Some Changes at the IBU Cup
It is hard to believe that hours of endless training and hard work are coming to an end and less than two weeks separate us from the start of a new 2018-19 biathlon season! It is almost time for the athletes to show their efforts were not in vain; time to fulfill dreams and hopes, time for new achievements and failures, joy and tears. Now it is time to turn a new page in a biathlon book!
Traditionally, biathlon season starts in Scandinavia for both the World Cup and IBU Cup circuits; the close proximity gives WC regulars the possibility to test themselves at the first IBU Cup and easily get back to the big season-opening event in Oestersund. This year is different. The Swedish National Biathlon Arena will be hosting the IBU World Championships in March, which gives Slovenia’s Pokljuka the right to kick off a new BMW IBU World Cup season. This change may mean fewer World Cup faces at the IBU Cup premiere in Idre, Sweden. Few teams will take such a long trip for just one or two competitions. The exception will be those athletes who need to qualify for the WC stages.
World Cup qualification and the final national team selections are the main reasons why two sprint competitions are always included in the program at the first IBU Cup. This year, pursuits were added to the schedule. After a small break, the second and third IBU Cups will be held at the traditional mid-December venues in Ridnaun, Italy, and Obertilliach, Austria, also with a slight change. Along with the normal Obertilliach sprint and individual competitions, the super sprint is now on the schedule.
Super Sprint Changes
This new discipline, tested last year at the season finale in Khanty-Mansiysk, had an overall positive feedback from the athletes and coaches. The IBU Cup Total Score winners Germany’s Karolin Horchler and Norway’s Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, who claimed the first super sprint titles, both admitted the format is fun and short, at the same time hard and challenging. This all makes the competition quite exciting and unpredictable. After the test and further evaluation of the IBU Technical Committee, a few changes were made to present the best possible format. First, more flexibility was given in regard to the loop length (before 800m, now 1K (+/- 200m). Additionally, the overall distance was lengthened from 2.4K to 3K in the qualification and from 4K to 5K in the final. The reason is simple; there are not many stadiums with an 800m loop, which would limit this format to a very few venues only. Secondly, now, instead of three spare bullets for both qualification and final, only one spare per shooting bout may be used. Apart from these two changes, the time between the qualifications and finals were reduced by a few hours, according to the athletes/teams feedback after the IBU Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.
The second trimester kicks off after the Christmas break and continues with the three IBU Cups in January; Duszniki Zdrój, Poland, followed by Arber, Germany, and Lenzerheide, Switzerland, where the Arber Hohenzollern Ski Stadium will witness the test of a new discipline, short individual with 15K for men and 12.5K for women and a 45-second shooting penalty for both. The main reason for such format is flexibility in case of bad weather situations, which will be used only in extraordinary weather/snow conditions.
Change for the OECH
After such a saturated trimester, the IBU Cup circuit has another break, but gets back on track in Raubichi, Belarus in mid-February, with the IBU Open European Championships. There is one important change regarding the participation in the OECH that was adopted at the 13th IBU Regular Congress in September. Unlike the previous seasons, from now on athletes who have not earned the right to start for the respective IBU Cup trimester may not compete at the OECH.
Mass Start 60
From Raubichi, the circuit will head to Otepaa, Estonia, where besides the traditional sprint, another super sprint competition will be conducted. The last stop of the season will be at the IBU Cup 8 in Martell, Italy. In addition to awarding the Globes, there will be one more important happening; the introduction of another new discipline, the Mass Start 60. The competition is not just a very exciting one, but can become a good option for lower level event series such as IBU Cup and IBU Junior Cup with its big field. It will be held at the final day, 17 March 2019; the cup scoring points will go only to the IBU Cup Total Score.
Last weekend the IBU Congress adopted the motion to introduce the Mass Start 60:— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) September 12, 2018
Men's MS 60: 15km (6x2.5km)
Women's MS 60: 12km (6x2km)
Many of you had questions 🤔 -- so IBU Sports Director Felix Bitterling answered them 👨🏫: pic.twitter.com/2YrMiIcMFN
Few More Changes
Last year’s IBU Cup Overall winners Horchler and Christiansen, except having the first super sprint titles, will be first in one more thing. Under the new rules, the winner of the IBU Cup Total Score will receive an additional personal start quota (if his/her national federation intends to register this athlete for the event). Horchler and Christiansen became the first athletes to receive such quota. Besides this innovation, from now on there also will be a new IBU Cup Mixed Relay score, which will be added to the existing types of scoring.
Another important change concerns the targets. Starting from the next year, in addition to paper and metal targets, fully electronic targets can be used. The test of such electronic systems at the international level was held two years ago at the season-opening IBU Cup in Beitostolen, Norway. This means that there are now three manufacturers with licensed targets that can be used at the main IBU events, such as WCH, WC, YJWCH, OECH etc.
Photos: IBU/Evgeny Tumashov, Christian Manzoni, Mariya Osolodkina