Comeback Queen Kaisa: Is it Version KaisaKON1.5 or KaisaTMN1.8?
The votes are in; there is no doubt that the winner of our Tournament of Moments, the Comeback Queen will be Kaisa Makarainen. Yet one question remains. Was the Version KaisaKON1.5 where she secured an IBU WCH Bronze medal in her home stadium better than Version KaisaTMN1.8 that gave her the IBU Women’s World Cup Total Score for the third time?
Vote: Kaisa vs. Kaisa, Martin vs. Laura
Now it is time for the final vote after Makarainen topped Martin Fourcade 2018 RUH Mass Start in semifinal 1, following it up with the semifinal 2 win over Laura Dahlmeier NMNM16 Mass Start. Just to make it interesting, we have added a Bronze medal final pitting Fourcade and Dahlmeier for the title of Comeback Crown Prince or Princess standing at Kaisa’s left on the podium. Cast your vote on our Instagram Story @ibu_biathlonworld. Final round voting is open for 24 hours.
Tears, Crowns and Career Highlights
Both competitions were filled with the gritty determination, dogged competitiveness, humility and charm that characterized Makarainen’s career. That medal on a cold evening in Kontiolahti, followed by tears and hugs and that season-culminating big Crystal Globe and the “Queen Kaisa” crown in an equally dark Tyumen were hard fought, like every milestone she reached. Biathlon really did not come easy for this lady. Her early World Cup career was filled with double digit results until December 15, 2007 when she claimed her first podium, second in the Pokljuka sprint, behind the French legend Sandrine Bailly. Before that day, many people watching Makarainen thought, “great skier, but probably never a great biathlete.” How wrong they were; she proved that time and time and time again; especially in these two career highlights.
Comeback Queen Final
Kaisa Makarainen 2018 Tyumen Mass Start vs. Kaisa Makarainen 2015 IBU WCH Kontiolahti 15 km Individual
Everything was on the line in this season-ending competition. The Finn, in the Yellow and Red bibs held slight margins over Anastasiya Kuzmina in both the World Cup Total Score and Mass Start Scores. She had to best the Slovak multi-Olympic Champion to take the two trophies. It was 35 minutes of tension, ups and downs. Was this Kaisa at her best?
Despite the yellow bib, Kaisa Makarainen had to finish well ahead of her rival Anastasiya Kuzmina in the Tyumen 2018 mass start. Leaving the final range together, the 🇫🇮 fled in the forest to claim a 6th place worth her 3rd overall 🏆!— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) May 4, 2020
Makarainen sealed her third World Cup Total Score Crystal Globe with a striking 6th place in the 2018 Tyumen mass start. The Finn started with a first-prone penalty, dropping her to 18th; clean second prone jumped her to 12th, 11 seconds back. Two first standing penalties spelled disaster: 20th position, 51 seconds back. In typical Kaisa style, she cleaned the last stage, but was still 9th, 32 seconds back. She flew around the last loop, passing three rivals including Kuzmina who she was battling for the Crystal Globe. Makarainen crossed just 17.4 seconds behind the winner Domracheva. Makarainen won the Globe by a mere 3 points.
Every biathlete who has experienced a home IBU World Championships will admit that it was something they will never forget. Yet with that unforgettable experience comes pressure and high expectations. No one knew that better than the Finn. When Kontiolahti was awarded the Championships, she truly did not anticipate being there. “I would be 32 and probably retired.” Yet on that night in March 2015, there she was in the 15 km individual, the discipline where she would only have 6 of her 85 career podiums. After a hugely disappointing five-penalty 34th in the sprint and still disappointing 12th place comeback in the pursuit, the pressure was on; medal chances were dwindling. It all came down to the last loop. Makarainen came back, overcoming the pressure, making her home IBU WCH truly unforgettable. Could this have been her best comeback?
