#Ostersund2019 (Part 1) Johannes, Marte: Norwegian Domination & Highlights Video
When the snow finally stopped in Östersund, one thing was clear: the Norwegian team behind Johannes Thingnes Boe and Marte Olsbu Røiseland dominated every day of the 2019 IBU World Championships, except the final day when Italian teammates Dorothea Wierer and Dominik Windisch claimed the final two Gold medals. In between the opening mixed relay and those mass starts, the Norwegians did give way to Gold medal efforts from Arnd Peiffer, Denise Herrmann, Hanna Oeberg, Anastasiya Kuzmina and Dmytro Pidruchnyi, but still figured prominently in nine of the twelve Championship competitions.
The Norwegian domination was most prominent in the relays. Each time a Norwegian duo or foursome stepped onto the snow, they left with Gold medals. Both Johannes and Marte now own three 2019 IBU WCH Relay Gold medals. Yet the Norwegian success was truly a team effort: four men and four women have at least one medal in their travel bag as they head home for the BMW IBU World Cup Final in Oslo.
Highlights, Highlights and More Highlights
Norway led the medal parade with five Gold, three Silver and a Bronze, but that was just part of the highlights story from these Championships. It is also about the unexpected tearful wins by Kuzmina and Pidruchnyi; Herrmann’s brilliant skiing, Oeberg’s emotional win at home, Iliev’s important Silver medal and the last competition shocker by Windisch, blazing from 13th position to the Gold medal in the blink of an eye.
Part 1 of this two-part wrap covers the mixed relay, sprint, pursuit, and individual competitions. Part 2 follows with the single mixed relay, relays and mass starts.
Norwegian Confidence Builder
The 2019 IBU WCH kickoff competition mixed relay started the ball rolling in Norway’s direction. Their star-studded lineup of Marte Olsbu Røiseland, Tiril Eckhoff, Johannes Thingnes Boe and Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen effectively put every other team on notice. As usual, the Norwegian team was in Östersund for business, the business of winning medals and they were ready. Johannes commented, “…my first mixed relay victory in the (IBU World) Championships… a big day. It is good for the team…we are the four strongest. We have big chances in the individual races so getting this Gold medal only gives us more confidence.” Truer words were never spoken.
Johannes, Denise and Lisa Star
Olympic medalists Olsbu Røiseland and Eckhoff kept Norway in the mix with their normal fast skiing and five spare rounds. Olsbu Røiseland did her typical fast last loop, tagging Johannes right at the front. The number 1 man in biathlon added a couple of spare rounds, but flew around his last loop, taking a 15.4 second lead. Christiansen then went 10-for-10, sealing the deal for the Gold medal that was never in doubt. Germany in the Silver spot had a brilliantly skied leg by Denise Herrmann, who shot slowly but then regained the front of the pack in a few hundred meters. The Italians won another Championship Bronze medal, nicely complementing their 2014 and 2018 Olympic Bronze medals. Once again, the sparkplugs in their medal run were a brilliant 10-for-10 leadoff by Lisa Vittozzi and a track-speedy, fast shooting leg by Dorothea Wierer that set up their two men for a medal run. Really no surprises in the opening act, other than a slow-skiing, fifteen-spare performance by the French team that finished in a shocking 8th place.
Kuzmina: From Sick Bed to Sprint Gold
After the Norwegian rout in the mixed relay, two-time Olympic Sprint Gold medalist Anastasiya Kuzmina, rallied from illness to add IBU WCH Sprint Gold to her trophy case. Kuzmina once again proved to be a big-time player, rallying from a prone penalty with a perfect standing stage and then powerfully skiing the last loop for the victory. It was the same scenario that led to her first OLW Sprint Gold in Vancouver. Referring to her illness, she said, “When I went to the start today, I did not expect anything...After the Olympics my biggest goal was to win (IBU WCH) Gold… my best chance was in the sprint. This morning we were deciding to start or not and decided to take a chance. I tried and succeeded.”
Tandrevold Shock; Dahlmeier’s Bronze “Gold”
If Kuzmina’s win was a surprise then Silver medalist Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold’s medal was a shock. The talented 22-year-old, in her 4th World Cup season only had one previous podium, 2nd in the Ruhpolding mass start, with most of her sprint finishes in the twenties or thirties. Yet the lefty shot clean for the second time this season to finish ahead of Olympic Sprint Champion Laura Dahlmeier. Dahlmeier’s Bronze medal was a surprise of sorts after a stop-start season, missing ten World Cup starts. Yet, the plucky German again proved her talent, shooting clean, skiing steadily and willing herself a medal. She said, “I had a little cold. I also just decided this morning to start. I thought it was important to have good shooting…This Bronze medal feels like a Gold medal to me.” Her teammate Herrmann prefaced the pursuit, skiing faster (no surprise) than any other woman in sixth place. Mona Brorsson matched her career best in fifth place while her teammate and team leader Hanna Oeberg missed a medal by a mere .3 seconds.
