In Trimester 1, it was good to see regular changes at the top of the Total Score standings. The women’s field seems more open, with many athletes challenging for the top spot. Justine Braisaz-Bouchet’s skiing form enabled her to charge for top places in every competition. One, of course, also needs accurate shooting to be consistently on the top, and shooting performance will keep mixing up dynamics in the women’s field. On the men’s side, I feel that toward the end of the Trimester, the momentum started tilting in Johannes Thingnes Boe’s direction, and for a good reason: he is simply an outstanding talent and athlete. With Oberhof and Antholz-Anterselva, where he can use the demanding tracks to his advantage, coming up in Trimester 2, things look even better for Johannes. But, we shall see which athletes will enter the last Trimester in a strong form and with enough energy to challenge him.
I was the most pleasantly surprised by Team Germany with two yellow bibs after the first week in Oestersund. Braisaz-Bouchet’s triple in Lenzerheide was very impulsive. Lena Haecki-Gross’s second place in the Pursuit of Hochfilzen was also impressive.
Returning to the World Cup after the Christmas break in Oberhof is not easy. Some athletes come to Oberhof recovering from sickness they might have contracted during the holidays or simply with the body still tired from Trimester 1. Athletes who got the balance between recovering from the Trimester 1 efforts and well-paced training in the Christmas period right will have an advantage in Oberhof. Everyone will need some days to get the body back at full-throttle speed. I had often opted for a short block of high-attitude training during the Christmas break. It worked well for me, but it is not without its risks: one gets tired, and regeneration gets longer, but one hopes that the positive effects will kick in on time for Trimester 2. Athletes who want to challenge for the Total Score win can not allow themselves a poor week!
Oberhof tracks favour strong skiers. Wind always plays a role in the shooting range in Oberhof. Entry in the range is long and flat and usually with a headwind. Finding the right spot on the shooting range is part of the tactics one needs to play on Oberhof. The demanding tracks allow the strongest skiers to compensate for (eventual) misses more than - for example - in Ruhpolding. The atmosphere is usually bombastic in Oberhof: it carries the athletes around the tracks. One needs to be careful not to over-pace: Birxsteig shows no mercy!