Successful introduction of IBU Regional Events
With the 2020/2021 season in the books, biathlon can look back at successful competitions on the BMW IBU World Cup as well as IBU Cup level. However, due to the challenges coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, all Junior Cup events ended up cancelled. As a result, the newly established IBU Regional Events gained even more significance, giving youth and junior athletes, in particular, a chance to compete while minimising travel.
Between December 2020 and March 2021, IBU Regional Events took place in France (Les Tuffes and Les Hopitaux Vieux), Baltic Cup (Otepaa and Haanja), Balkan Cup (Sjenica and Dvorista Pale) and Alpen Cup (Forni Avoltri and Pokljuka). More often than not, over 150 athletes competed in the events and familiar names from World Cup, IBU Cup, and Youth Junior World Championships secured victories. In total, athletes from 19 National Federations took part in the eight events over the course of the past four months.
Particularly for youth and junior athletes, the Regional Events were a great opportunity to get into competition mode ahead of upcoming races in the IBU Cup or at the IBU Youth and Junior World Championships in Obertilliach.
Italy’s Rebecca Passler started her 2021 successfully at the Alpen Cup in Forni Avoltri. Afterward, she went on to a successful debut at the IBU Cup and multiple medals at the YJWCH. Names like Marco Barale or the Trabucchi sisters can be found high up on the results list of the first Regional Event of 2021, too - and they walked away with medals in Obertilliach as well.
In a similar fashion, many young French athletes had a proper litmus test right before Christmas with the first stop of the Biathlon Tour in Les Tuffes. Many went on to a strong 2021, performing well in the World Cup and IBU Cup (Lou Jeanmonnot and Emilien Claude, just to name two). In addition, France ended up being the most successful nation at the YJWCH in Obertilliach.
For IBU Development Director Dagmara Gerasimuk, the first season of IBU Regional Events was a success despite the challenges during the past winter.
“Given the situation with COVID-19, our goal was to ensure the good quality level of biathlon competitions in the Regions, so that young people were involved in the biathlon. We managed to support four regions with eight competitions. This experience let us develop the project for the upcoming seasons, especially since we want this level of competition to broaden youth and junior participation and promote biathlon nationally and regionally.”
Preparations for the next Regional Events are already underway, to ensure even more chances for youth and junior athletes to compete in the future.
“The IBU Executive Board allocated 500 000 EUR for the next project. Together with the IBU Regional Event Working Group, we evaluated the principles and rules. We are taking this level of competition very seriously with a view to increasing support along with the quality of the profession. Soon, we start a new application call and I am sure that we will receive plenty of applications."
With the focus on structured and future-oriented long-term activities, the goal of the Regional Events is to further cooperation among NFs inside and between the IBU Regions. As a result, they will continue to play a vital role in providing opportunities for more younger athletes to compete - just like in the 2020-2021 season.
Images: Reichert/IBU, Archive