Who is the Comeback King or Queen? Tournament of Moments: Round 2

Who is the Comeback King or Queen? Tournament of Moments: Round 2

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 2

Round 1 Winners
Round 1 winners were Darya Domracheva HOL12 Mass Start, Martin Fourcade RUH18 Mass Start, Kaisa Makarainen TMN18 Mass Start and Johannes Thingnes Boe HOC19 Relay.

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. Voting in each round is open for 24 hours. 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 quarterfinals on May 10, semifinals on May 13 and the Championship Round on May 16.

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

Darya Domracheva 2017 Hochfilzen IBU WCH Pursuit vs. Tora Berger 2013 NMNM IBU WCH Relay

Darya Domracheva
Domracheva, after a disappointing three-penalty 27th in the 2017 IBU WCH sprint at Hochfilzen came back to shoot clean, taking the Pursuit Silver medal.
Starting 1:25 behind, Domracheva skied aggressively , cleaning the first prone to move to 18th; prone stage two clean, up to 9th; first standing 5-for 5 and 3rd with Sprint Gold medalist Gabriela Koukalová in fourth. Leader Laura Dahlmeier cleaned the last standing stage; Domracheva, Koukalová matched while Kaisa Makarainen missed once falling from the top group. The returning-from-maternity leave Domracheva held off Koukalová with a strong last loop to win the Silver medal, just 5 months after giving birth. “It was a dream medal; before the race, I did not dream of a medal. I just wanted to fix my mistakes from the sprint.”

Tora Berger
Berger came from 38 seconds back at the last exchange to bring Norway the Women’s Relay Gold medal at the 2013 Nove Mesto na Morave IBU World Championships
. Leaders Germany’s Andrea Henkel and Ukraine’s Olena Pidhrushna shot clean, Berger matched; closing the gap to 21 seconds but in fifth position. The standing stage came down to Berger and the Ukrainian; both needed a single spare. Berger was just a hair faster, leaving with a one-second lead, which she stretched into seven seconds and the Gold medal. “I never dreamed of this; my shooting was good.” Pidhrushna admitted, “We both used spares; the last loop was crazy!”

Miriam Gössner 2012 POK Pursuit vs. Kaisa Makarainen 2015 IBU WCH Kontiolahti 15 km Individual

Miriam (Gössner) Neureuther

Gössner, despite missing shot-after-shot came back repeatedly for her first-ever BMW IBU World Cup victory in the 2012 Pokljuka Pursuit. After finishing two seconds behind Gabriela Koukalová in the sprint, Gössner started the pursuit at a disadvantage, missing twice in the first prone, putting her 7th, 28 seconds back. On a rainy afternoon, the nature of the competition was simple: Koukalová shot clean while Gössner toured the penalty loop. A penalty in the second prone pushed her farther back, 38 seconds. Yet she was skiing with abandon; one standing penalty narrowed the gap to 24 seconds but the speedy German was still in third position. After a penalty in the last standing, she left 15 seconds behind the newly minted Czech star. Gössner quickly passed Marie Dorin Habert; she then focused on Koukalová, catching her with 600 meters to go, eventually winning by .7 seconds with a mad dash in the final meters. “I had to go faster because of all of my mistakes; I like bad conditions so the rain was no problem for me!”

Kaisa Makarainen
Makarainen overcame two one-minute penalties to win the 15 km individual Bronze medal in her Kontiolahti home stadium at the 2015 IBU World Championships.
The Finn’s one goal for these Championships had been to win at least one medal. She started well with a fast first loop and a clean prone stage. The first standing netted a penalty and a drop to 6th, 56 seconds back. The second prone added another penalty minute, but she was flying around the familiar tracks; the deficit was “just” 1:47. A perfect last standing dropped the time to 1:10 setting up the dramatic finish. With three kilometers to go, Makarainen was inspired, closing the gap stride-by-stride until collapsing in the snow at the finish, 24.4 seconds behind Gold medalist Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht. Kaisa had her precious medal! "I did my job today and was happy to have a good day in the World Championships!”

