Experts' corner: Helena Ekholm

The BMW IBU Cup Total Score 2008/2009 winner and a Gold medalist in the Individual from the BMW IBU World Championships 2011 reflects on JT Boe’s record-breaking season. With the World cup moving to Oestersund, she focuses on the Swedish team, which won 11 medals on Oberhof 2023, an all-time best achievement.

She relates to Hanna Oeberg’s re-found biathlon happiness. But has a sickness stopped her in any of her 7 World cup seasons so abruptly as it happened to Elvira Oeberg in Oberhof?

After JT Boe's 12th and 13th World cup win of the winter - and 15th and 16th if we include his three individual Gold medals from the BMW IBU World Championships Oberhof 2023 - we can see one of the best seasons ever evolving in front of our eyes. Johannes has elevated his skiing speed and the ability to pound lap after lap at almost the same pace to a level not yet seen. That also gives him a bit of calm on the shooting range: he knows he doesn't have to shoot clean to win. And that is a nice feeling :). His hunger for more also seems insatiable.

Sebastian Samuelsson and Martin Ponsiluoma are the only two athletes who beat Johannes in 2023. They dared go shoulder-to-shoulder with Johannes in the Mass start in Oberhof 2023 and got the better of him, the only two athletes in 2023! Martin used his ski speed and tremendous energy reserves while Sebastian cleared all 20 targets and wisely waited for Johannes and Martin to tire. When he sensed that his rivals ran out of skiing gas, he went into a full attack, a situation he loves. That is why I trusted his big words that he would beat Johannes in a man-to-man battle if he got a chance in the sprint. This Swedish team has learned to excel at the season's main event. And that takes a lot of savvy and meticulous planning from the coaching staff!

Hanna Oeberg talked about the new-found happiness in biathlon as a key to her phenomenal World championships. I can relate to that. I struggled after the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 as I entered the winter as the Total Score winner from the 2008/2009 season. Vancouver 2010 didn't work out for me as I hoped it would. I started to work with a mental coach and re-discovered the fun parts of biathlon again. And in 2011, I did the best World championships of my career, winning a Gold medal in the Individual and a Bronze in the Pursuit. Hanna, and Linn Persson, surprised me very positively in Oberhof. It was fantastic to see them thrive!

Elvira Oeberg was unlucky with the illness as it halted her season abruptly at the most unfortunate timing. I got spared from sickness and injury in my career. I can't even imagine what she is going through. I hope she is fit and ready for Oestersund. It is quite a demanding course with plenty of uphills and fast downhills with curves and almost no parts for resting. Coming into the shooting range allows you to get your pulse down. That is perhaps the easiest part of the venue. But then the wind enters the equation. Elvira is still second in the Total Score standings. The leader, Julia Simon, seems to have brushed away C-19 infection quickly and can rely on her skiing and accurate shooting. It will take a monumental effort from Elvira to challenge Julia.

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