The new season in Oestersund starts with the competition in the Individual, on one of the most demanding courses in the BMW IBU World Cup for men and women.
I am very much looking forward to seeing how these competitions develop. Sturla Holm Laegreid dominated in this discipline in 2020/2021. He surprised everybody at the Season-Opening Kontiolahti and captured his first-ever win in the BMW IBU World Cup. Laegreid went on to win his first-ever gold medal in the Individual at the IBU World Championships in Pokljuka, and he was the winner of Cup Score in the Individual. But his performance has not yet been impressive in the last pre-season test competitions in Sjusjoen. It will therefore be of great interest to see how Laegreid will enter the season. How he will respond at the Season-Opening will say a great deal about his further progress.
Dorothea Wierer and Lisa Theresa Hauser jointly won the Individual Cup Score last season, and they will be among the top favourites on an opening day in Oestersund. Their start of the new season also depends on their form-planning for the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. The Olympic season comes only every four years and is therefore distinct from various aspects. As an athlete, you want to open an Olympic season on a good note. You want to see the rewards for your summer efforts and your form on a positive trajectory early on. Sprint follows the Individual the day after on the opening weekend, and since it demands different qualities than the Individual, we will get a good overview of who is in form and who is still searching for the best performance.
When we estimate the strength of the teams, we can expect a tight battle between the Norwegians and French on the men's side, much like in the past few seasons. Team Norway traditionally opens the seasons well in Oestersund, and they tend to sustain a high level throughout the season. There will be duels with an uncertain outcome, and they guarantee a lot of excitement. But one is not to count out Swedes, who made significant strides forward last season. Germany usually decides just before the start of the season who will compete in the first competitions, but I believe there is enough depth for a strong season. I would say that there are more candidates with a shot for a win in the Total Score among the women than among the men.
I will also be on the lookout for surprises in the opening competitions. Just think of Laegreid a year ago!
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