JT Boe, Fourcade and Fillon-Maillet all in for the Total Score title
Leaving NMNM, Czech republic for Kontiolahti, Finland JT Boe, Martin Fourcade and Quentin Fillon - Maillet, the three leading men in the BMW IBU World Cup Total Score standings, had very different feelings. Dorothea Wierer, Hanna Oeberg and Tiril Eckhoff fought hard and kept their positions well protected, with Eckhoff moving ahead of Oeberg but with just two points difference and Wierer staying atop of the Total Score standings.
JT Boe is back in the driving seat
JT used a very difficult (wet) snow conditions and a fantastic work of his waxing team to the maximum, won in the sprint and in the mass start and added 120 points to his account thus making the battle for biathlon’s most coveted trophy extremely tight. Despite empty stands - which he loves filled to the full in NMNM - he found the best combination of skiing and shooting on both days of very high stakes. He was impeccable in the sprint in what was his best 10/10 individual performance of the season. He started the mass start with an explosive first loop sensing very early in the competition that he has the most dominant skis of the day and that he might just do as he did in the mass start in Annecy - Le Grand Bornand and destroy the competition immediately. He then missed in both prone and the first standing but still prevailed over 20/20 shooting Emilien Jacquelin such was the difference in the skis speed to his French competitors.
Martin Fourcade had a double bad luck in the sprint where he was fast enough to finish (at least) third and keep much of the point difference on JT but he broke his pole in the second loop, got another one from Norwegian coaches, broke it at the handle in the next few seconds and adapted to the new circumstances and impaired skiing for a few hundred meters with faster than usual standing shooting, missing once and finishing sixth. Despite slow skis Fourcade kept his chances in the mass start alive with highly focused shooting in both prone stages. When he saw that JT keeps coming back despite misses, Fourcade again decided against his usual rational approach, attacked in both standing shootings, missed three (1-2) and landed in the 14th position, the worst finish of the season, with not much points to be added to his Total Score standings at the end of the week.
Fillon -Maillet was at this best in the sprint, shooting 10/10, skiing fast but with JT Boe back at his skiing best and with no mistakes in the shooting it was enough for second place which still kept his Total Score hopes well alive. He had a very good shooting performance in the mass start with 19/20 but still could not match JT: Quentin, who skied faster than JT in three out of four competitions at the IBU World Championships in Antholz, was 1:23,4 slower than the Norwegian in the tracks and he was furious with the developments for his chances for Total Score diminished greatly with the eight place although he was the best shooter of the three in NMNM with 29/30.
For the time being Fourcade is still in the yellow bib with 853 points, JT Boe has 810 and Fillon - Maillet 800. Dropping two worst finishes of the season Fourcade deducts 56 points and has 797, Fillon - Maillet deducts 47 and has 753 whereas JT keeps 810. JT is therefore back in the driving seat before Kontiolahti’s sprint and pursuit.
Wierer fought hard and is still a great favourite
There was a great joy in Patrick Oberegger’s shooting range celebrations after Tiril Eckhoff shot 5/5 in the standing and anchored Norwegian relay to the sixth win of the season: he knew her inner feel for biathlon is (again) aligned with her much improved posture and that she will be able to challenge Wierer and Oeberg in the battle for the Total Score title until the end of the season. Eckhoff then shot 19/20 in the mass start, won on the fast skis and with the fifth place in the sprint added 100 points to her Total Score standings after NMNM.
Oeberg was furious with herself after the sprint and one miss in the prone, she missed one in the first prone in the mass start but kept her composure and the fighting spirit intact, went 15/15 in the last three shootings to her great satisfaction, finished second and added 82 points to the Total Score standings before Kontiolahti. She lost 18 points to Eckhoff in NMNM but made 42 on the Total Score leading woman from Italy.
Wierer had a disastrous sprint with three misses and 24th place, missed three again in the mass start but made up for that with a fantastic skiing on a snow that challenged everybody but Norwegians and finished fifth despite increasing weariness in her upper body. Wierer added 40 points to her Total Score account in NMNM.
Wierer is in the yellow bib for the time being with 776 points, Eckhoff has 707 and Oeberg 705. Taking into consideration Wierer’s worst two and thus point dropping results for the season (24th in NMNM’s sprint and 23rd in Pokljuka’s individual), Wierer has 741 points, Eckhoff and Oeberg stay with 707 and 705. The difference of 34 points to Eckhoff and 36 to Oeberg doesn’t seem much and more drama is ahead. The thing that might worry Wierer the most is her shooting accuracy which was at just 80% in NMNM compared to Eckhoff’s 90% and Oeberg’s 93%.