While many nations settled their staffs early, Finland, Italy and Czech Republic made changes in the first week of May.
Italy revamped from top to bottom as they get ready for a home Olympic Winter Games in 2026. Klaus Hoellrigl moved from coaching to Sports Director, replacing Fabrizio Curtaz who moved to the position of Milan-Cortina Project Manager. Alex Inderst is now the World Cup Head Coach, coordinating the men’s and women’s teams. In a departure from their norm, Italy hired non-Italian Jonne Kähkönen as their Women’s Coach along with the returning Mirco Romainin. On the men’s side, Fabio Cianciana moves up from the B team to the World Cup, working alongside the returning Andrea Zattoni. Additionally, the Italians hired Christian Favre as Head Wax Technician, after years of experience in France as well as Martin Fourcade’s personal wax tech.
Finland replaced Jonne Kähkönen with Norwegian Erik Bartlett Kulstad, an assistant coach with the Chinese team for the past three years as their new Head Coach.
The Czech Republic also made big changes just last week, with Ondřej Rybář stepping away from coaching once again, refocusing on his job as Sport Director. In his place Michal Malek returned to the World Cup as Men’s Head Coach. Moving from several years with the US team, 2004 Olympic 50-meter Prone Gold medalist Matt Emmons will now be the shooting coach for the Czech men’s squad. Nothing changed in the women’s team with Egil Gjelland and Jiří Holubec both returned.
The biggest coaching/management shake-up came in Germany. German Women’s Coach Florian Steirer, who guided Denise Herrmann from novice to Olympic Champion was not retained, along with Men’s Assistant Coach Isidor Scheurl. In a complete turnaround from home-grown talent, the DSV hired two foreign coaches, Norway’s Sverre Roeiseland and Slovenian Uros Velepec to fill the positions. Former IBU Sport Director and now German Biathlon Sport Director Felix Bitterling commented, “For German biathlon, it is unusual to hire foreign coaches. They are both very motivated and have new ideas that will give us new momentum.”
World Cup Total Score winner Marte’s husband’s move comes as a huge surprise and win for Germany. After guiding the very successful Norwegian IBU Cup squad for the past five years, Roeiseland will now guide, along with Kristian Mehringer the German women’s team that includes Franziska Preuss, rising star Vanessa Voigt and presumably Herrmann.
Velepec, most recently Ukrainian Women’s Coach and the guiding light behind Slovenia and Jakov Fak for many years will work in tandem with Men’s Head Coach Mark Kirchner, building a team around Benedikt Doll, Johannes Kuehn, and Roman Rees after Erik Lesser's retirement of Erik Lesser.
Norway, after winning their fourth consecutive Men’s and Women’s Nations Cup set the stage for continued success with new four-year contracts for Men’s Coaches Siegfried Mazet and Egil Kristiansen and Women’s Coaches Patrick Oberegger and Sverre Huber Kaas. Mazet, after approaches from Austria and France commented on his reason for staying, according to Nordic Magazine, “I just like the atmosphere in the team. With my colleague Egil (Kristiansen), we get along very well and we have very good cooperation, as well as with the coaches of the women's group. All signals are green. I want to continue and not stop there, especially since I have established a good relationship with all the athletes. Leaving now would have been frustrating because young people are coming.” Adding, “I did not want to take charge of a weaker team.”
Likewise for his Italian colleague Oberegger, who told Norway’s TV2 after signing his new contract, “I look forward to the next four years. Norway was always my first priority... Now the decision has been made and I slept very well. That probably means it was the right decision.”
The Austrian Ski Federation did not retain four-time Olympic Champion and Men’s Coach Ricco Gross, filling his position with Norwegian Vegard Bitnes, previously the USA’s Men’s Coach and Austria’s Women’s Coach from 2016-2019. Ludwig Gredler remained Assistant Coach, which pleased Bitnes, “I’m happy to be able to work for the ÖSV again. With Ludwig Gredler I have a coach at my side who has known the team for years and with whom I can perfectly implement our ideas and new training concepts."
World Champion and three-time Olympic medalist Dominik Landertinger returned to the sport, bringing his years of training and competitive success to “advise OESV coaches on planning training and competition management.”
Veteran coach Remo Krug replaced Swiss Men’s Coach Alexander Wolf who returned to his position at the German Federal Police Sports School. Krug previously coached the Austrian Men from 2012-14, the German Women from 2015-18 and the German IBU Cup team for the past four seasons.
Coming on the heels of Justine Braisaz-Bouchet’s stunning Olympic mass start win and Anais Chevalier-Bouchet’s 15 km individual Silver medal, French Women’s Coach Frederic Jean resigned in March, replaced by Cyril Burdet. Jean left to devote more time to family affairs, but will continue coaching, helping develop biathlon in the Hautes-Alpes region.
The 44-year-old former Men’s Sprint Coach Burdet after guiding Richard Jouve to the Cross-country Sprint Score Globe this past season, will handle the women’s physical training. Burdet, although a novice biathlon coach is no biathlon rookie, competing on the French junior team for two years in the late nineties. With a blessing from his family, he explained to Nordic Magazine his reasons for taking the position, “What tempted me was the fact of getting back into a very high-level sporting project (and) rely on the experience I acquired in cross-country...”
Burdet will rely heavily on French Shooting Coach Jean Paul Giachino who returned for at least another season. Olympic Shooting Gold medalist and biathlon shooting guru Jean Pierre Amat, after leaving the Chinese team returned to the French team in an as of now, undefined technical supervisory position.
Tobias Torgersen, like Amat left the Chinese team after a four-year run, returning to Poland as the Women’s Head Coach, a position he held in the 2017/18 season. Rafal Lepel is now the Men’s Head Coach. Torgersen commented, “I was positively surprised by the proposal to return to Poland. I am glad that this time I have the prospect of working for four years; there was not enough time during my previous stay in Poland. There have been some personal changes to the team, but what not has changed is that I will be dealing with a talented group of biathletes.”
The USA revamped their coaching staff, with long-time Women’s Coach Armin Auchentaller (proud father of Junior World Champion Hanna) moving to Head Coach, responsible for training both the women and men. At the same time, Federico Fontana, previously head ski technician assumed the new position of National Team General Manager, handling team operations and partnerships while continuing to organize ski service.
Photos: IChristian Manzoni, Bjorn Reichert/IBU, Kevin Voigt/DSV, Siegfried Mazet, Petr Slavik