5 Things We Learned from the Season Opening
The first weekend of the new biathlon season offered some insight into what the coming weeks and months might look like; from both the individual and team standpoint as well as who might be moving in the rankings. One thing is clear though: Dorothea Wierer’s many summer activities connected to her new commercial partnerships did not affect her will to win nor her preparation. She was brilliant in her both starts in Oestersund. Here are biathlonworld.com’s five takeaways from the first competition weekend.
- Norwegian Men Remain the Best
The Norwegian men remain in control and the best men team, hands down. JT Boe showed that he is still hard to beat, period; whether on the tracks or on the shooting range. He may talk up the competition, but until someone defeats him soundly; he is the man. Tarjei Boe has the flash of several years ago, admitting, “I am closer to my brother on the skiing time.” He should chase podiums all season. Erlend Bjoentegaard was calm, cool and collected in the sprint; looking ready for his best season ever. Newcomer of the Year 2019 Johannes Dale’s big 7th place personal best proved his summer with the A team took him up another step towards a bright future.
- Swedish Team Stayed True to ‘Just Hard Work’
The home team Sweden proved once again that any number of men and women linked together in a team competition is nothing but magic and that Johannes Lukas successfully took over Wolfgang Pichler’s position and his now already famous slogan: ‘Just Hard Work’. They have a special team spirit, created initially when they came together as the future of Swedish biathlon and strengthened over years of training together. This group does not wilt at home, taking first and third in the two mixed relays with all eyes on them. Samuelsson was brilliant in the single mixed relay. Although Oeberg was not at her best on the shooting range with some penalties, she is a gritty talented winner. Young Elvira Oeberg had a brilliant first BMW IBU World Cup competition with her sprint 12th place, just 0.4 seconds behind her sister. While the little sister is the one to watch, Swedes didn’t forget to celebrate Linn Persson’s 5th place in sprint.
- Dorothea Wierer Continued Where she Stopped
Dorothea Wierer has been somewhat in Lisa Vittozzi’s shadow in the run-up to the season. Big things were expected of Vittozzi after how she looked so strong in summer competitions. Although surprised at first for starting with Yellow bib, Yet, when on skis, Wierer has been dominant and confident. Her confidence also shows in her shooting; fast cadence in both stages indicates that. On the tracks, despite her comments, she was as strong as ever and 22 seconds faster than the well-known speedster Denise Herrmann of Germany. Most importantly, the Italian showed again that she can handle pressure, which was an issue several years ago.
- Martin Fourcade’s Ski Speed is Back
Seven time BMW IBU World Cup Total Score winner Martin Fourcade has returned to Oestersund after series of big disappointments at the last season’s IBU World Championships. The great French biathlete does not need to prove anything to anybody but himself and if his skiing in first sprint and first individual competition of the season with that is any indicator, then he is very, very close to the top form. Fourcade did miss twice in the standing shooting, but still managed to finish 5th. More important, JT Boe’s course time was just 1.5 seconds faster than Fourcade’s. The battle with the Boe brothers is on or so it seems.
- Strong Winds but No Surprises in Sjusjoen
Wrapped in strong winds for the first two days of the competitions at the IBU Cup in Sjusjoen, Norway athletes were challenged to show their toughest character traits. Despite demanding conditions but due to good track speed, Lucas Fratzscher of Germany and Karoline Erdal of Norway took the wins in the first sprint. They could not repeat their success in the second sprint, where clean-shooting brought Norway’s Fredrik Gjesbakk and Russia’s Irina Starykh to the top spots. The final competition day greeted everyone with calm conditions. Philipp Nawrath of Germany and Elisabeth Hoegberg of Sweden proved to be the strongest in the first season’s pursuits. Yet, the young Russian Said Karimulla Khalili started to pave his way towards the highly competitive Russian World Cup team after twice finishing 12th in sprint; then ending in the flower ceremony with the 5th place in the pursuit. He is the one to watch.