The wait to see many of biathlon’s shining stars will end when the calendar flips to August, signaling a new season of rollerski competitions. JT Boe, Quentin Fillon Maillet, Sturla Holm Laegreid, Tiril Eckhoff, Dorothea Wierer and Lisa Theresa Hauser are just a few of the top stars that will go after warm-weather wins in the numerous August and September competitions. The first shots will be fired at the Blink Festivalen, quickly followed by the Wiesbaden City Biathlon, the IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships, the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival and then national championships in the following weeks of September and early October.
Norway/France Tussle at Blink
The Blink Festivalen opens the month on August 5th with its usual line-up of the Lysebotn Uphill Rollerski race, followed by two days of biathlon with a super sprint, shooting duels and a mass start all in the Sandnes Arena. However, it is downsized; they only expect about 600 total entrants, about 25% of the 2019 pre-pandemic total. This first showdown of the new season between the Norwegian and French teams will be shown live on NRK in Norway and in several other countries. Besides the big names, both nations will have a team of top juniors on the starting line. Just think Sturla Holm Laegreid, JT and Tarjei Boe up against Quentin Fillon Maillet, Emilien Jacquelin and Simon Desthieux. On the women’s side, there is top-ranked Tiril Eckhoff, Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold matched against Anais Chevalier Bouchet, Julia Simon and Anais Bescond. Selina Gasparin, Federica Sanfilippo, and Philipp Horn will add some spice to this opening weekend of rollerski season, but all eyes will be focused on the two top teams in biathlon.
Julia Simon Defends at City-Biathlon
Hot on the heels of Blink, City-Biathlon Wiesbaden follows on Sunday August 15. This one-day extravaganza, the only one held last year always features a strong international field for its unique six-lap, five shooting stage mass start with just nine men and nine women in the field. The French squad dominated last year with Julia Simon and Quentin Fillon Maillet taking the top spots at this inner-city competition. Simon and second place Marketa Davidova who won IBU WCH Gold last February will return to defend the top two podium spots from last year. Dorothea Wierer and Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold will challenge that duo for the top spot. Germany will be represented by young Janina Hettich who ran the second leg on the German women’s relay that captured an IBU WCH Silver medal this past February.
Boe Brothers Return
The men’s field will be loaded as always is the case in Wiesbaden. Three-time IBU World Cup Total Score Champion Johannes Thingnes Boe and his brother Tarjei head back to this German extravaganza for the third consecutive year. The speedy Lukas Hofer and sharp-shooting Jakov Fak will try to take down the Norwegian duo. Erik Lesser and Roman Rees will be right there to push this top four, while IBU WCH men’s relay Bronze medalist Said Karim Khalili will make his first appearance in a major invitational rollerski competition.
Home Team: High Hopes in Nove Mesto na Moravě
Nove Mesto na Moravě is the place to be from August 26-29 when the IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships take center stage. The IBU’s big summer event returns to the Vysočina Arena for the third time after previous stops in 2011 and 2018. The Czech Republic has high hopes for this edition of the IBU SBWCH; their 13 medals were tops in 2018. The home team expects to start all of their top stars including 2021 IBU 15 km Individual World Champion Marketa Davidova, 2020 Sprint Bronze medalist Lucie Charvátová and 2018 Olympic Winter Games Sprint Silver medalist Michal Krcmar as well as their IBU Junior WCH Bronze medal men’s relay squad. Charvátová was one of the stars of the 2019 IBU SBWCH, taking Silver medals in the super sprint and sprint competitions.
Four Biathlon-packed Days
Besides the home team, traditional summer powers RBU, Ukraine, and Slovenia are expected to send strong squads that will battle for medals. The 2021 IBU SBWCH will open with the junior super sprint qualifying and finals on Thursday, August 26, followed by the senior super sprints on Friday. The weekend action has junior and senior sprints up on Saturday with pursuits in all categories on Sunday closing the Championships.
Laegreid and Eckhoff Headline in Annecy
Just six days after the IBU SBWCH close, the action shifts to France for the September 4 Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival on the shore of beautiful Lake Annecy, France. This second edition promises to be as spectacular as the first back in 2019 when Fourcade brought in Johannes Thingnes Boe for a mass start duel in the sun that Fourcade won with Benedikt Doll second. With over 3,000 fans on hand Lisa Vittozzi topped the elite women’s field with teammate Dorothea Wierer in second place.
This year’s version expects to be just as thrilling with Sturla Holm Laegreid matched up against Doll, French stars Quentin Fillon Maillet, Emilien Jacquelin, and Simon Desthieux, as well as Jakov Fak and Matvey Eliseev. The women’s field will also be a barn burner with IBU World Cup Total Score winner Tiril Eckhoff going up against Franziska Preuss, Lisa Theresa Hauser, Paulina Fialkova, and Mari Eder. 2020 Wiesbaden Winner Julia Simon and teammate Anais Chevalier Bouchet will represent the French team.
National Champs Up Next
After this month of elite international rollerski competitions, the focus shifts to national championships including the always popular multi-week German Championships, the Italian Champs in Antholz and the Samse Summer Tour (French Champs) at Plan de Hotonnes in mid to late September.
Once rollerski biathlon season ends, it will almost be time for the snow to fly and the Olympic season to start.
Photos: IBU/ Christian Manzoni, Harald Deubert, Bjorn Reichert, Marika Godin, Kjetil Dalseth, Hans Lie, La Chaine L’Équipe