Fans and Big Stars Return to Blink

The 17th Blinkfestivalen kicks off a big month of summer biathlon competitions with the two biggest stars in biathlon and fans returning for this first event in the IBU Summer Biathlon Event Series. The Blink competition days are a “return to normal” featuring the legendary Lysebotn Opp cross country race followed by three action-packed days of biathlon, cross country entertainment and family fun in the Sandnes city center stadium.

Something for Everyone

Although 22 hours of competitions are broadcast live on Norway’s NRK TV, the over 100,000 people that flocked to Sandnes in 2019 are expected back this week. According to race director Arne Idland, “We offer something for everybody with the idea of bringing sport to the people plus added activities that include a Kids Camp with rollerskiing, laser shooting and visits by the xc and biathlon stars plus concerts by some of the top bands in Norway, free food, and more…Most importantly, Blink is open to everybody with no entrance fee. I think this is the main reason Blink is so popular.”

Norwegian and International Stars

Blink is the best chance to see a bevvy of international biathlon stars up close and personal. The side events add to the atmosphere, making it a fun weekend for the whole family. However, cutting to the quick, it is all about the competitions and athletes. The French team always shows up, using Blink as a mid-summer test at the end of a training camp in nearby Sirdal. Over the years, they have won their fair share at Blink; French winners of one of the various competitions include Martin and Simon Fourcade, Marie Dorin Habert, Marie Laure Brunet, Anais Chevalier Bouchet, and 2022 Olympic Mass Start Gold medalist Justine Braisaz-Bouchet. Beyond the French squad, Dorothea Wierer, Hanna Oeberg, Elvira Oeberg and Mona Brorsson have also topped the home team Norway and other international stars like Kaisa Makarainen, Simon Schempp, and Lisa Vittozzi. Of course, over the years, Norwegians have dominated their home country show in this city of 80,000 in southwestern Norway. Both Boe Brothers, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Tiril Eckhoff, Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen and Marte Olsbu Roeiseland have thrilled local fans with a victory.

Marte and Quentin

This year will be no exception in terms of star power, with last season’s two biggest stars of the BMW IBU World Cup circuit and the Olympic Winter Games, Roeiseland and Quentin Fillon Maillet on hand. Idland is as thrilled as the fans to have these two big stars on hand. “Marte and Quentin are extremely good ambassadors for Biathlon and also Blink! They have both been here since they were juniors and have been really important contributors to our success and growth. The kids and our fans are really looking forward to meeting them in the streets of Sandnes.” The duo are scheduled to compete in the shooting duels, super sprint and mass start. Olsbu Roeiseland twice won the super sprint and the shooting duel. Fillon Maillet is also scheduled to tackle the grueling Lysebotn Opp where he finished ninth last year.

Although the Olsbu Roeiseland and Fillon Maillet are the headliners, this year’s field will be no pushover.

Five of Top Ten Men

Five of the top 10 in the Men’s World Cup Total Score will toe the line, with number two Sturla Holm Laegreid, leading the challengers. Laegreid, one of the best shots on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit, won the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival last summer confirming his rollerski skills. Christiansen, Tarjei and Johannes Thingnes Boe, Sivert Guttorm Bakken: any one of them could win one of the competitions. Fillon Maillet’s teammate, fifth-ranked Emilien Jacquelin after missing last summer’s roller ski competitions loves the head-to-battles that Blink is famous for; Emilien Claude and Antonin Guigonnat add depth for the French squad. Beyond these top two teams, Canadians Jules Burnotte and Christian Gow, plus Sweden’s 2018 Olympic Relay Gold medalist Jesper Nelin make this year’s field the strongest since before the start of the pandemic.

Vetle, “love the tight duels”

Christiansen who hat-tricked the biathlon competitions last year always does well at Blink, winning the super sprint five times and the shooting duel twice. He admitted, “I think the key (to my success) is the atmosphere. I love the tight duels with a lot of pressure from the audience. You get a lot of that in summer competitions. I try to as little as possible to get into shape, but I think the adrenalin level is more in control of your body than your general shape. So, I can do very good races with just a decent shape.”

Julia Defends 2021 title

Although Olsbu Roeiseland tops the women’s field, the competitions will be just as tough as the men’s. In addition to the multi-medaled Women’s World Cup Total Score winner, Blink boasts four other Beijing 2022 medalists. Olympic Mixed Relay Silver medalist Simon, returns to defend her 2021 super sprint title. Her Olympic medalist teammates Braisaz Bouchet and Chevalier-Bouchet give the French women a strong quartet to battle the home team’s stars. However, this is not just a France/Norway tussle. Sweden’s Linn Persson led off Sweden’s Women’s relay that won Gold in Beijing and Silver in Pyeongchang four years earlier. Coach Johannes Lukas holds Person in high regard, commenting, “I am just waiting for the day when she shows the world what she can do.” Blink could be a good place to start her rise to prominence.

As always, the Blinkfestivalen is a nice mid-summer pick-me-up for the athletes, a three-day break from the endless hours of training, a chance to put on a race bib and see how they stack up against some of their international rivals.

Blinkfestivalen Schedule (Lysebotn and Biathlon competitions)

Wednesday, August 3 (NRK 22:00 CET)

Lysebotn Opp

12:15 Junior and Senior Women

15:15 Junior and Senior Men

Friday, August 5 (Live on NRK)

15:55 Shooting Duel

17:10 Super Sprint Qualification Men and Women

18:55 Super Sprint Finals Men and Women

Saturday, August 6 (Live On NRK)

15:45 Mass Start Quarterfinals Men and Women

19:20 Mass Start Semifinals Men and Women

20:25 Mass Start Finals Men and Women

Let the fun begin…

Photos: Axelar/Arild Aarnes, Hans Lie, Ǿyvind Andersen

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