Blinkfestivalen Shining Stars: Birkeland, Olsbu Roeiseland, Tandrevold, Knotten
Three competition days at the Norwegian showcase Blinkfestivalen, closed with Saturday’s shooting duel and mass starts. The veteran Lars Helge Birkeland took both the shooting contest and men’s mass start; while Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold’s strong last loop gave her the women’s mass start title over Marte Olsbu Roeiseland.
Birkeland’s surprising wins showed that the 32-year-old, although no longer on the Elite Team still has the shooting skills and power to compete with the best. Tandrevold took a big step with her win over Olsbu Roeiseland, leaving her teammate in the dust in the last loop.
Shooting Duel: Birkeland Outshoots Olsbu Roeiseland
Saturday’s festivities started with the fun shooting duels. Olsbu Roeiseland easily topped Karoline Knotten to take the women’s title. However Birkeland after going 5-for-5 had to sprint like a madman to top Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen for the men’s title. Christiansen dived towards the finish, destroying his shooting gloves, missing the win by a few millimeters.
The top man and women lined up for the final with their teammates and coaches watching attentively. Birkeland, the long-time BMW IBU World Cup Relay leadoff leg dropped his five standing targets so fast…he was across the finish before his female rival fired her fifth shot.
Tandrevold flies on Last Loop
The shooting duels were a warm-up for the exciting mass starts. The women’s competition as expected came down to a Tandrevold/Olsbu Roeiseland match-up. Tandrevold missed shot in the first prone while her older teammate missed in the first standing. Behind them 21-year-old Juni Arnekliev was calmly putting zeros behind her name to stay close the big stars. Coming to the last standing stage, Tandrevold had a few-second lead after Olsbu Roeiseland. Both had a single penalty loop, leaving 4 seconds apart. Tandrevold put on the afterburners; Olsbu Roeiseland could not respond and finished 8.1 seconds back in second. The clean-shooting Arnekliev finished third, 12.6 seconds back. Tiril Eckhoff after missing the Lysebotn Opp and super sprint finished fifth, with five penalties, 1:17 back.
Birkeland: 19-of-20 Shooting Keys Win
Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen and Johannes Thingnes Boe looked like favorites for the men’s mass start, while Tarjei Boe after a solid super sprint skipped the last competition. Christiansen and Johannes both fell back after two and three first-prone penalties. The World Cup Total Score titlist never got back near the top, looking a bit tired; eventually finishing seventh, 54.6 seconds back. Christiansen on the other hand continued his aggressive skiing to climb back to the lead group. Birkeland had a first-prone penalty but then went 0-0; Christiansen added another penalty in the first standing, Birkeland closed the last five targets quickly to leave with an 8-second lead. His teammate was 25 seconds back after another trip around the penalty loop. Between them, 22-year-old Herman Dramdal Borge matched Birkeland to claim second place, 8.9 seconds back. Christiansen again flew the tracks pulling back a few seconds to finish third, 17.9 seconds back.
Friday Super Sprints
Knotten Takes Women’s Title
After finishing third in the super sprint prolog, Karolin Knotten with one penalty outshot Olsbu Roeiseland with two penalties in the last standing stage of the final. Knotten left with a 4 second lead and held it to finish in 18:55, with four total penalties. Olsbu Roeiseland, also with four total penalties was unable to find her usual fast last loop and finished 4.2 seconds back. Tandrevold, with three penalties finished third, 13.3 seconds back.
Aggressive Christiansen Wins Men’s Super Sprint
Christiansen and Johannes shot side-by side in the last standing stage of the men’s super sprint, vying for the victory. Christiansen picked up a penalty, but Johannes had two which threw the victory to Christiansen, with four total penalties in 17:25. Christiansen was aggressive from the start, leading much of the first loop, which led to two first prone penalties that put him well off the pace. Yet he pushed hard after the first standing to set up the last stage duel. Second went to Tarjei, who battled Vebjoern Soerum on the last loop right until their photo-finish sprint. Both men, with three penalties each finished 5.3 seconds back.
Super Sprint Prolog: Herfoss and Grue Surprise Women’s Field
Friday evening’s super sprints were perfect: warm, clear and light winds. With Eckhoff sitting out, two IBU Cup competitors Emilie Herfoss and Eline Grue both shot clean to go 1-2 in the women’s prolog. Knotten, part of Norway’s undefeated relay team finished third, just ahead of IBU World Champion Olsbu Roeiseland, who had a single prone penalty.
Tarjei in Top Spot
In the men’s prolog, Tarjei with a single prone penalty topped the men’s field, while Sindre Pettersen had two penalties but finished second. IBU Cup veteran Martin Femsteinevik shot clean to finish third. Johannes ended up 5th after two penalty loops, commenting, seemingly unconcerned on his result with a big smile, “Biathlon is biathlon.”
Olsbu Roeiseland 9th in Lysebotn Opp; Tandrevold Suffers
The Norwegian men’s team opted out the Lysebotn Opp this year, focusing on the weekend biathlon competitions, leaving their female teammates to deal with the pain of the notorious 7.5 km uphill grind at a lung-searing 10% grade, with an extra added challenge, a start-to-finish headwind. Roeiseland led her teammates with a 9th place finish in the opening race. She finished 6:26 behind the dominating winning time of 33:11 by Theresa Johaug.
Tandrevold, “worse than I remembered”
Tandrevold finished two spots and another 57 seconds behind her teammate. Tandrevold admitted that she suffered according to NRK. “I diagnosed myself. I thought I had a fever or a heart disorder; it was so high…My heart rate monitor showed 189, two higher than my maximum. Today was worse than I remembered and that memory was pretty bad!”
Young Ida Lien and Karoline Erdal finished 16th and 17th, 9:14 and 9:43 back, respectively. Tiril Eckhoff did not start because of urinary tract infection.
Biathlon is Back
As always, the Blinkfestivalen was a good set of summer tests for the athletes and a tantalizing taste of biathlon for fans. The takeaways are simple: for the big names, whether they were on the podium or missing more targets than necessary; it is a long way until the snow flies and they will be ready. For Birkeland and the youngsters like Arnekliev and Borge, Blink was a showcase for their talents. Bottom line: after four and a half months…biathlon is back!
Photos: Axelar/Asgeir Ravndal, Hans Lie, Trine Nessler Wichman, Kjetil Dalseth,Rune Heliesen, Hans Petter Store, Martin Knuttson, Ojan Dalseth