Björndalen and Domracheva Wave Good-bye at Sold Out Schalke Arena
In front of 46.412 cheering fans at the sold out Arena at the Schalke stadium in Gelsenkirchen, the most decorated biathlete of all times Ole Einar Björndalen of Norway and his wife Darya Domracheva of Belarus finished third at the World Team Challenge and then waved goodbye to the biathlon world.
History that he kept creating and recreating will forever remember Björndalen as one of biathlon’s greatest if not the greatest champion for the combination of his eight Olympic Gold medals, 20 IBU World Championships Gold medals and six BMW IBU World Cup Total Score Titles will be difficult to match or better. Domracheva is retiring as a four-time Olympic champion, winner of two IBU World Championships Gold medals, winner of one BMW IBU World Cup Total Score Title and one of the biathlon mums who gave birth and came back stronger than ever, thus helping setting up example for generations of female biathletes to come.
Biathlon World Team Challenge chief organizer Herbert Fritzenwenger commented, “A world-class field is crucial for us to be able to present world-class biathlon. I am therefore very pleased that we were able to win the currently strongest German athletes in the World Cup for our event with Benedikt Doll and Franziska Preuss at such short notice. Benedikt is currently in excellent shape, his results show that, Franziska Preuss has just had career’s best opening of World Cup season.”
IBU Sports Director Felix Bitterling attended the competitions and commented,
“The event format has constantly evolved and is an impressive advertising for biathlon, although such an event in one of the biggest German football arenas will always be held under different sport technical circumstances - like course length and width - than our main IBU events. The very special thing about biathlon on Schalke is certainly the equally great atmosphere in the imposing arena as well as on the outdoor part of the course.”
Bitterling added that the IBU is looking forward to establishing a deeper cooperation with the German Ski Federation and the organizers of the event with a special focus on the junior competition, which takes just before the main competition. Learning from each other’s knowledge and sharing experiences certainly is a vital part within the biathlon family.
The Italian team of Dorothea Wierer and Lukas Hofer won the race with the German pairing of Simon Schempp and Franziska Preuss finishing second. Anton Shipulin, who announced his retirement this week, raced at the World Team Challenge for the last time. Shipulin and his partner Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht finished eighth in his final race.
Pictures © Biathlon World Team Challenge