Originally not the focus of every team, the mixed relay over the years, has become a marquee competition. Virtually every nation now puts their very best team on the start in the hopes of medals but at the same time to get a competitive feel for the conditions that could be the difference between a medal-winning performance and a missed opportunity.
The top teams from the power nations should make for a thrilling mixed relay. France, winner of the only mixed relay so far this season, sports their same team of Julia Simon, Anais Chevalier-Bouchet, Quentin Fillon Maillet and Emilien Jacquelin. Simon feeling good after a needed rest is ready to battle for a medal. “I needed the break after Antholz, especially in the head I was very tired…We have a great atmosphere in the team, so I hope we can get a medal.”
Norway, Germany and Sweden
Norway counters with three-fourths of their 2021 WCH Gold medal team: Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold replacing out-for the-season Tiril Eckhoff, JT Boe and Sturla Holm Laegreid. The home team Germany hopes to be in the medal mix sending out their top four: Vanessa Voigt, Denise Herrmann-Wick, Benedikt Doll and Roman Rees.
Sweden starts with the Oeberg sisters passing off to Sebastian Samuelsson and Martin Ponsiluoma. Ponsiluoma is excited about this competition, “I cannot wait start; it will be tough in the mixed relay with many strong teams but we are one too and want to do a good relay.”
Bereft of snow a few weeks ago, Oberhof is in full winter mode now, with a mixture of manmade and natural snow covering the tracks. Monday’s first training day was typically foggy, but sunshine reigned today. That sunshine, light winds and temperatures just at freezing are expected when the 26 mixed relay teams roll out tomorrow at 14:45 CET.
However, the ever-changing weather is only a part of the challenges facing the competitors. The revamped tracks can be intimidating. Swedish Head Coach Johannes Lukas, expecting good conditions for the mixed relay admitted, “It is a really hard track; a really long uphill directly in the beginning, some other hills and depending how the wind is…Sometimes you have this headwind and it is really tough there…We had these tracks last year for the World Cup so everyone has a good picture of it. It is this combination of long uphills and the flat sections; you have to fight and find the right gear.”
Lukas thinks solid tactics are crucial in every competition. “In the last years, we saw different techniques. Some went really hard in the first part and maybe lost a little bit in the end. Some went more controlled in the beginning and gained some speed in the end…both worked if you look at the statistics. But I would say it is much easier if you can save some energy in the beginning and have some fresh legs in the end. You can destroy a race in the first uphill!”
The Oberhof shooting range can be as perplexing, but this year, the over 160,000 spectators expected add another layer of difficulty according to the Swedish Coach. “The wind on the shooting range in Oberhof is always one of the most important topics to take care of. I think the crowd will be a new situation for everyone, even though there were big crowds in Ruhpolding and Antholz. It will be really loud in the stadium. You have prepare your mind to stay focused and follow your plan so you are not disturbed by the loud stadium noise.”
Despite the potential ear-shattering cheers, 2022 Women’s IBU Total Score Champion Olsbu Roeiseland looks forward to the packed stadium. “I am feeling good and excited about competing, especially in front of a lot of people.” Likewise for Voigt, “I am really proud to be here, representing Germany on our home ground. There will be many people here I know, friends and family. It will be a great party and hopefully fun for me to race in front of them.”
Jacquelin, “focused…medals, nothing else”
A rested Jacquelin, the defending Pursuit World Champion is as excited about these Championships as his rivals. “I think the break before the World Championships helped me a lot, to just pass time with friends and family. Now I am just focused about medals and nothing else. It is my biggest goal, biggest dream. It (defending) will be harder than in Pokljuka, but I love a challenge. We all have to believe in our dreams, so I have to do that too.”
The Swedish team, after two weeks at home in Oestersund is as focused but a bit more relaxed about the upcoming competitions. Lukas added, “We just had normal training without too much stress and couple of team dinners to bring everyone together. Before the season we said that of course, this is a World Championship but not the most super-important World Championship for us. We want to enjoy the moment and not get too stressed over it.”
Two tidbits of good advice for all the competitors from Jacquelin and Lukas, “Believe in your dreams,” and “enjoy the moment.”
Everyone is ready. It is time for the 2023 BMW IBU World Championships!
Photos: IBU/Bjorn Reichert