EXPERTS' CORNER: ANASTASIYA KUZMINA

Oestersund is a special place for me because it is where I won the long-awaited IBU World Championships Gold in my favourite discipline sprint in 2019. I was glad to see the fans back in the stands. The atmosphere was again full of sparkling joy and emotions. 

Oestersund has challenging tracks and dangerous downhills. Athletes need to be in good physical shape and coordinated on their skis. We saw some falls for the loss of balance on icy patches. I remember some of my training sessions in Kamchatka, where ice could also suddenly surprise you, with my husband and also my coach at that time. He often remarked: "This type of training will help you to stay confidently on your feet!” 

Oestersund has a specific shooting range. The shooter needs to be able to make proper adjustments and react to swirling winds. As an athlete who did not have the highest shooting percentage, I like to watch the shooting: the technique, the quality, the speed. And I enjoyed seeing how athletes made the corrections, how they worked with changing wind or lighting conditions.

Women

Everyone was counting with strong start from the Norwegians girls, but something did not work out yet. Marte Olsbu Roeiseland looks the most stable for the moment. She is in good skiing shape early in the season and can fight despite the misses. Tiril Eckhoff's shooting is not yet on the last season's level, and there is much left to be desired with her ski speed as well. I think that she needs time to take get into shape with a few more races. Dorothea Wierer also did not look as strong as expected. Lisa Hauser did much better in the individual than in the sprint. I think she feels the weight of the expectations this season. Herrmann was impressive with good shooting in the individual. The sprint has shown that she still does not look as strong on the track as she can. Uliana Nigmatullina and Kristina Reztsova were positive surprises in the individual. Dzinara Alimbekava and Hana Sola also showed strong results, with Alimbekava fourth twice.

Men

Everything looked more stable with men. Sturla's unmistakable shooting was memorable. You could see at every stage how intense his concentration was. The French and the Swedes are trying to break the Norwegian dominance. Sebastian Samuelsson managed to do that with a win: although he missed six shots in the individual, he adjusted emotionally and mentally for the sprint. Simon Desthieux seems to be the most stable in the French team at the moment.

I was very upset about Eduard Latypov, who fought for the top 6 with one penalty in the sprint but made an orientation error as he headed for the shooting range instead for the finish line and lost time. I am glad that Alexander Loginov was able to shoot accurately in the sprint. I think it will be an essential emotional impetus for him for descent results. I also personally care for Jakov Fak, who, in general, shot well - he missed twice in the individual and was spotless in the sprint - but he will need to get faster on the skis to compete for top places.

The week ahead

It is too early to make assumptions about how things will go in the second week of Oestersund. Teams and athletes have different ambitions and goals for the season. Some aim for stable performance throughout all months, for others it is crucial to have the best shape specifically during some starts or specific important competitions during the main highlight, which are, of course, the Olympic Winter Games.

By the results of the last week, I would predict that Norway wins in the men’s relay, followed by France and Germany. Russia, Sweden and Canada can finish in the top six. As for the women relay: Sweden wins, followed by France and Norway. Germany, Belarus, and Czech Republic will finish in the top six.

In the end, I would specifically like to make a note about the Oeberg sisters, especially about Hanna. It is an Olympic season, and she will be looking forward to validating her Olympic champion status in Beijing. She was too intense in the individual, but her response in the sprint was breathtaking!

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