Johannes: Doing What He Does Best
Kuzmina may have risen to the occasion with her win, but Johannes continued doing what he has done all season: win sprints. As usual, he started fast and cleaned prone. A missed standing shot passed the lead to Alexander Loginov for about as long as a blink of the eye. Johannes then powered his way to the second IBU WCH Sprint Gold of his career, three years after his Kontiolahti win. Loginov did “everything in his power,” clean shooting and strong running but was no match for the Norwegian. He stated, “I understood that Johannes level is really high so I tried to keep it up and I think the Silver medal is my level for today.” Still, the IBU WCH Silver medal was his first-ever and Russia’s first this year, so no regrets. The surprise here was Mr. Four-stage, Quentin Fillon Maillet who won the Bronze medal, his second-ever sprint podium. He shot clean as did seven others in the top 10.
Still, the day was all Johannes, who was 33 seconds faster than anyone else on the tracks. His sixth sprint win this season was just another day at work. “I decided to do things like in the other World Cups. I managed to do this and that is quite impressive.”
Pursuit Feel-Good Shockers: Herrmann and Pidruchnyi
The pursuits were both shockers, but feel-good shockers. Former cross-country specialist Herrmann completed her transition to biathlete with a 31-second, runaway women’s pursuit win and first individual IBU WCH title. The German speedster won for the fourth time in her career, with three of them in Östersund. “It is nice to come back to the place where you had your first-ever victory. I love these tracks; I think I am in love with the shooting area more than at the other World Cups.” She only missed twice, in the first standing on her way to Gold. She added, “The zero mistakes in the last standing shooting made my dream come true…It was a perfect day for me.” Her track prowess plus shooting at a 90% clip means one thing: victory.
Eckhoff: Baffling the Critics
Tiril Eckhoff matched her German rival with two penalties, continuing to baffle the critics with the Silver medal. Eckhoff, usually Quixotic on the range but no slouch on the tracks normally would have won the Gold medal, if not for the even-faster Herrmann. Dahlmeier had one less miscue than her rivals, taking her second Bronze medal. Of course this scenario could have been different. Brorsson was 15-for-15 with 30+ second lead coming to the last standing; she missed four times, setting for seventh. Olsbu Røiseland in fourth and Tandrevold in eighth gave Norway three in the top 8 spots.
Pidruchnyi struggled to grasp the magnitude of his victory. “For the moment I cannot believe that I won a medal, a Gold medal. I do not believe that I could steal a medal from such a person as Johannes.” Respect like that in victory is quite special.
The downtrodden Yellow Bib with five penalties, stated, “I had a big chance to win today; I am very disappointed…I can’t change the results and my terrible mistakes, but I congratulate Pidruchnyi for his World Championship title.”
Hanna’s Big Win
Fourth and fifth places in the sprint and pursuit netted Hanna Oeberg zero medals, but Sweden’s biathlon sweetheart made sure to get one in her specialty, the 15K individual. She did what she does best, steadily closing target after target until all twenty were white and the IBU World Championship was hers. Suddenly the 23-year-old Olympic Gold medalist became the first-ever woman to win back-to-back major titles in the 15K individual. “Last year was even for me a bit of a surprise; it was a lot of emotions then. This is on another level. Today I knew what I was able to do. Then to be able to pull it off here in front of the home, my family…I am really proud of myself.”
First Individual Medals for Lisa and Justine
Lisa Vittozzi and Justine Braisaz had equally perfect days but settled for Silver and Bronze medals; for both, like the Gold medalist, their first individual IBU WCH medals. The power of the home-field advantage was just too much to overcome on this day. For Vittozzi, the Silver-lining was also crystal; she won the World Cup Individual Score, the first Crystal Globe of her career.
Arnd Does It Again
In a week filled with firsts, Arnd Peiffer did it again, winning a Gold medal when no one expected it. In 2018, it was Olympic Sprint Gold for the German veteran when he shot clean while the favorites spent too much time on the penalty loop. Last week, he again shot clean while the other missed, claiming his first win and first-ever podium in the 20K. The 2011 IBU Sprint World champion admitted, “I have never been on the podium in the individual. It is my first time to shoot clean in it…I am 31 years old and have been in many individuals; many times got to the last shooting and missed a shot… l did my best and could not do better.”
Iliev’s First Podium and Medal
Behind him, Vladimir Iliev had career World Cup podium number 1 with his Silver medal, also the first-ever men’s medal for Bulgaria. He later said that he hoped this medal would “make biathlon more popular in Bulgaria.”
Tarjei’s Dash to Bronze
The second feel-good story in the 20K came via another Norwegian, Johannes’ older brother Tarjei. After two victories in the IBU OECH in Minsk, he finished fourth in the WCH pursuit by .4 seconds, leaving him extremely frustrated. In the 20K, he left the last standing stage less than a second ahead of Iliev and a podium spot. Battling the ongoing snowfall, Tarjei willed himself to the medal, crashing across the finish line just behind the Bulgarian. The Norwegian veteran dug deep in that last loop, not wanting to be fourth again. “It was hard. I knew I had no chance to catch Arnd, then of course Iliev was in front of me…I took it second by second and in the end, everything looked black…If I was fourth in this duel, I would not be happy at all but to be honest, a medal was Gold for me today.”