Silver Bib to Bescond and Fak
With the sun setting in Oestersund and the Norwegian team overloaded with Crystal Globes, there was one more unofficial prize to be awarded. The new honorary “Silver Bib” winners Jakov Fak and Anais Bescond stepped to the podium to receive their hand-knitted Silver 33+ Bibs and a small cup.
Silver, not Gray
What started out as a off-hand comment by IBU Executive Board member Clare Egan when the blue Bib was being discussed last summer morphed into a bit of season-ending awards ceremony and actually a battle for the top men’s spot. After that, Egan and Susan Dunklee talked to a few women including Bescond about this project. The initial name was Gray Bib; to which Bescond replied according to Dunklee, That sounds so old.’ So, we changed it to Silver.”
Recognizing the 33+ Competitors
The concept revolved around recognizing veteran biathletes who after age 33 are still competing at a very nigh level. Dunklee added, “This is a very intense sport, most 25-year-olds have been in it for a long time, so it is hard to stay at the top as you get older. Still, we have some very good older athletes still competing at a very high level.”
Christmas Break Project
The project got into high gear over the Christmas break, when Dunklee started knitting the two bibs. “I used a regular race bib as an initial pattern. Then I picked the yarn that was the right color, figured out how many rows for each color and found a pattern for the number. I completed the women’s bib over Christmas and started the men’s on our drive from Ramsau to Oberhof. Each one took several hours.” From that point, she kind of kept the project under wraps, just debuting the knitted bib on her Instagram page. “There was no PR campaign or anything; that is not my style.”
“I talked to Jakov just before Antholz, and explained it to him. At that point, Arnd Peiffer was pretty close to him. After the mass start there, when Jakov was on the podium, he said to me that the Silver Bib must have given him luck!”
Fak and Peiffer
As the season reached the closing stages, the fight for the women’s Silver Bib swung heavily in Bescond’s direction after Egan who had a strong start to the season struggled. The men became a battle between Fak and Peiffer with Austria’s Simon Eder chasing. Peiffer grabbed a 14-point lead after the second Nove Mesto sprint, with Fak reclaiming the lead by just two points after a strong eighth place in the pursuit. With Peiffer announcing his retirement the first day in Oestersund, Fak cruised through the final three competitions to claim the men’s title.
On the Podium
The 35-year-old Dunklee, third in the women’s category actually missed the Oestersund prize-giving ceremony. Still, she had a podium moment this season, finishing third in the Nove Mesto single mixed relay with Sean Doherty. “Team events are always fun; that one especially…As for missing the Silver Bib ceremony, that was a bummer, but I had an early flight home. The small silver cups came from Johanna Talihaerm, who was just browsing store windows, saw them and asked Clare if they would work.”
Fak and Bescond stood proudly in the Swedish National Biathlon Arena posing for photos wearing their Silver Bibs and clutching the silver cups.
Bescond, “Only overall I will get in my career”
Bescond, whose first BMW IBU World Cup start dates back to Oslo 2007, having never finished higher than seventh in the World Cup Total Score was genuinely appreciative. “The Silver Bib is an honor. Even if it started as a joke between us at the beginning, I am glad to have won it. I know it is probably the only overall I will get in my career!”
The Older the Better
Fak, in the spirit of the moment, later posted on his Facebook page. “Surprise, surprise, 33+ Champ. I am like wine; the older the better…best athlete in the World Cup Total Score standings this season…fun idea…I will defend the title of “best veteran, others be ready, I won’t give up! Congratulations to Anais.”
The Slovenian closed with, “Thanks to Susan Dunklee for the nice knit bibs.” As for the future of the Silver Bib, Dunklee in her low-key manner added, “We will see. It has kind of been an organic thing so far.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Instagram