5 Names Poised for Success Next Season

Several up-and-comers, like Niklas Hartweg and Hanna Kebinger made big splashes over the last few months with podiums and medals and are nominees for the Surprise of the Season. Just behind them are Sophie Chauveau, Vebjoern Soerum, Anna Gandler, Otto Invenius and Polona Klemencic, all poised for success in the coming season.

Sophie Chauveau’s Amazing Annecy Weekend

Sophie Chauveau won two IBU YJWCH Relay Gold medals and a pursuit Bronze as a junior, spent two seasons on the IBU Cup circuit, jumping to the French World Cup squad this past season, finishing 21st in the Total Score. In her rookie season, the 23-year-old stepped up in Annecy Le Grand Bornand, starting with an unexpected personal best sprint fourth place.

She followed that with 8th in the pursuit and a sterling 5th in her first-ever World Cup mass start, also earning her the fans' vote as athlete of the week in Annecy-Le Grand Bornand.

Recalling her incredible weekend, Chauveau said:

“It is insane; the public was on fire. I could not expect a better race or result…I was really nervous before the race. The coaches told me ‘We don’t expect a good result; just stay focused on yourself and not the public’…After the last shot, on the little downhill after the range, it was like, ‘Wow!’ I started to cry, thinking you have too much emotion, you just have to ski.”

Chauveau’s big season was far from over in December. Twenty-seventh in the IBU WCH sprint was disappointing; she roared back with the fastest ski time and 9th in the pursuit. Sophie is a big talent on the tracks; throw in an improvement in her standing shooting and the podium is next.

Vebjoern Soerum

The old saying “All’s well that ends well” perfectly describes Vebjoern Soerum’s season that started inauspiciously, with surgery that kept him out until January. “Since then, everything has been going up.” Once untracked at the Pokljuka IBU Cup, little slowed him down. In 17 competitions, he amassed 11 individual podiums including four victories plus two mixed relay victories. Additionally, the three-time IBU Junior World Champion garnered IBU Open European Championships Pursuit and Mixed Relay Gold medals plus Sprint Silver. Soerum’s single penalty victory in the final IBU Cup sprint at Canmore showcased his talent and resilience. The win came two days after his IBU Cup season-low point: five penalties,11th place in the mass start 60.

He called the poor showing, “Really bad. Today, I just tried to stay calm and hit the targets. But just like in last week’s sprint, I missed the last shot.”

Ten days later he ran the second leg for Norway in the Oestersund men’s relay. To no one’s surprise, he buried eventual IBU Blue Bib (U25) titlist Niklas Hartweg, tagging Johannes Dale in first position. After hitting that last standing shot, “in the last loop, I just gave it all to get some seconds for Johannes, then Johannes and Vetle did a great job to lock in the win.” Soerum was atop the podium in his first-ever BMW IBU World Cup start…and the season with two more starts in Oslo.

After this season this 24-year-old could earn more starts on the talent-laden Norwegian team.

Anna Gandler

Two seasons on the IBU Cup circuit set up 2020 IBU Youth Sprint World Champion Anna Gandler for her promotion to Austria’s World Cup team. Opening the 2022/23 IBU Cup season in Idre Fjall, Gandler’s fifth and seventh-place finishes proved her readiness for the top circuit. She did not disappoint. A personal best 13th place in the Annecy Le Grand Bornand sprint was quickly superseded by a single penalty 11th in the pursuit.

Gandler became a mainstay on the Austrian women’s relay team, twice going 10-for-10 and anchoring the team to sixth, their second-best result in Oestersund. That relay performance set up her stunning Oslo performance. A single penalty netted thirteenth in the sprint. In her second-ever World Cup mass start, she moved up from 20th after the first prone to finish in a huge personal-best 7th place with three penalties, skiing 32 seconds slower than Marketa Davidova’s top time.

The 22-year-old Gandler’s reliable 86% shooting plus her ski speed puts her in a good position for even bigger things next season.

Otto Invenius

A year ago, Finland’s Otto Invenius was fresh off an IBU YJWCH Silver medal and two IBU JOECH Silver medals that earned him a start at the Oslo BMW IBU World Cup. He described that experience, “I felt like a little boy in a candy shop, seeing all of my idols…I learned a lot there: to stay humble because I really have not accomplished anything and continue to work hard. Those guys have so much more speed and shooting consistency.”

Fast forward past a huge rollerski crash and summer training with Finland’s A team to IBU Cup/World Cup starts and Oslo 2023. Invenius shot clean for a personal best 12th in the sprint alongside those “idols.” Sharpshooting Simon Eder is a step ahead of the young Finn; a dozen seconds behind Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen and less than 20 seconds behind 2022 World Cup Total Score winner Quentin Fillon Maillet. The 22-year-old Invenius qualified for his first-ever World Cup mass start.

Summing up his season and strong finish. “I started the season in the mud and continued to rise, to the Holmenkollen 12th which I am very proud…I train for my dreams. It does not matter if things get weak at times, it is how you look at it that matters.” Watch for Otto Invenius to be rubbing shoulders with his idols more frequently next season.

Polona Klemencic

Slovenia’s Polona Klemencic’s BMW IBU World Cup debut, 96th out of 99 in the 2018 Ruhpolding women’s 15 km individual was not the most promising start to a World Cup career for the then 20-year-old. Everyone starts somewhere and if it is at the bottom, the only way is up.

Up is where Klemencic’s career went this past season. Ninety-ninth in the 2021/22 World Cup Total Score, she rocketed to 28th when her season ended in the Oslo mass start, the third in her career.

Klemencic was ascending all season, starting with 21st in the Kontiolahti sprint, then 17th in the Hochfilzen pursuit. A clean-shooting IBU WCH sprint netted a huge personal best eighth place, ahead of both Julia Simon and Dorothea Wierer. Nineteenth in the IBU WCH mass start was a very commendable result for a “mass start rookie.” From that point to the end of the season, 10th in the Oestersund 15 km individual set up a new mass start PB of 13th. Sixteenth in the Olso Holmenkollen sprint followed by the mass start sealed the 25-year-old’s season on the rise. More of the same could mean flowers and medals next season.

Get ready, these five are ready to step up into the limelight when the snow flies next November!

Photos: IBU: Christian Manzoni, Igor Stancik, Bjorn Reichert, Harald Deubert

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