No room for mistakes left
JT Boe has very well-known adversaries vying for the BMW IBU World Cup Total Score title, for they are all his teammates from the invincible Norwegian relay. Tiril Eckhoff, Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Hanna Oeberg are also heading into a long showdown and a fight for the ultimate crown they each have yet to win in their great careers.
- Eckhoff is turning into a great champion mentally
It was in Hochfilzen again that Tiril Eckhoff hit the kind of form that propelled her on to the verge of winning the Total Score title last season. She has four wins and one second place to her name after the start of the second week in Hochfilzen and she is skiing on par with Olsbu Roeiseland and shooting at a super accurate 92.5%. Olsbu Roeiseland, still wearing yellow, missed twice in the sprint to get fifth place and shot 20/20 in the pursuit to her great delight. It was trying to make up for the two misses in the sprint that cost her a lot of energy, which she sorely missed in a very tactical last loop in the pursuit where Eckhoff blocked all her attacks. Hanna Oeberg was excellent in the sprint with 10/10 and second place, but then got unlucky in the pursuit when Marketa Davidova unintentionally hit her pole and threw her out of rhythm. Hanna then missed four shots in the second 20/20 competition in a row and finished only eighth. Since the beginning of the second week in Hochfilzen, Eckhoff has won 294 points, Olsbu Roeiseland 238 and Hanna 207; the momentum is clearly with Eckhoff.
There are two things that stand out in Eckhoff’s performance this season and they both speak in her favour:
1. She has managed to overcome a somewhat lethargic initial approach to this very unusual season; as a very social being, she was affected by having to eat all meals in the solitude of her room in Kontiolahti, which led to two no-point disasters in the Season-Opening.
2. To make the start of the 2020/2021 season even more challenging for Eckhoff, it was also in Kontiolahti that she lost the Total Score title in the last shooting of the 2019/2020 season. She has put that trauma behind her and looks very much in control (at least for now) of everything she does on the tracks and on the shooting range.
The only thing that might have shaken Tiril is her last shooting in the single mixed relay, where she shot herself into three penalty loops. True, the mentality of the single mixed relay – and any relay – does not have much to do with the individual competitions, but it can affect the flow of good performances. That is how Quentin Fillon Maillet lost his momentum in the men’s relay in Hochfilzen, when he tried to make up for the mistakes of his colleagues just to lose his composure and his alignment on the shooting range and then on the skis.
- Only podiums will bring the ultimate glory
JT Boe has returned from the Christmas break just as he promised he would: with a win in the sprint, and above all, a superb skiing performance. While battling for the win in the pursuit, he decided to go for broke at the first standing shooting and landed in the penalty loop for four long rounds of thinking while watching his brother Tarjei, Johannes Dale and Sturla Holm Laegreid speeding away. Tarjei looked spotless after the 10/10 in the sprint (and second place) and the first three shoots in the pursuit (15/15) only to let nerves get the better of him when a win was within his grasp. At the end of utterly Norwegian-dominated days in the men’s competitions, it was Laegreid again who won the most points, 108, for he was third in the sprint and won the pursuit. Tarjei added 102 points to his Total Score standings account with second and third place, JT 96 with a win and eighth place and Dale 94 with fifth and second place.
There are now 99 points between the leader JT Boe (522) and the fourth, Tarjei (423), with Laegreid (481) and Dale (434) in between. Since the beginning of the second week in Hochfilzen, Laegreid has won three times and was third once and sixth once; JT has a win, two third places, one seventh and one eighth; Dale was second twice, fifth once, sixth once and 15th once; and Tarjei was second once, third twice and seventh and 14th once. In that same period, JT won 226 points, Laegreid 266, Dale 212 and Tarjei 213. The momentum is with Laegreid, but he needs to keep shooting at or above 94% to withstand the attacks of his faster colleagues.
Photo: IBU/Christian Manzoni