Behind Kebinger, teammate Anna Weidel finished second, 3.1 seconds back. France’s Lou Jeanmonnot finished third, 4.2 seconds back. Norway’s Einar Hedegarte finished second behind Soerum, 2.6 seconds back with Germany’s Lukas Fratzscher in third, 5.8 seconds back.
Kebinger admitted her standing shooting keyed the win. “It was a really fun race. I tried to do as good as possible especially at the shooting range. The second prone was really bad; I thought this is going to be hard. But I know I am really good in standing, so I tried to focus on that because I can gain a lot of places. I was zero-zero at the end…It was good training for me to see what is going well, to see where I stand. I think I can be quite happy with that.”
Getting to the evening mass start finals at Blink is no small feat with quarterfinals, followed by semifinals two hours later and a short one hour later the final. After the first two rounds, many of the big names were on the sidelines watching, including Benedikt Doll, Quentin Fillon Maillet, Emilien Jacquelin, Justin Braisaz-Bouchet, Franziska Preuss, Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold and Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen whose Blink dominance ended without qualifying for the final.
The women’s final featured a big turnaround for Kebinger. After the prone stages, Juni Arnekleiv held a four-second lead over Lou Jeanmonnot with Kebinger 28 seconds back when she missed her first three prone shots in the second stage. The Norwegian missed a single shot in the first standing as did her French rival, while the Kebinger cleaned, jumping to sixth position. With a dozen seconds on the field, Arnekleiv missed four of her five final standing shots, while Jeanmonnot missed twice. Kebinger after skiing into fourth position, shot fast and clean again, leaving 10 seconds up on Jeanmonnot and teammate Anna Weidel. With victory ensured, the 25-year-old German celebrated her win with waves to the crowd repeatedly in the last 50 meters.
The men’s mass start had a bit different character. Lukas Fratzscher and Tarjei cleaned the two prone stages, with Soerum doing the same in the second stage, splitting the German and Norwegian veterans. Soerum and Tarjei each had a single penalty in the first standing while the German missed twice, with Soerum left taking an 11.8-second lead. That lead saved Soerum. He missed twice in the last standing but left 12 second ahead of Fratzscher who also had a single penalty. With a solid lead, he finished with the same wave at the chin as Christiansen yesterday before punching the sky gleefully in victory.
Norway’s Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen added to his long list of victories at the Blinkfestivalen in Sandnes, Norway by winning the men’s super sprint Friday evening for the third consecutive year in 14:03.4, despite six penalties. His teammate Karolin Offigstad Knotten, with three penalties won took her first-ever victory at Sandnes in 15:21.4.
In the men’s competition, Sturla Holm Laegreid, with three penalties finished second, 3.6 seconds back while Joergen Saeter, with five penalties, finished third 14 seconds back. Vanessa Voigt, with three penalties, finished second behind Knotten, 5.2 seconds back. Her teammate Hanna Kebinger, with four penalties finished third, 17.7 seconds back.
The super sprint qualifying followed the shooting duels that started the biathlon competitions. France’s Lou Jeanmonnot with a single penalty finished 10.4 seconds up on Germany’s Anna Weidel, with teammates Vanessa Voigt and Hanna Kebinger next. Braisaz-Bouchet missed four times, failing to make the evening final. The men’s qualifying found 2023 IBU JWCH triple medalist Isak Frey winning despite two penalties over teammate Vetle Paulsen. France’s Eric Perrot and Fabien Claude followed in third and fourth.
Qualifying winner Jeanmonnot grabbed the early lead, cleaning the first two prone stages with ease. After the second prone stage, Knotten moved into second position, despite a penalty in each stage, trailing by 13.5 seconds with Voigt another 1.5 seconds back in third. Standing changed the face of the competition as Jeanmonnot shot fast again but picked up three penalties, while Knotten, Kebinger and Voigt each had a single miscue. The Norwegian got away in first, with the two Germans trailing by less than four seconds. Knotten held the lead into the last standing stage, shooting slowly but clean, Voigt matched left the range 3.7 seconds back. Knotten had no trouble holding the top spot, bowing to the crowd as she crossed the finish line with her first-ever win at Blink.
As in the women’s competition, there was a stiff wind on the shooting range when the men came to the first prone stage. Only Laegreid and Benedikt Doll managed to shoot clean, but Christiansen was just behind after shooting very fast and doing a quick penalty loop. Laegreid took control cleaning the second prone while Christiansen fell 18 seconds back after two more penalties. The first standing stage saw Laegreid’s lead dissipate to three seconds with two penalties, with Christiansen eight seconds back. A group of four came to the last standing. Christiansen shot a bit faster than his teammate and left for the last loop with a slim .9-second lead after both toured the penalty loop once. Christiansen was clearly faster on the last loop, adding three seconds to his lead, crossing the finish with a little hand-to-the-chin wave to the crowd, as he sealed his third consecutive super sprint win.
Early in the afternoon, before the super sprints, biathlon at Blink kicked off in earnest with the Shooting Duels. The women’s rounds were typically close with one big name, Justine Braisaz-Bouchet just squeaking through in the last qualifying spot in both the quarter and semi-final. Germany’s Hanna Kebinger and Norway’s Marthe Krakstad Johansen came out on top in the semi-finals. However, in the final, it was the lady who admitted she was “so eager” to put on a bib again prevailed. The French Olympic Mass Start Gold medalist and new mother, Braisaz-Bouchet, after missing her first shot, reloaded very fast. closed the last target, and finished with a huge smile, topping teammate Gilonne Guigonnat by 2.5 seconds. Braisaz-Bouchet called the win, “unexpected, I took it like a joke. It is exciting but like a big game.”
The men’s rounds had few surprises with Sturla Holm Laegreid and Tarjei Boe winning quarterfinals. Yet the semifinals found Dag Sander Bjoerndalen and unknown Norwegian Christiane Tronerud Kvelvane on top with Tarjei the last qualifier for the final. When the pressure was on, the veteran Tarjei prevailed, shooting a bit slower but cleaning in five shots with Bjoerndalen second.
That set up the finale of seasoned veterans with new father Tarjei and new mom Justine head-to head. The Norwegian again cleaned in five shots for a clear win walking to the finish as his rival finished her last shots.
Record for Doll in Lysebotn Opp
The infamous Lysebotn Opp with its 640 meters in elevation gain over 7500 meters kicked off the fun at the 2023 Blinkfestivalen on Wednesday. And a grand opening it was for Benedikt Doll, who finished seventh in 30:48, a record time for a biathlete in this zig-zag up from the fjord. Teammate Philipp Horn finished 15th, a full minute behind Doll with Lukas Fratzscher in 22 place. Four-time IBU Junior World Champion Martin Nevland finished six seconds behind Fratzscher in 23rd place.
Doll said Lysebotn “ranks in my top three of toughest races. At the finish, my tank was completely empty.”
Norwegian Emilie Kalkenberg who won both the super sprint and sprint at the season-ending Canmore IBU Cup was the top biathlete in the women’s race, finishing 12th in 39:04. Teammate Caroline Erdal finished 15th just one place ahead of Germany’s Janina Hettich-Walz.
Photos: IBU/Nordic Focus