National Teams Set; Training Starts
The 2019-20 season is out of the starting gate with many national teams conducting their first training camps in the coming weeks. Changes in the national teams have been few, but a few names popped up as the new training season gets underway.
Kaisa Returns; Henrik Retires
Specifically, when Finland announced their team, there was a collective sigh of relief among many fans: Kaisa Mäkäräinen was on the team, signaling that the three-time World Cup Total Score winner would return for at least one more season. The Finnish star struggled on the shooting range at the end of last season after starting with three wins and a second place in the first two weeks of December.
At the same time, the dominant Norwegian men’s squad was missing a familiar name; 33-year old Henrik L’Abee Lund retired after a 15 year career that included a 2018 World Cup sprint win at Oslo and an IBU WCH Relay Gold medal in 2013.
Norway, Still at the Top
The Nations Cup-winning Norwegian men’s and women’s squads for the coming season look as formidable as ever, with plenty of star power and experience. The retirement of L’Abee Lund did little to diminish the Norwegian men’s team; everyone else, led by the man who swept the five Crystal Globes, Johannes Thingnes Boe returns. Tarjei Boe, Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, Erlend Bjoentegaard, and Lars Helge Birkeland form the supporting cast. IBU Rookie of the Year Johannes Dale moved up from the IBU Cup team to fill the L’Abee Lund’s spot on the World Cup team. The 21-year-old Dale had three IBU Cup wins and five other IBU Cup podiums last season plus 10th and 11th in the Soldier Hollow World Cup sprint/pursuit in February.
World Cup Total Score fourth place finisher Marte Olsbu Røiseland heads the women’s roster, with IBU WCH Sprint Silver medalist Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold and triple IBU WCH medalist Tiril Eckhoff adding more star power. Veteran Synnøve Solemdahl, young Emilie Kalkenberg and Pokljuka Single Mixed Relay winner (with Birkeland) Thekla Brun-Lie fill out Coach Patrick Oberegger’s team.
Germany: Veteran Presence Dominates
Both Germany’s men’s and women’s teams continue to rely on veterans with IBU WCH and Olympic medals for their team’s foundation.
IBU 20km individual World Champion Arnd Peiffer again tops the men’s squad with World Cup Total Score 7th placer Benedikt Doll, Erik Lesser and the returning from illness Simon Schempp all ready to roll. Roman Rees (3rd Soldier Hollow Sprint) and Johannes Kuehn (2nd Pokljuka 20km), with breakout podium results last season, and Philip Nawrath are back in the top men’s group. Lucas Fratzscher with a win and five additional IBU Cup podiums plus a clean-shooting Oslo mass start 13th place is the newcomer for the men.
Denise Herrmann comes to the new season as the number 1 German woman, based on her personal best 8th place in the overall and three IBU WCH medals including the pursuit title. The remaining spots on the women’s team are mostly familiar, led by Laura Dahlmeier, Franziska Hildebrand, Franziska Preuss, Vanessa Hinz, Karolin Horchler and Maren Hammerschmidt, returning from a missed season due to surgery. Sharpshooting 22-year-old Anna Weidel and Janina Hettich round add some youth to this well-established women’s team.
Loginov and Yurlova-Percht Lead Russian Teams
Alexander Loginov, now the undisputed top man on the Russian men’s team after his IBU WCH Sprint Silver medal and World Cup Total Score 2nd place heads the Nations Cup 4th place team for the training season. Evgeniy Garanichev and Matvey Eliseev, the only other Russian men in the top 30, Dmitry Malyshko, and Eduard Latypov and Anton Babikov will be joined by double IBU Cup winner Alexander Povarnitsyn and Nikita Porshnev.
Like Loginov, Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht was the undisputed top woman for Russia last season. Her IBU WCH Mass Start Silver medal was the second IBU WCH medal of her career while her 14th place in the Total Score was the second best of her career. Yurlova-Percht anchored the Russian women’s first relay victory in seven years at Oberhof. Her relay teammates IBU Rookie of the Year Evgeniya Pavlova and Larisa Kuklina are also on the women’s team, along with Victoria Slivko, Uliana Kaisheva, Natalia Gerbulova, and Irina Kazekevich.
Sweden: No Changes in Successful Squad
Sweden comes to the new season with a virtually unchanged roster after a very successful year. The team doubled their top 10 finishes from 16 in 2017-18 to 32 this past season and picked up 8 podiums including Hanna Oeberg’s IBU WCH 15km Individual Gold medal, Single Mixed Relay Bronze with Sebastian Samuelsson and the Women’s Relay Silver medal.
Strong Women’s Team
Mass Start Score Crystal Globe winner Oeberg, 5th in the Total Score leads the strong and improving group of women that includes Total Score 19th place Mona Brorsson, Linn Persson, Anna Magnusson and Emma Nilsson. Oeberg’s younger sister Elvira, who won three IBU Youth World Titles in 2018 and still a junior competitor again joins the main squad.
The World Cup men’s team is again led by Olympic Pursuit Silver medalist Sebastian Samuelsson, who had his first World Cup podium last season with third in the Oberhof Sprint and finished 22nd in the World Cup Total Score. Joining him are his Olympic Relay Gold medalist teammates Jesper Nelin and Peppe Femling, plus Martin Ponsiluoma who claimed his first World Cup podium in the Nove Mesto sprint and Torstein Stenersen.
Italians Stick with Successful Set-up
Italy, after unprecedented multiple successes last season continues with their Team “A” Elite four-person training group as they point to a home stadium IBU WCH at Antholz next February. The four-person top team of Dorothea Wierer, Lisa Vittozzi, Lukas Hofer and Dominik Windisch provided highlights every week. Wierer picked up her and Italy’s first-ever World Cup Total Score title, with IBU WCH 15km Individual Silver medalist Vittozzi following in second place in the Total Score. The top lady in biathlon and Windisch claimed matching IBU WCH Mass Start Gold medals, while she and Hofer combined for IBU WCH Single Mixed Relay Silver.
This small group that trains under Andreas Zingerle and Andrea Zattoni added an IBU WCH Mixed Relay Bronze medal to go with their 2018 Olympic Bronze medal.
Canadians Retool after Retirements
The Canadian Senior National Team has a new look after the retirements of veterans Brendan Green, Nathan Smith and Rosanna Crawford. They returned seven athletes including standouts Christian Gow, Scott Gow, Megan Bankes, Sarah Beaudry and Emma Lunder; all of whom set World Cup personal bests last season. Five new athletes are in the 12-person team including Aidan Millar and Jules Burnotte who got significant World Cup experience and were on the Canadian men’s relay team at the IBU WCH.
Working Hard Together Yields Great Things
Interim Head Coach Justin Wadsworth summed up the thoughts of every coach as the new training season starts, calling it “an exciting time for a young team. We have the talent and they understand that training hard and working together as team will yield great things in the future.”