Improved ski speed brought glory to Wierer
“From this season I am the oldest on the team. I feel young, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think you will see me for much longer in biathlon. I think I will quit after my home World Championships in Antholz-Anterselva, because I think there is a lot more in life than biathlon,” Wierer said before the start of the 2018/2019 season, as she started to laugh.
We have learned that this type of laughter means two things with Wierer:
1. Keeping the outside pressure off her shoulders, for she is more than ambitious enough to create the necessary pressure from within.
2. Saying that there is more in life than biathlon actually means: ‘Think whatever you want, I will do whatever I want anyway.’
Healthy summer as the missing puzzle piece
Wierer had a mildly disappointing 2017/2018 Olympic season where she failed to win an individual medal at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 and finished fifth in the BMW IBU World Cup Total Score with 681 points, 141 behind the winner Kaisa Makarainen. While shooting with 86% accuracy and skiing at -2, Wierer won once, finished second twice and third once, all of which earned her 34 points per competition on average. In other words, on average, she finished eighth in every competition whereas Makarainen finished fourth to fifth.
Wierer had no (serious) health problems before the start of the 2018/2019 season, and that proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle in her quest to finally reach her full potential. Still, she didn’t want to talk about it directly; she preferred to laugh and say wiser things: “I don’t think I have changed my approach to this season much: I go out to do my best every day, but with no expectations. In this sport, you get the biggest disappointments when you feel invincible. Those beat-downs put you in your place and remind you that anything can happen; you need to accept the good and bad days, especially at the range.”
Wierer had a wonderful fight for the World Cup Total Score title with her teammate Lisa Vittozzi throughout the 2018/2019 season, prevailing at the finals in Oslo-Holmenkollen simply because Vittozzi lost her composure; Vittozzi let the outer world intrude on her inner world, disrupting her simple personal rituals and the solitude she prefers over big words and heavy questions while Wierer just kept going no matter what the day threw at her. Wierer won three times, finished second three times and third once to win 905 points in the end, compared to Vittozzi’s 822. She was shooting with 85% accuracy and skiing at -3, earning 39.3 points per competition on average; she finished fifth to sixth on average in every competition.
The World Cup Total Score title and the Gold medal in the Mass Start at the IBU World Championships 2019 in Oestersund, Sweden, made her a superstar and one of the most marketable winter athletes not just in Italy, but globally. That changed her life considerably; suddenly there were serious rewards in biathlon and through biathlon in life.
Crowned twice in 2019/2020
“April was a catastrophe, since at the end of the season in Oslo I was never at home; I was always attending events, surrounded by media, giving interviews. The only time I was at home was when it all got too much for my immune system and I landed in my bed with a high fever. At the beginning of May, I had no real desire to start training, so I prolonged my off days until May 10, 2019, when the team came together for the first time after the end of the 2018/2019 season. Then I slowly got into the training rhythm,” said Wierer, explaining her somewhat hindered preparations for the 2019/2020 season.
She didn’t expect much from the IBU World Championships 2020, she laughed. No individual gold medal or even no medal at all would not really be that bad for, of course, there is so much more to life than biathlon, she laughed. She didn’t really think much of the Yellow Bib and defending her title—she laughed.
In short, she said: “No pressure, please.”
She did, of course, win two individual gold medals in Antholz-Anterselva. She did, of course, win her second World Cup Total Score title in a row by winning four times, finishing second twice and third once, collecting 793 points in a shortened season while shooting with 82% accuracy and skiing at -4. Wierer won 41.7 points per competition on average, finishing fourth to fifth on average in every competition. And although she had one of the worst seasons for her standing shooting—also related to her back and shoulder problems—she made up for it with a higher ski speed and by fighting to the last ounce of energy on any given day.
She now knows what it takes to win the Total Score and to win it again. No other woman in the field has this knowledge, and that is why Wierer will be very difficult to beat.
Photo: IBU Photo Pool