Norwegians Like It Cold; #CAN19 Highlights Video
The heavy duty North Pole cold that settled over Canmore several days before the first competitions barely loosened its grip over the week. The harsh, windy, at times bitterly cold weather suited the Norwegian team perfectly. They dominated the podium; Johannes Thingnes Boe after winning the first-ever men’s short individual admitted, “It was like a normal winter day in Norway.”
Cold Weather; Schedule Modified
The early week training days slipped quickly into training afternoons, when the sun warmed the stadium from daily lows of minus 30 Celsius to something closer to the minus 20 zone. IBU officials and the Canmore OC were very cautious regarding the weather conditions all week. Looking at the quite accurate weather forecasts, the Thursday, Saturday, Sunday schedule was altered to Thursday, Friday, Saturday; with Sunday available as a make-up day after the Saturday sprints were a weather casualty.
The rescheduled Sunday sprints were then cancelled by the competition juries, when the temperatures were not expected to rise above the allowable limit of minus twenty degrees Celsius.
Johannes Rules Short Individual
The scheduled men’s 20K individual and women’s 15K individual became the new short individual. The men kicked off the week with their 15K short individual; four shooting stages, but a 3K loop versus a 4K loop; avoiding the coldest part of the course. As usual this season, in 12 of the 16 competitions so far, the different format made little difference. Johannes won, using his now trademarked style; leading right from the start on the tracks; no one else had a chance. With each clean stage, he extended his lead; from 16.7 seconds after the first prone, it ballooned to 2:10.2 at the finish. That huge margin left his teammate Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen in a personal best second place, with two 45 second penalties. Russia’s Alexander Loginov returned to the podium for the first time since winning the Oberhof sprint…And in fourth place, a third Norwegian, Lars Helge Birkeland.
The winner of the first World Cup short individual endorsed the new format. “I really liked it; I think it is a better race; more tight and fun to watch for the spectators…I think this is the last year for the 20K.”
Norwegian Sweep: A First for Tiril
A couple of hours later, Tiril Eckhoff made it a Norwegian sweep, taking the women’s 12.5K short individual; her first-ever victory in an individual. Eckhoff who many times struggles on the shooting range was close to perfect, missing a single standing shot. Yet her almost perfect shooting was not the key to victory; it was her usual track artistry. She left the last standing stage 10 seconds behind clean-shooting Marketa Davidova and Lisa Vittozzi. Eckhoff clicked off a last 2.5K almost 20 seconds faster than her rivals. The 22-year-old Davidova with her fourth career podium was 9.8 seconds back. Vittozzi, in third place got even closer to her teammate Dorothea Wierer in the Yellow Bib Race, closing the gap to 5 points, with the Yellow Bib finishing 22nd.
My Preparation: Shopping and Eating
Almost giddy after the win, Eckhoff admitted “I was a little bit emotional because I never thought I would win an individual.” Regarding her preparation in the cold weather, “I have done a lot of shopping and eating here; lots not so serious stuff.”
Green Light for Relays
The relays, moved up from Saturday to Friday were touch and go right up to zeroing; the thermometer hovering around minus 18 with brutal winds sweeping down from the Rocky Mountain peaks. The competition jury decided before zeroing the weather was within the limits and gave the green light.
*Norway and France *
That green light set off what was basically a Norway-France tussle…until you-know-who sealed Norwegian victory number three, defeating the wind with a 10-for-10 shooting performance and a blistering tour of the tracks. Yet it was not all Johannes. The game changer was Christiansen’s second leg; he and Emilien Jacquelin traded shots while playing cat and mouse for the first two loops. Then Christiansen poured on the afterburners to take a 22 second lead when he tagged Erlend Bjöntegaard. Bjoentegaard and French veteran Simon Fourcade dueled; the Norwegian tagged Johannes with an 8 second lead that turned into 1:10.4 by the finish. The French squad, sans Martin finished second ahead of Russia.
Beyond Norwegian win number three, Canadian fans cheered as three-time Olympian and Canmore resident Brendan Green crossed the finish line in the final competition of his career. The champagne corks popped, Green was toasted by his family and teammates in a fitting farewell salute.
Denise Flies; Germany Wins Relay
With the wind continuing to whip across the shooting range and blow snow across the tracks, the German women stopped their Norwegian counterparts from sweeping the relays. The win gave the German women their first relay win this season. Like the men’s competition, the key to victory was a spectacularly fast loop by Denise Herrmann that brought her from 26 seconds back leaving standing to tagging Laura Dahlmeier with a three-second lead. The usually reliable double Olympic Champion almost saw the victory slip away; using all three spare rounds in standing and then going for a penalty loop. After the competition, Dahlmeier when queried about what went wrong replied, “Now that is a good question.” Young Julia Simon had France securely in second place after her anchor leg standing shooting; then like Herrmann, Marte Olsbu Røiseland put on her own speed show. She burned up the last 2K loop, leaving the French ladies in third place.
Saturday’s sprints were cancelled with the temperature not expected to rise above -26 Celsius. They were moved to Sunday, but cancelled by the competition juries when the thermometer was not going above the allowed limit of minus 20 Celsius. After four cold competitions in Canmore, the score was: Norway 3, Germany. It was rather obvious, Norwegians like it cold!