Andi Birnbacher 2011 Hochfilzen (Osrblie relocated) Pursuit vs. Franziska Preuss 2019 Oberhof Pursuit

Andi Birnbacher “thought it would be impossible” to win the 2011 Hochfilzen (Osrblie relocated) men’s pursuit after starting 26th, yet he pulled off the victory, out sprinting Ole Einar Bjorndalen in the last 100 meters to win by .2 seconds. With heavy snow falling throughout the competition, Birnbacher calmly moved through the prone stages going 10-for-10, moving to 19th, 56 seconds back, then 8th, 22 seconds back. By the standing stages, Tarjei Boe and Martin Fourcade were 1-2, but a large group including Birnbacher was close enough that one missed shot would change the order. In the first standing, the leaders both had penalties while the German continued his perfect streak as did Bjorndalen and Simon Fourcade. They matched each other shot-for-shot in the last standing, leaving together with Birnbacher holding a slight lead. With 900 meters to go, the trio was side-by-side. Coming up the finish incline, Birnbacher sprinted to the victory as his Norwegian foe stumbled, falling into the snow. He attributed his win to “perfect skis and good shooting,” while Bjorndalen added, “in the last loop everything was coming together, but at the finish, Andi was stronger.”

Franziska Preuss
Preuss made an impossible move from 45th, 1:48 back at the start to sixth place and a spot in the Flower Ceremony on a very windy day in the 2019 Oberhof women’s pursuit.
Cleaning the first prone stage while most of her rivals were missing was the key to her big move, jumping up the 25th position. The second clean prone took her up to 11th. One penalty in the first standing stage was on par with her rivals, moving the German up to 5th. In the last standing, she had the chance to move onto the podium, but one more penalty derailed that and she finished 6th. Still her spectacular run to a season best was an exceptional effort on a day that second place Anastasiya Kuzmina described as “a shooting lottery.”

Laura Dahlmeier NMNM 2016 Mass Start vs. Dominik Windisch 2019 OST IBU WCH Mass Start

Laura Dahlmeier
Dahlmeier finished second in the 2016 NMNM women’s mass start, closing fast after two first-stage prone penalties almost derailed her day.
Snow conditions shorted the course to 12 km, changing the loops to a 4 km double first loop and 2 km thereafter. The long first loop left Dahlmeier out of sorts; usually reliable in prone, she missed twice, dropping to 23rd, 51 seconds back. From that point, the German star shot perfectly moving steadily to 19th, 12th, and then 5th, 21 seconds back after cleaning the last standing stage. Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, Dorothea Wierer and Vanessa Hinz and Gabriela Koukalová were all ahead of the Yellow Bib. with the Czech star in control; Dahlmeier began flying in an attempt to get to the podium. With 500 meters to go, Koukalová’s lead was seven seconds; Dahlmeier eventually got to within 3.1 seconds. “After the last shooting I thought the podium was still possible and I started catching one after the other. My skis were perfect; that was the key to this second place.”

Dominik Windisch

Windisch, 13th after the first standing stage, cleaned the last standing stage, skiing his way through ever-deepening snow to win the 2019 IBU WCH Mass Start Gold Medal. Coming into Oestersund, the Italian had exactly zero podiums for the season while struggling mightily on the shooting range. A first stage penalty immediately put Windisch on his heels, in 24th, 38.9 seconds back. Another miss in the second prone saw him fall to 56 seconds back but up to 16th position. One more penalty loop through the ever-deepening snow dropped him to 1:06 back but up to 13th. With the wind howling in the last standing stage, the leader Johannes Thingnes Boe had an unbelievable five penalties. Virtually everyone else between him and the Italian had multiple misses. Somehow, Windisch cleaned, passed twelve others all on the penalty loop, leaving the stadium in first place. “I did not shoot much better but the others make more mistakes…I did not know I was in the lead; in the uphill (after leaving the stadium), the coach said I was leading. I said, ‘What?’ I was shocked…this is unbelievable.”

Photo: Rene Miko