Who is the Comeback King or Queen? Tournament of Moments: Round 1

Who is the Comeback King or Queen? Tournament of Moments: Round 1

Biathlon is filled with memorable moments: stirring head-to-head battles, photo-finishes, last standing stage shootouts for medals and great comebacks. The catch-phrase “anything is possible in biathlon” is epitomized in great comebacks. Early penalties and a minute behind can suddenly be transformed with a fast clean stage or two, blazing skis and the heart of a champion into a podium and many times a stunning victory.

Who is the Comeback King or Queen? Tournament of Moments: Round 1

After fan polling and a long trip down memory lane by our staff, the field for the “Greatest Comeback in Biathlon History” was narrowed down to sixteen big comebacks by fourteen biathlon stars (two entries each for Kaisa Makarainen and Darya Domracheva) in our Tournament of Moments. It is time to decide who will earn the title of Comeback King or Queen. Read our short recaps, and cast your vote on our Instagram Story @ibu_biathlonworld in each of four rounds (preliminaries, quarterfinal, semifinal and the Championship). Voting in each round is open for 24 hours. After that we will post the results, with Round 2 of the preliminaries on May 7; quarterfinals on May 9, semifinals on May 12 and the Championship Round on May 16.

Sit back, go into full screen mode and enjoy reliving these great comeback performances!

Magdalena Neuner 2011 IBU WCH Relay vs. Darya Domracheva 2012 HOL Mass Start

Magdalena Neuner
German anchor Neuner took over in fourth position, 1:07 back literally dragging her teammates with spectacular skiing to win the 2011 IBU WCH Women’s Relay. Germany struggled after second leg Miriam Gössner had two standing penalties dropping almost one minute back. At the final exchange, it was Ukraine just ahead of Belarus with Germany in fourth. Ukraine held the lead after prone as Neuner used a spare round. Coming to the final standing stage, Neuner was 40 seconds back in 4th. Ukraine left with a 24 second lead; Neuner went 5-for-5, cutting the lead to 11 seconds with one kilometer to go. Topping the final hill into the stadium, Lena put on a furious surge to take the Gold medal by a significant margin. “At first I did not think about the Gold medal. I thought, ‘okay it is a Silver medal.’ Then the Ukraine (later disqualified) was just before me and I knew it was not very far to get the Gold medal.”

Darya Domracheva
Domracheva burned the last loop in the 2012 Oslo mass start to finish second behind Andrea Henkel. The Belarusian star’s first prone stage penalty dropped her to 19th position, 21.9 seconds back; a second prone penalty pushed the margin to 29 seconds; the first standing added another miss, 41 seconds back. She left the penalty loop (later admitting she was “very unhappy with my shooting”) after the last standing in sixth, 50 seconds back, more than 20 seconds behind Teja Gregorin, Marie Laure Brunet and Helena Ekholm. 800 meters into the last loop, Domracheva was just 3 seconds behind the trio. With 700 meters to go, she was ahead of Ekholm, closing fast, sprinting past the Slovenian to finish second. After the dramatic comeback, she said, “Maybe we should warn people watching on television that watching my races might be bad for their health.”

Martin Fourcade 2018 RUH Mass Start vs. Marte Olsbu Roeiseland 2020 ANT WCH Mass Start

Martin Fourcade
Fourcade picked up two penalties in the first standing stage, but roared back to finish second, 4.5 seconds behind Johannes Thingnes Boe in the Ruhpolding mass start. The French star led after the second prone, then missed two shots, falling 42.5 seconds behind his Norwegian foe. In the last standing stage, Fourcade cleaned quickly after Johannes missed a shot. The French star left in 4th position, 17.6 seconds back but by the 13.6 km split was up to second, after catching teammates Antonin Guigonnat and Quentin Fillon Maillet. Fourcade commented on his comeback, “I knew with two mistakes that it would be hard to come back on Johannes…I gave all I had to catch the podium.”

