Getting to Know Filip Fjeld Andersen

Filip Fjeld Andersen started the 2020/21 IBU Cup season with second place in the Arber sprint, 1053 days after he won a Silver medal at the 2018 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships and 684 days since his last IBU Junior Cup competition, yet that sprint result showed lack of competitions had done little to diminish his talent. By season’s end, Andersen was holding both the IBU Cup Men’s Total Score and Sprint Score crystal globes.

“Skiing all my life”

Like most kids, Andersen was into multiple sports, but in typical Norwegian style, he started skiing as a toddler. “I played almost every sport: football, cycling, running, skiing; I was actually pretty good at cycling, one of the best in mountain biking. My mom and dad were both skiers; I started skiing at one and a half years old but did not start biathlon until I was 12…I remember my first big race because I finished second in a biathlon festival with over 1000 kids competing. That was huge for me because I had only been doing biathlon for less than a year.”

Brother’s Influence

Filip’s brother, Aleksander influenced his sibling’s biathlon career. Ironically, Aleksander and Filip went 1-2 in that first IBU Cup sprint last season. “I always looked up to him and wanted to do the things he did. When it came to skiing and biathlon, I always tried to keep up with him. It was tough, but I tried my best, trying to achieve the same things as him…That first time on the podium together was really special. The coaches told me on the tracks that Aleks was leading and I was second; that was so special to hear that and then to see him at the finish line!”

Three Heart Surgeries

After his 2018 IBU YJWCH success, heart troubles derailed Andersen’s career for much of those 1000 plus days. “I was diagnosed to have atrial fibrillation with my heart running wild. That destroyed a lot of my races. I underwent three different surgeries to fix it. On top of that, I broke my ankle before the 2019 season which kept me out for some months. Finally, last May, I was finally able to get my heart fixed and since then I have not felt anything.”

The serious heart problems filled his mind with doubt including the possibility that his sports career might be over. “After the first operation, I was not so negative, because it is normal everything is not fixed the first time. After the second time, I did not feel anything for two or three months; then it came back it was worse than before. At that time, I thought that if it was not right after the third time, I would have to find something else to do. But it was never in my mind to quit sports. The question was: just what sports can I do with my heart disease?”

Dream Season

Finally healthy, the then 21-year-old came into the IBU Cup season with few expectations; two wins, a second and a third place in the six Hohenzollern Ski Stadium competitions changed that. “My expectation and main goal last season was the IBU YJWCH, until I got to Arber and did really well there. It was almost like a dream the rest of the season. I was able to lower my shoulders and just do what I love to do. I really enjoyed it and felt no pressure. I was still a junior last year so no one expected me to do well.”

Sprint: “two shootings and not four!”

Andersen’s sprint success (three wins, one second, and one each fifth, sixth and ninth) propelled his over-the-top debut season. The best thing about his specialty is “that it is just two shootings and not four! I think the sprint is cool because it is so intense. You have no time to rest. It is just 10 km and you have to ski every lap fast; I am pretty good at pushing myself. With just two shootings, it is not that hard to stay focused.”

Learning on the Range

Despite his sprint success, Andersen struggled at times with multiple penalties, attributing his shooting woes to, “lack of experience and focus. I know I am able to shoot clean almost every time, but it is those thoughts I have coming in (to the shooting range). In the European Champs individual, I came to the last standing thinking, ‘Oh shit, this can be really good’ but the lack of experience while keeping calm like in the three previous shootings was not there. I had three mistakes. Still, it was a really good season to learn. Every race was a new experience for me. I learned and grew a lot.” Part of that growing was, “that you have no opportunity to have several bad races. You have to deliver a good race every time.”

This summer Andersen is focusing on getting stronger and hitting more targets. “Just a lot of slow training and trying to be better in the shooting. My biggest area to improve is shooting, just trying to find what works for me.”

Enjoying the Pressure

Winning the IBU Cup Total Score never crossed Andersen’s mind, considering it was his first season in several years. Going into the last weekend in Obertilliach, he led Germany’s Philip Nawrath by a mere 11 points. Nawrath then jumped ahead going into the last sprint. “Coming into the weekend was a bit nerve-wracking. I was leading and it was tight. I knew I had to do good races to get the globe. It was not until that weekend that I allowed myself to hope for the globe. When the races started, the pressure was gone; just enjoying it, especially after the second-to-last race when I thought I had lost the globe to Nawrath. The last day was just pure fun. I enjoyed every meter and shot in that race. I think that was the best race I have ever done, with the circumstances and pressure. Waiting at the finish was hard, I knew Nawrath had to finish 12th or higher for me to win. He finished 17th…Winning the two globes was really amazing, I never expected it. But that is just a step to becoming a World Cup athlete. I want that big World Cup Globe one day.”

Besides the two titles, Andersen earned a start in the World Cup Final at Oestersund and a guaranteed spot there in the 2021/22 season-opener. “That was fun but brutal. I was really tired, but it was really good to get that experience before next season. Now I kind of know what to expect next season.”

Final thoughts from Filip:

First thing I did at the end of the season: Go home, not training and sleep

Best way to spend a rest day: On the golf course; I am trying to become an avid golfer

Favorite food indulgence after a hard training day: pasta with pesto

Rollerskiing, running or cycling: cycling, mountain biking and road cycling

If you were not a biathlete, what would you be doing now: I would be studying. I am currently studying law.

Most used app on my phone: Snapchat

My biathlon role model is: Martin Fourcade. I really admire what he was able to achieve.

Evenings are for films, friends, reading or: hanging out with my friends

Finish this sentence: Filip Fjeld Andersen is: the next…

Photos: IBU/ Harald Deubert, Igor Stančík, Filip Fjeld Andersen

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