Norway’s Unprecedented Sweep: Five Team Globes
The biggest focus at the season-ending BMW IBU World Cup in Oslo was on the winners of the big Crystal Globes for the World Cup Total Score, Johannes Thingnes Boe and Dorothea Wierer. Lost in the excitement of Johannes’ Oslo Hat Trick and his sweep of the men’s Globes was a milestone achievement by the Norwegian team, an unprecedented sweep of the team Globes.
No team has ever won all five team Globes since the four team categories were introduced: Men’s Relay Score, Women’s Relay Score, and Men’s and Women’s Nations Cup in the 2000-01 season with the Mixed Relay added in 2011. No team ever dominated a season like this. Fifteen Crystal Globes are awarded at the end of the season: five each for men and women and five for teams. Ten of those fifteen from the 2018-19 season now reside in Norway.
Men: 13 of 19 Nations Cups
The men have perennially been at the top of the heap in the Nations Cup since the dawn of the 21st century, winning thirteen of the nineteen titles. The women on the other hand, only have two previous Nations Cup Globes from the Tora Berger-era 2013 and 2014 seasons. Their Nations Cup win was the key to this sweep.
The women’s squad made huge advances this past season from the previous year. They finished fifth in the Nations Cup and seventh in the World Cup Relay Score in 2017-18, compared to victories in both categories this season. Marte Olsbu Røiseland at 14th and Tiril Eckhoff at 23rd were the highest ranked Norwegian women in the 2017-18 World Cup total. Olsbu Røiseland, Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold and Eckhoff finished 4th, 11th and 13th respectively in the just-completed season. Their relay results were equally improved from zero podiums and a 4th place best to a victory and two second places this year.
Coaching, Improvements Drive Women’s Success
Winning the Women’s Nations Cup was no easy task for the beleaguered women’s squad; they won after 24 competitions by 59 points, 7430 to 7371 over Germany. Several key points drove their success, starting with the addition of Patrick Oberegger as Head Coach. Oberegger’s enthusiasm and positive thinking helped set the course for major improvements by Olsbu Røiseland and Tandrevold plus the revival of the highly talented Eckhoff. Olsbu Røiseland, with three individual victories, 13 top 10 finishes and three IBU WCH Relay Gold Medals, from Nove Mesto to the end of the season was the key player. She attributed her good season to “another year of training and this year has been very good for me physically.” 22-year-old Tandrevold truly helped the team step up with her IBU WCH Sprint Silver medal and first-ever WC podiums. Eckhoff once again arose from the ashes, winning her first-ever individual competition at Canmore, picking up an IBU WCH Pursuit Silver medal plus two relay Golds while having a very steady last six weeks of the season.
The World Cup Relay Score win by 8 points, 249-241 was again over the German ladies, who have dominated the relays in recent seasons. Norway’s win was just their third in nineteen seasons. Although they always seemed to struggle on the shooting range, except on Ruhpolding’s shooter-friendly range where they escaped with seven spare rounds, the Norwegian ladies kept themselves in contention with fast skiing. Olsbu Røiseland turned into a last loop phenom, always burning up that last 2K. Yet it was her shooting that gave then the IBU WCH Gold medal; going 5-for-5 in that last standing stage while usually perfect Hanna Oeberg used three spares to clean. The Norwegian star commented, “I saw Hanna shoot and she had to use some extra; I just said, ‘go for it.”
“One Big Happy Family”
Tandrevold and Eckhoff summed up their team’s successful season after that relay. Eckhoff said, “It means we are…” while Tandrevold interjected, “We are one big happy family.” Her teammate then closed with, “I am extremely happy to be on this team with these girls.”
Johannes, Tarjei and Co. Drive Nations Cup
As stated, winning the Men’s Nations Cup is old hat for the Norwegian men. However this season was a blowout with 8147 points to 7598 for runner-up France. Their success was heavily driven by the Johannes’ dominating year, but also due to a strong supporting cast and their end-of-season relay romps. Our season preview last November said, “The challenge for the (Norwegian) men is simple: keep Johannes Thingnes Boe battling for the podium, keep brother Tarjei healthy and then develop several other candidates into regular podium threats.” That is exactly what happened. Johannes did more than battle for the podium with 16 victories. Tarjei had a solid healthy season with four World Cup podiums, two IBU OECH Gold medals, an IBU WCH 20K individual Bronze medal culminating in 6th place in the World Cup Total Score. Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen finally proved to be a powerful World Cup competitor with a World Cup win and three other podiums, IBU Relay and Mixed Relay Gold medals, shooting at an impressive 88% rate and finishing 13th in the Total Score. Erlend Bjøntegaard had his best-ever season with 16th in the Total Score. The season-long relay success added the finishing touch to Norway’s latest Nations Cup title.
The Norwegian men are a known relay powerhouse team, winning the World Cup Relay Score for three of the past four years; this year with 270 points to Russia’s 236. Norway was particularly strong as the season progressed, winning the last three competitions in Ruhpolding, Canmore and closing with the IBU WCH title. Their WCH title was the icing on the cake, a 38.1 second, six-spare gem over Germany, fueled by the Boe Brothers pulling away from their rivals. Mr. Reliable Lars Helge Birkeland provided a strong one-spare leadoff leg, tagging 9 seconds back while Christiansen shot clean, tagging Tarjei 1.3 seconds out of first. Both Boe Brothers used spares in standing, but with solid leads, were never threatened and Johannes skied to WCH Gold waving the Norwegian flag for their sixth IBU WCH title since 2009. Tarjei has been on five of those winning teams.
Mixed Relays Dynamic Duo
The two mixed relays at the IBU WCH proved to be the difference makers that sealed this Crystal Globe. Both mixed relays were on the IBU WCH program for the first time and most importantly, on separate days. This opened the door for Norway to use their two hot hands, Johannes and Olsbu Røiseland in both. The result was two victories. No other team could match this dynamic duo. After the single mixed win, the points read: Norway 306, France 281. After the win, Olsbu Røiseland admitted, “I struggled a bit on the range in the first leg, but my last shooting was good. Johannes was really great today!” Johannes then quipped, “Like a mirror, I say the same thing!”
When it comes down to Norway’s sweep of the team Crystal Globes, it all comes down to those two athletes, Johannes and Marte. They set the bar for their teammates with outstanding individual seasons while keying the IBU WCH Relay sweep and subsequent unprecedented five titles they picked up, capping an amazing season. Congratulations to Norway!