🇫🇮 @kmakarainen had one goal at home WCH in @KlahtiBiathlon: winning one medal. But with 2 misses and 3km to go, she did something exception in the Individual closing the gap stride-by-stride until collapsing in the snow at the finish winning 🥉#biathlonBestComeback pic.twitter.com/cOmqPNy6sw— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) May 6, 2020
Makarainen overcame two one-minute penalties to win the 15 km individual Bronze medal in her Kontiolahti home stadium at the 2015 IBU World Championships. The Finn’s one goal for these Championships had been to win at least one medal. She started well with a fast first loop and a clean prone stage. The first standing netted a penalty and a drop to 6th, 56 seconds back. The second prone added another penalty minute, but she was flying around the familiar tracks; the deficit was “just” 1:47. A perfect last standing dropped the time to 1:10 setting up the dramatic finish. With three kilometers to go, Makarainen was inspired, closing the gap stride-by-stride until collapsing in the snow at the finish, 24.4 seconds behind Gold medalist Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht. Kaisa had her precious medal! “I did my job today and was happy to have a good day in the World Championships!”
Comeback Crown Prince/Princess Bronze Final
Martin Fourcade 2018 RUH Mass Start vs. Laura Dahlmeier NMNM 2016 Mass Start
Fourcade was known for his cool, calm tactics in virtually every competition. He knew his strengths and weaknesses as well as that of his rivals. He could shoot fast or slow; make a big move on the tracks that would put everyone in the red zone or he could follow at a comfortable pace. On this day, the French star dictated the pace through the prone stages, looking like it was his day for a big win. The standing penalties changed everything, forcing new tactics; becoming the hunter to salvage a podium place. Two French teammates that he knew very well and Johannes were the prey. Fourcade devoured two and simply ran out of territory in his chase of Johannes. Was this one good enough to make him a biathlon Prince?
🇫🇷 Fourcade picked up two penalties in the first standing stage, exiting the penalty loop well outside the top 10. Yet, he roared back to finish second!— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) May 4, 2020
The Yellow Bib picked up two penalties in the first standing stage, but roared back to finish second, 4.5 seconds behind Johannes Thingnes Boe in the Ruhpolding mass start. The French star led after the second prone, then missed two shots, falling 42.5 seconds behind his Norwegian foe. In the last standing stage, Fourcade cleaned quickly after Johannes missed a shot. The French star left in 4th position, 17.6 seconds back but by the 13.6 km split was up to second, after catching teammates Antonin Guigonnat and Quentin Fillon Maillet. Fourcade commented on his comeback, “I knew with two mistakes that it would be hard to come back on Johannes…I gave all I had to catch the podium.”
Dahlmeier maybe did not have as many comebacks as Makarainen or Domracheva, but she was always a fighter. Her low-key personality was merely a mask for tigress underneath. Dahlmeier hated to lose. She anchored the German women’s relay to victory 12 times; two in the 2016/2017 season came from Dahlmeier anchor leg comebacks. Regarding this NMNM mass start, she said, “After the last shooting, I thought the podium was possible. I caught one after the other.” Had the last loop been 100 meters longer, she might have spoiled Koukalová’s big day. Did this comeback earn Laura a spot next to Kaisa?
🇩🇪Dahlmeier, usually reliable in prone, missed twice in the opening range of NMNM16 mass start, dropping to 23rd, 51 seconds back. From that point, the yellow bib shot perfectly to make a roaring assault to the podium, finishing in 2nd place#biathlonBestComeback pic.twitter.com/jqgoBhRmGg— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) May 6, 2020
Dahlmeier finished second in the 2016 NMNM women’s mass start, closing fast after two first-stage prone penalties almost derailed her day. Snow conditions shorted the course to 12 km, changing the loops to a 4 km double first loop and 2 km thereafter. The long first loop left Dahlmeier out of sorts; usually reliable in prone, she missed twice, dropping to 23rd, 51 seconds back. From that point, the German star shot perfectly moving steadily to 19th, 12th, and then 5th, 21 seconds back after cleaning the last standing stage. Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, Dorothea Wierer and Vanessa Hinz and Gabriela Koukalová were all ahead of the Yellow Bib. with the Czech star in control; Dahlmeier began flying in an attempt to get to the podium. With 500 meters to go, Koukalová’s lead was seven seconds; Dahlmeier eventually got to within 3.1 seconds.
Photos: IBU/ Evgeny Tumashov, Rene Miko, Petr Slavik