Eight of last season’s top ten women return for another go at the big Crystal Globe. Olsbu Roeiseland and Elvira Oeberg finished well ahead of the field, but plenty of big names are looking to surge back to the top. Throw in a few spoilers/wild cards and expect a seesaw battle for supremacy from November to mid-March.
After not winning the Total Score in 2020/21, Olsbu Roeiseland set her sights on Beijing, but fate intervened, “My main goal was the Olympics; I was so focused; it was a big success. Then the World Cup was there and I could take that as well. I was a bit surprised.” After an up and down summer, she is unsure as of today for Kontiolahti telling VG after bowing out of Norway’s season opener, “I still hope to be on the starting line in Kontiolahti at the end of the month.” Despite her talent, gaudy statistics (91% shooting), five OWG medals and three chunks of crystal, winning the Total Score again could be a bridge too far. Her most likely goal is the IBU World Championships in February.
This favorite role goes to Elvira, last season’s breakout star who went from zero World Cup wins to five with ten total podiums, an Olympic Gold and two Silver medals. Elvira proved to be mature beyond her 23 years. Swedish Head Coach Johannes Lukas explained, “Winning two medals in your first Olympics shows she was mentally (as well as physically) strong…She held the energy level through the whole season.” The young Swedish star’s track power plus 84% shooting drove her success. Elvira dominated the Swedish Summer Championships and but slipped a bit in Ruhpolding. Lukas admitted his goals for Elvira, “are stable level for the whole season. Her biggest challenge is to maintain her mindset; keep it fun, do not think so much...” If that happens, she will leave her rivals gasping for air.
Hauser did not have the same seven-podium, two-win season as in 2020/21, but was consistent with sixteen top ten results carrying her to a Top 3 finish last winter. She has always been solid on the shooting range and the last two seasons showed nice flashes of track speed. Hauser admitted before last season, “Now I am calmer and more confident in myself, I know what I am capable of and what is possible.” Those three factors will determine if she steps back to podium consistency and a run at the top spot.
Hanna’s fourth place for the third consecutive season was an unsatisfying result, while a single victory in Oestersund and penalty-filled individual competitions in Beijing were below expectations. The Olympic Relay Gold medal was the only consolation. Hanna’s calling card before last year was her shooting that slipped away, falling from 85% to 79% with her only clean-shooting day on November 28. Early in the summer, Lukas described Hanna as, “Really hungry after last season… she gets back to basics, Hanna will have a hard fight with Elvira for the Total Score.” Two sisters locked in a head-to-head tussle for one big piece of Crystal?
The top five in March 2023 is likely to look different than last year. Herrmann-Wick, Wierer and Lisa Vittozzi look poised for good seasons, adding to the intrigue.
Herrmann-Wick is focused on Oberhof, saying early in the summer, “The Total Score is not the main goal this year when we have the home World Champs.” She comes into the season with a new rifle looking for improved shooting. “The first goal is a higher percentage. I am not so slow in prone but the first step is hitting the targets.” The German’s 83% last year was a career high; a few points higher make her a weekly podium threat. Hermann-Wick’s track speed returned, “in the last trimester I was back to the old Denise.” The “old Denise” might unintentionally fall into the big Crystal Globe battle.
After months of speculation, Wierer signed up for another BMW IBU World Cup tour. The Olympic season was not one of her best, but she accomplished a career goal, an individual Olympic medal. Wierer dealt all season with nagging issues like sleeplessness that hampered her, including 3% drop-off at the shooting range. This summer, Wierer training hard with the men’s team looked impressive. At the IBU SBWCH, she won Super Sprint and Gala Mass Start Gold, closing 28 of 30 targets. Wierer is back for no reason other than to be successful, commenting in Ruhpolding, “The past two years I was in good shape in the summer and not so in the winter. I hope to be in the best shape in the winter.”
Lisa Vittozzi, Wierer’s 27-year-old teammate’s past troubles and failures are numerous and well-documented. Yet she has persevered. Vittozzi’s talent remains; training with a new group overseen by Jonne Kähkönen and Mirco Romanin has revitalized her. Last season’s 74% shooting seems a distant memory. Although summer competitions, the Gold and Silver medals in Ruhpolding put a big smile on Vittozzi’s face. Her comments that day reflect a new mindset; the key to a stellar winter. “I am really, really happy. Finally, I had a good race. I believe in myself. For now, I am satisfied and will keep pushing.”
Chevalier-Bouchet finished fifth in the Total Score, a personal best. With little hype, pressure or fanfare, she quietly put together her best-ever season with four podiums, eleven flower ceremonies, and two Olympic medals. Chevalier-Bouchet shot clean three times, with single penalties eleven times. Her success like Hauser’s was all about consistency. Two second places in the September French Summer Tour indicated Chevalier-Bouchet remains on track.
Marketa Davidova finished 10th in the WCTS, securing the World Cup Individual Score crystal globe. The 25-year-old Czech star, known for her ski speed bumped her shooting up to 83%. and after an array of successful summer events, all signs point to a big season…
Julia Simon, like Davidova is a potential spoiler. Simon is extremely dangerous on the tracks. A good shooting day like her Otepaeae sprint win will put her atop the podium frequently. The very competitive Simon has been known to ski well past the red zone into the “black zone,” chasing the podium. Just like teammate Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, her shooting is erratic but improving like when retained her French Summer Sprint title over Chevalier-Bouchet in late September, winning the next day’s pursuit, and going 29-of-30 in the two competitions. Days like that in the World Cup will make her a major player.
Lots of potential “wild cards” but Vanessa Voigt unquestionably holds the hot hand. Her only career podium, a clean-shooting second place, found her just 11 seconds behind Simon at Otepaeae. That is just half of the story and her upside, because she hit every shot in her three competitions there; throw in the previous week’s Kontiolahti sprint/pursuit: 70 shots fired…only two misses! The 2021 IBU Cup Total Score winner ended her first full World Cup season with a 90% success rate on the range. Stats like that plus a solid summer of training point to a winter filled with more podiums and possibly WC victory #1.
Look for this talented group of ladies to make 2022/23 one of the most competitive BMW IBU World Cup seasons in recent memory.
Photos: IBU Photopool