IBU Cup Big Crystal Globes to Horchler and Christiansen
A win in the IBU Cup Total Score is always valuable for the athlete because it means that he has been consistent and strong during the whole season. This achievement not only gives the athlete a big Crystal Globe but also a chance to join the World Cup team. No wonder that every athlete was trying to show his best in the hope of being awarded one of the season’s main trophies at the final 2017-18 season IBU Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.
Last season was one of the most successful for 29-year old Karolin Horchler of Germany; she finished with two Crystal Globes, winning the IBU Cup Total Score and Sprint Score, plus taking a personal best fifth place in pursuit at the final World Cup stage in Tyumen. Her solid results during the season with two IBU Cup wins, three second and three third places allowed the German to improve on last year’s third place in the Total Score and move on the top of the standings this year.
That was a great season for Horchler; with one of her dreams coming true, but the way to that success was not easy. Last summer, in June 2017, she had a crash and broke her shoulder. Soon after the incident, Karolin resumed training, but for a few months, she was not able to do shooting drills. The German put in a lot of effort to get back on the track as soon as possible and in September she proved able to cope with the task; in the mass start at the National Championships in Ruhpolding, she finished third with a single penalty.
During the 2017-18 season, the women’s IBU Cup Total Score saw different names topping the standings. After the first IBU Cups, Uliana Kaisheva of Russia led the overall. She started the year with a win at the season-opening sprint in Sjusjøen, continuing to gain points in the next competitions. In her 8 starts at the first four IBU Cup stages, the Russian claimed five wins and took the third place. With such a great performance, Kaisheva was called up to the national team, leaving the IBU Cup with 404 points, while her closest rival Karolin Horchler had 272 points.
Despite missing five competitions at IBU Cup 5 in Arber and Open European Championships in Ridnaun, Kaisheva was still atop the Total Score, but now the gap to the second place Nadine Horchler was only 6 points. By the end of the next IBU Cup 6 in Martell, France’s Chloe Chevalier finally overtook Kaisheva, moving into first position with only 3 points advantage over Nadine and 17 over younger sister Karolin.
Everything changed after the very first competition, women’s individual, at IBU Cup 7 in Uvat, where the French athlete finished sixteenth and Karolin was fourth, allowing the German to overtake Chevalier by 1 point! From that moment Horchler was just increasing the lead without giving her rival any chances. Before the final IBU Cup 8 in Khanty-Mansiysk, she was very excited, admitting, “I really hope to win a Total Score; it is actually my dream because I could not do it before. I want to finish first, but at the same time, it does not put any pressure on me and I’m pretty relaxed before the upcoming competitions.” And her dream did come true!
Horchler finished the IBU Cup season with two more podiums; she was first in the super sprint and third in the pursuit. After becoming a first-ever winner in a new discipline, she commented with a big smile, “Yes, I am a first athlete to win a super sprint, but tomorrow morning I will not wake up a famous person, I will be usual me, just happy with having that great result.”
She showed a great result not only in the super sprint but during the whole season; with the same amount of starts, 20 out of 16, including the OECH in Ridnaun, Horchler scored 675 points, while Chevalier had 613. The German topped the IBU Cup Total Score, securely taking her first Big Crystal Globe the year after her sister Nadine won the same trophy. After receiving the award, Karolin was one happy girl. “It is so awesome and I am so happy to win the Total Score; the Globe feels so heavy in my hands, but I am so glad to hold it! It was a very good season for me and I am very proud of my result because of the summer incident, so this win is doubly valuable.”
Battle Between Teammates
In the men’s field, the battle for the IBU Cup Total Score also went down to the final Cups and was mostly between Norwegian teammates Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen and Fredrik Gjesbakk. During the season, both showed strong results and topped the standings, chasing each other. Of 20 competitions, Christiansen skipped three starts, finishing the season with 721 points, while Gjesbakk missed only two, but scored 587 points.
World Cup Medal
Gjesbakk was the first to receive his chance to compete at the World Cup in Le Grand Bornand, but soon Christiansen replaced him. With three wins and the leader in the IBU Cup Total Score after the first trimester, 26-years old Christiansen joined the national squad. In the Oberhof men’s relay, the Norwegian won a Bronze medal with his team, taking the eighth career World Cup relay podium. His next start was the 20K individual in Ruhpolding, but Christiansen finished only 35th and went back to the IBU Cup, where he stayed until the end of the season, gaining the necessary points to get back on the top in the overall.
In the first competition after the World Cup, a sprint at IBU Cup 5 in Arber, the Norwegian was perfect on his skis and at the shooting range, taking a win and closing a gap on Gjesbakk, who finished third. Now only 7 points separated the teammates, with Gjesbakk still being in the lead and Christiansen in third position. The OECH saw the change in the field. In Ridnaun, Christiansen finished 16th in the 20K, 6th in the sprint and 4th in the pursuit (taking a Gold medal only in the single mixed relay); those results allowed him to take back first position in the Total Score… but not for long. After the next IBU Cup 6 in Martell, where Gjesbakk was second in the sprint, he passed his teammate by 6 points. Now everything had to be decided at the last two stages, where both had a chance to finish a season with a big Globe in hand.
In Uvat, Christiansen finished second in the individual and sixth in the sprint, while Gjesbakk was only 22nd and 32nd respectively. Those results moved Christiansen back to the top with 58 point lead. The IBU Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk saw him on the podium twice more; he finished first in the super sprint and third in the sprint. With his usual sense of humor, after the super sprint, the Norwegian admitted, “I really like the single mixed relay format and I think those events have much in common, except that in the super sprint I have no girl to save me! Overall, I can say that this super sprint fits me well.”
His results during the season showed that other disciplines also fit him very well, getting on the IBU Cup podium in every kind of competition except the pursuit. But at the final World Cup in Tyumen, after the successful Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, it was ironically the pursuit where he had his best result: 10th place after 26th position in the sprint. This WC result was the second career best after 8th place in the… Kontiolahti pursuit in 2007.
Those two medals in the sprint competitions gave Christiansen enough points to win not only the Total Score but also the Sprint Score. Thus, Horchler and Christiansen fully matched each other, by taking the Big Crystal and small Sprint Globes, moreover, and by becoming first winners of the super sprint. The Norwegian commented on his seasonal trophies, “For sure, I am glad to win the Total Score, it was important, and the Sprint Score was a small bonus to that. Still, one of the main focuses was the win in the men’s Nation Cup Score with my team and we managed to do that.” Notably, in recent years, the men’s IBU Cup Total Score winners have been either German or Russian; Christiansen was the first non-German or Russian man since France’s Vincent Porret took the Open European Cup Big Crystal Globe in the 2007-08 season.
Photo: Evgeny Tumashov, Mariya Osolodkina