Simon Eder: Preparing for 15th BMW IBU World Cup season

Simon Eder: Preparing for 15th BMW IBU World Cup season

It is October, snow is capping the peaks of Austria’s mountains and summer training is winding down as Simon Eder eagerly awaits his 15th BMW IBU World Cup season.

Simon Eder: Preparing for 15th BMW IBU World Cup season

Turning the Page on 2019/20 season

Since winning the IBU Junior WCH Individual title in 2002, Eder has added two Olympic Winter Games medals, four IBU WCH medals, twenty individual, eleven relay and seven single mixed relay podiums to his resume. After a 2019/20 season that was not his best (24th in the World Cup Total Score), the 37-year old has turned the page. “I had many problems in autumn (2019) with sickness and could not make the preparation that you need for the World Cup. I had problems all winter with my nose; the season was never what I hoped for. You have these years; I have known this before in my career; getting sick is always a problem with endurance sports. Still I had some a couple of good mass starts and the podium in the single mixed relay; I know I have a chance to make the podium with some good shooting, normal running and good skis.”

Army Support during Pandemic

The spring started as inauspiciously for Eder as everyone else. The Covid-19 pandemic locked down the Tirol, but there was an upside. As a soldier in the Austrian Army, Eder was called up to help unload truckloads of food. “People bought so much food that the companies had trouble restocking so for a couple of weeks I helped unloading trucks. For 20 years in the Army, I was able to concentrate on my sport, so I was happy to help and do some good things.”

Simon Eder: Preparing for 15th BMW IBU World Cup season

Training Camp Normality

“By the end of April, I started thinking about sport again; on May 4 Hochfilzen reopened for training…It was nearly normal; we all have individual rooms and since biathlon training is all outside, it is not that dangerous. But I do all of my strength training at home, for safety, because with many people in the same room, you have less control.” He admitted that once everyone got used to the protocols, like two meters social distancing, it has been a pretty normal summer. “We stayed a lot in Hochfilzen but also had training camps in Ruhpolding and Obertilliach, which gave us some feeling of normality, staying in hotels and being with the guys.”

Simon Eder: Preparing for 15th BMW IBU World Cup season

Individualized Training

With almost 20 years of international biathlon experience, Eder’s training is quite individualized. “After so many years, I know what is best for my body. Staying healthy is the main part; if I stay healthy, I can compete with the best in the World Cup. I always try to change a few small things to improve and stay motivated…This year, I did a lot of slow endurance training after being sick in a not-so-good season. The when I did some fast intervals and raced this fall in Obertilliach, I felt really strong… I always look back at what worked in the good years and compare the rollerski and cycling tests from previous years. Then I can see if I have improved or not. Actually, comparing my results from five years ago to today… they are better than at both 30 and 35 which were good years! I did not expect that.”

Shooting Confidence

The left-handed Eder who had a dozen clean-shooting days in individual competitions over the past two seasons thinks that sometimes, shooting is the hardest to maintain. “Last year it was my shooting that did not go as well as expected (86% compared to 91% the previous season). Every season is a little bit different. When you do not believe in yourself and trust your abilities, which happens very fast, the shooting percentage goes down. You start thinking too much and cannot stop it. So, the goal is always to have some good races at the beginning of the season, then everything is much easier.”

Leitner and Skating Technique

Even if he shoots well, Eder knows that track skills are very important. Having a teammate like 23-year-old Felix Leitner to train with helps keep the veteran sharp. “We are lucky to have someone like him who can be in the top ten in the world (2020 IBU WCH: 6th mass start, 9th sprint/pursuit). Training with him is great; he has great ski technique. We train a lot together especially for technique. A lot has changed in skating technique in recent years, so I had to change. That is not so easy when you do the same thing for 15 years and have to change. But that keeps your mind fresh and working hard every day.”

Simon Eder: Preparing for 15th BMW IBU World Cup season

Alfred Eder “He is the best coach for me”

Crucial to Eder’s success is his father Alfred who has guided his son’s career with a mixture of passion and knowledge. The elder Eder’s knowledge is based on a successful World Cup career with two IBU WCH medals, eleven podiums and an Antholz sprint victory in 1985 that led him to a 25+ year coaching career. “He has lived the sport and is still living it to the fullest. That is what I admire about him. I think if it was possible, my father and Ole Einar Bjorndalen would still be competing! They in some ways are soulmates because they love biathlon up to the sky and back. He has lived every day in training with me and made it as professional as possible. That is why he is the best coach for me. I could not have it better. However, you do need input from other coaches sometimes. Still having someone like him who helps you on the good and bad days is very special.”

Simon Eder: Preparing for 15th BMW IBU World Cup season

Single Mixed Success

Some of Eder’s best days in recent years have been in the single mixed relay with teammate Lisa Theresa Hauser. Although the duo missed an IBU WCH medal (6th place, Antholz 2020), they have racked up two wins, four second places and a third in that discipline. “At first, we both did not think that the single mixed would fit that well. We wanted to be in the mixed relay; but then it worked out. It has to do with the length of the track and shooting. We both have strength on the shooting side which is really important…On our best days, at least one of us was perfect with no spare rounds; that is the key to success. After making some podiums, we are now happy! Not making the podium in Antholz was disappointing, so our goal is now to be on the podium at the World Champs.”

Beijing 2022

Beyond Pokljuka 2021, Eder has one more goal: Beijing 2022. “The Olympics are a big motivation for me. But first is the next season and Pokljuka. Then hopefully, I will feel fresh enough to be in great shape for the Olympics. The Olympics have always been great motivation and great events for me. I want to make it one more time and have a chance for a medal.”

Simon Eder: Preparing for 15th BMW IBU World Cup season

On Snow in Obertilliach

With the new season kicking off in just six weeks, Eder and his Austrian teammates are thinking about on-snow training and final preparations. “We are going to Obertilliach; hopefully the temperatures will make that possible. It is a great safe place with some altitude and is close to home. I cannot think of a better place for the last preparations this year.”

Thankful for New Season

After Obertilliach he is looking forward to Kontiolahti. “Skiing in the forest in Finland without spectators will be normal, but we will miss them in the stadium. The most important thing is that we will have races. For my part, I am very thankful to the IBU that they have made it possible to have the races. That was not easy; not every sport or federation could do that, so I think this is a great thing (for biathlon).”

Photos: Simon Eder, IBU/Christian Manzoni, Petr Slavik, Jerry Kokesh