Marte Olsbu Roeiseland
Olsbu Røiseland, known for her brilliantly fast last loops pulled off the biggest one of her career, hunting down Italy’s Dorothea Wierer to win the IBU World Championships Women’s Mass Start. Single penalties in the first and second prone stage dropped the Sprint World champion to 22nd position, 1:01.9 back. “I was so tired and I was falling behind (22nd). I said, ‘okay, be happy, you had a good Championships; just keep going.’ Then I started hitting in standing. Suddenly I was up there chasing the Gold.” One clean standing stage moved her to 9th; a second 5-for-5 took her to second 14 seconds behind Dorothea Wierer. The Norwegian closed the gap to six seconds, then five, four, three; With 300 meters to go, they were together, but Wierer was spent. Olsbu Roeiseland took the lead on the last downhill to the road bridge to seal the victory.

Karin Oberhofer 2015 IBU WCH Mass Start vs. Kaisa Makarainen 2018 Tyumen Mass Start

Karin Oberhofer

Oberhofer, after two early penalties in the 2015 IBU WCH mass start came back to win the Bronze medal, becoming Italy’s first-ever individual IBU WCH medalist. After single penalties in the first and second prone stages, Oberhofer was 19th, 54.1 seconds back. With a clean first standing stage, she was up to 9th, 38.2 seconds back; a second clean standing stage found her 6th but 29.2 seconds back; 10 seconds from a podium spot. Coming up the oxygen and energy sucking Wall, the Italian powered past several foes to move alongside Domracheva fighting for the last medal. In the stadium, Oberhofer out-sprinted the fading Belarusian to win the Bronze.

Kaisa Makarainen
Makarainen sealed her third World Cup Total Score Crystal Globe with a comeback 6th place in the 2018 Tyumen mass start. The Finn started with a first-prone penalty, dropping her to 18th; clean second prone jumped her to 12th, 11 seconds back. Two first standing penalties spelled disaster: 20th position, 51 seconds back. In typical Kaisa style, she cleaned the last stage, but was still 9th, 32 seconds back. She flew around the last loop, passing three rivals including Anastasiya Kuzmina who she was battling for the Crystal Globe to cross just 17.4 seconds behind the winner Domracheva. Makarainen won the Globe by a mere 3 points.

Johannes Thingnes Boe 2019 HOC Relay vs. Anastasiya Kuzmina 2014 HOL Mass Start

Johannes Thingnes Boe
Johannes put on a spectacular last loop show to bring Norway victory in the 2019 Hochfilzen men’s relay, just two seconds ahead of Germany. With a first-leg lead, Norway fell 53 seconds back after second leg Erlend Bjoentegaard had a penalty. Tarjei went 10-for-10 in the third leg but still tagged his brother 43 seconds behind Germany’s Benedikt Doll. Doll and Johannes both cleaned prone in five and used two spares in prone, but Johannes’ faster cadence closed the gap to 13 seconds heading out for the last loop. In the last uphill, Johannes made a powerful move to get on the tails of the German’s skis. He then blew past his rival with a furious last 100 meter sprint. “In the last loop, you have to try; you have to believe and try to make a good push from behind. I was really tired; I managed to save some power for the sprint.”

Anastasiya Kuzmina
Kuzmina after winning the previous day’s pursuit came to the 2104 HOL mass start with “no expectations” but a clean final standing stage paved the way for the fast-skiing Slovak to win the season ending competition in Oslo. The Olympic Sprint Champion started poorly with a first-prone penalty, putting her 23 seconds back. The second prone was a devastating, battling strong wind she fell to 23rd, 1:04 back after two more penalties. Clawing her way back, another penalty loop left her 44 seconds back, in 13th. Kuzmina and Olga Zaitseva cleaned the last standing while their rivals went to the penalty loop; six women went out of the stadium within six seconds but Kuzmina was flying. With 700 meters to go, she had an eight-second lead that secured the win. “Now I understand how important it is to shoot zero in the last standing; that was the difference today.”