IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships: Stepping Stone to Success
Like each summer, a couple of hundred biathletes will convene for the IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships that start next Tuesday at Raubichi in Minsk, Belarus. For most, it is a good opportunity to check fitness against winter rivals. For others it is an opportunity to say, “Watch me in the future,” or “I am ready, bring on the big time!”
Kaisa’s Summer Debut
A step back to the 2007 SBWCH in Otepää finds a 24-year-old Finn atop the podium in the women’s sprint, winning her first IBU medal. Kaisa Mäkäräinen, just a few months later picked up her first World Cup podium with second in the women’s sprint, just 9 seconds behind the Sandrine Bailly and ahead of the double IBU WCH Gold medalist Magdalena Neuner. Mäkäräinen went on to finish 13th in the World Cup total Score that season; since then she has won that title three times.
Junior Medals for Rastorgujevs
A year before that, a familiar face on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit, Andrejs Rastorgujevs won the junior pursuit in the first of his many SBWCH appearances. In 2010, he won two Bronze medals on rollerskis and has become one of the fastest men on skis every winter while winning a nice collection of IBU OECH medals and a couple of World Cup podiums.
Semerenko, Summer Route to IBU World Championship
That same year, Valja Semerenko made her second trip to the Summer Championships; previously in 2004, she won a Silver medal in the junior pursuit. At the 2006 Ufa Championships, the future IBU Mass Start World Champion went home with two Silver medals and one Bronze medal. From that point on, she and twin sister Vita became full-time World Cup regulars, two of the most recognizable faces on the women’s tour and now also own Olympic Relay Gold medals.
Fourcade Leads Future World Cup Stars
The Championships have only been conducted once in France at Haute Maurienne, in 2008. The junior men’s sprint looked a lot like a preview of future World Cup stars. The winner was…big surprise…Martin Fourcade (big brother Simon won the men’s sprint). On the podium with the seven-time World Cup Total Score winner, were Benjamin Weger and future Olympic Silver medalist and now Belgium coach Jean-Guillaume Beatrix. Further down in the results were future Olympic medalists and World Cup winners Jakov Fak, Dominik Windisch and Lukas Hofer. Fifth in that year’s junior women’s sprint as well as fourth in the pursuit was 18-year-old Dorothea Wierer; she won the women’s sprint Gold medal in that rollerski competition in 2013.
Paulina Fialkova: Junior and Senior Sprint Titles
Last year’s Championships in Nove Mesto na Morave were the stepping stone “I am ready, bring on the big time!” moments that led to breakout seasons for two women, one a veteran and one a very promising junior. Paulina Fialkova won the IBU SBWCH junior sprint and pursuit titles in 2013, moving onto the Slovak World Cup squad the next season. Despite some nice results and an IBU OECH mass start Silver medal at Tyumen, Fialkova never reached the World Cup podium until a return visit to Tyumen. In 2018, she finished second in the final competition of that season, again a mass start. Five months later, reached a new level; one penalty gave her the IBU SBWCH sprint Gold medal and then with four misses, she claimed the pursuit Silver medal.
Medals Help Confidence; Preclude Podium Season
Regarding those medals, she commented, “The Summer Biathlon World Championships were a control point in my summer preparation. Of course wining the medals made me happy that the training was going well; I felt more confident then.”
By the time the snow was flying, with a lot of hard work and the summer medals tucked away, Fialkova was ready for the season of her life. She was in the top 10 on ten occasions, with seven podiums, finishing the season in sixth place in the Total Score, topping her previous personal best, 31st place.
Davidova’s Junior Medals and World Cup Victory
While Fialkova was making her mark in the senior ranks, Marketa Davidova added to her junior medals collection in her home stadium. Her first season on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit and the Olympic Winter Games were all a build up to IBU YJWCH Gold and Silver medals. In the August Nove Mesto competitions, Davidova won a sprint Silver and pursuit Bronze after a summer of training with new Czech Coach Egil Gjelland. Downplaying the medals, she called her successes “good training, because winter is always different. I think the results are not as important as getting the feeling of ‘race mode’.”
Still, the 22-year-old made big strides in the winter. Her first-ever World Cup podium was in the season-opening Pokljuka 15 km Individual. She then picked up a career-first clean shooting day and first-ever World Cup win in the Antholz sprint. Two more clean shooting days and two more podiums found this junior star streaking to 21st in the Total Score, 70 positions better than the previous season.
These success stories are among many in the history of the IBU Summer Biathlon World Championships. It is always a great chance to test fitness and get the feel for top level competition, midway between winter seasons. In about a week, more than 250 athletes will head to Minsk Raubichi, seeking medals and maybe that big breakthrough that will take them to podiums and medals next winter.