exciting competitions.” Bailey added: “Honestly, it's hard to think that anyone would challenge Johannes's title. But that is the appeal of biathlon. It is a fickle sport and things can change from one season to the next. Just think of how different 21/22 vs. 22/23 was for Fillon-Maillet?”

Will Elvira Oeberg or someone else dethrone Julia Simon in the battle for the Women’s Total Score? Your best guess for the top three in order.

The women’s title is much more up in the air, as Bailey suggests:

“I think the Women's Overall is wide open. Elvira is sure to be strong but don't count out her sister, or the Italians.”

Eckhoff who owns a big Crystal Globe suggested:

“I think the woman’s winner is very hard to tell. 1. Lisa Vittozzi; 2. Julia Simon; 3. Elvira or Hanna Öberg. I am super curious about how Justine Braisaz-Bouchet will do in her comeback.”

Slesingr expects: “Vittozzi to finish high, as well as Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold, Elvira as well.. Julia is a question, depending on her personal situation.”

Additional top three picks:

Peiffer: 1. Julia Simon; 2. Elvira Oeberg; 3. Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold

Herrmann-Wick: 1. Lisa Vittozzi; 2. Julia Simon; 3. Hanna Oeberg

Who has the potential to win their first World Cup competition this season (one man, one woman)?

Bailey: Sophia Schneider, Tommy Giacomel

Peiffer: Lou Jeanmonnot

Eckhoff: Hanna Kebinger, Eric Perrot

Herrmann-Wick: Hanna Kebinger, Tommy Giacomel

Slesingr: Lou Jeanmonnot, Sophie Chauveau, Niklas Hartweg, Tommy Giacomel. Karoline Knotten and Linn Persson are also waiting for a win.

What are the prospects for your home team this season?

Peiffer and Herrmann-Wick, former teammates on the German team have good feelings about the upcoming season, especially for some of the younger women and for Doll, in his last season.

Herrmann-Wick: “I think in general we have a young women’s team which is capable of some surprises. In the men, we have our boss Benni Doll. He is a strong leader who can lead the team to success.”

Peiffer added: “Among the women, Selina Grotian will rise, but the established ones will also fight for the top 10. For the men, I see Benni Doll on the podium.”

Regarding the powerhouse Norwegians, Eckhoff sees continued success. “I think the Norwegian team will be very strong this year. What I have heard the men's team will be sharp as always. And in the women’s team, I hope Ingrid will show what she’s capable of 💪. I am super excited to see all the young girls compete.”

The pressure is on for Slesingr’s home team Czechia with the IBU World Championships scheduled for Nove Mesto na Morave.

I don't like to guess too much about our prospects. We had some health issues with a few athletes so we will miss Tomas Mikyska at the beginning of the season. Michal Krcmar was also affected during preparation but looked good in Sjusjoen. Hopefully, he will be able to keep up and won't feel this during the season. Of course, the biggest name is Marketa Davidova who I expect to reach some podiums and also Tereza Vobornikova may settle in the top of the field.”

Bailey who has been a part of the US Biathlon scene since the late 20th century is optimistic about the prospects for his team which is a mix of veterans and youth.

“We have had a really good training year and the team dynamic has been really high; good, daily competition within the team workouts. On the men's side, we have more competitive depth than we've ever had so we are excited to see what that will translate into this winter. For the women, Deedra Irwin had a good training year. However, we are in a rebuilding phase for that team, with many new faces that will hit the World Cup starting line this winter.” All that is left is to see what happens this coming week in Oestersund, stay tuned!

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Igor Stancik, Vianney Thibaut

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