In this edition of the MFNF, a stellar field will again line up with the lake and mountains in the background, battling in four-stage 10 km mass starts. The two biggest names in the sport, 2022 World Cup Total Score winners Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Quentin Fillon Maillet are at the top of the start list. The action starts with a shooting duels at 1400 CET, the women’s competition at 14:30, followed by the men at 15:25.
Although the 2021 men’s winner Sturla Holm Laegreid is not in the field, there is no shortage of male star power. The sold-out tribune and the course-side fans will be cheering hardest for one man, Fillon Maillet. He dominated the 2022 Olympic Winter Games with his two Gold and three Silver medals, capping the season with the big Crystal Globe, his announced pre-season goal. Fillon Maillet is somewhat of a hometown boy, growing up and living in the French Jura, just over 100 km away from Annecy. Fillon Maillet’s calling card which will be crucial in this fast-paced short mass start, is his shooting ability. He closed 89% of his targets last season.
Yet, this is not solely the QFM show, it is actually almost a preview of the upcoming French Summer Championships, scheduled for 24-25 September in Premanon. Breathing down Fillon Maillet’s back will be the always dangerous Emilien Jacquelin, making his first appearance at the MFNF. The two-time IBU Pursuit World Champion excels, like QFM in four-stage competitions. If he is in the mix, in the last standing stage, there could be a battle royale in the last loop. Antonin Guigonnat is the next French star in the field. The 31-year-old has been strong this summer, recently finishing second to Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen in the Blinkfestivalen mass start and in a shooting duel a few days ago in Haute Maurienne, where the French team is currently training. The fourth French teammate in the field is former IBU Junior World Champion Fabien Claude.
However, this is an international event. 2021 IBU Summer Biathlon Sprint/Pursuit World Champion Michal Krcmar will challenge the French foursome. The most interesting recent addition to the field is Martin Uldal, who was just behind Guigonnat at Blink and won four Bronze medals at the 2022 IBU Junior Championships. Other than two starts at Oslo Holmenkollen last March, this will be the 21-year-old Uldal’s first taste of a major senior level head-to-head competition. Rounding out the men’s field is Tero Seppala who had several top six results last year and Vytautas Strolia who also was in the Flower Ceremony several times.
Although the men’s field lacks last year’s winner, 2021 MFNF winner Anais Chevalier Bouchet will be going after win number two up against Olsbu Roeiseland. The Norwegian is the favorite, but by no means a shoo-in. Like QFM, the Norwegian won five medals in Beijing, three Gold and two Bronze. Her shooting was impeccable last season at 91%. She admitted that her success in Beijing and winning the Total Score came from again “enjoying the sport.” Besides her shooting skills, Olsbu Roeiseland is well-known for her devastating last loops, The totally flat MFNF course is the perfect place for her to flash her rollerskis. She will be joined by teammate Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold, who has three BMW IBU World Cup mass start podiums on her resume.
Probably the biggest threat to win is one Dorothea Wierer who won the super sprint and the Gala Mass Start at last week’s IBU SBWCH in Ruhpolding. Wierer was very strong on the tracks and missed just 3 of her 40 shots in her two victories. Some of her strength comes from, “training with the men, which is very hard.”
Behind the Norwegians and Wierer is the French trio of Chevalier Bouchet, Julia Simon and Justine Braisaz-Bouchet. Chevalier Bouchet may just be the third best of the French ladies this week. Braisaz-Bouchet comes in as the 2022 Olympic Mass Start Gold medalist where she moved out of a large group after the last standing stage, skiing to an unexpected 15-second win over Tiril Eckhoff and Olsbu Roeiseland. Simon is known for bulldog fighting spirit late in competitions, moving to the podium with a “never-give-up” attitude. Simon had 12 BMW IBU World Cup podiums on her resume, 10 are in four-stage competitions.
Rounding out the women’s field is Marketa Davidova who won the Blink Super Sprint and last week took home Silver and Bronze medals in Ruhpolding. Davidova was quite strong in both of those competition weeks and is a likely candidate for an upset this week. Darya Blashko, with three top tens in Ruhpolding and Mari Eder will add more international flavor the MFNF extravaganza.
This star-filled Saturday afternoon along Lake Annecy will again be hard-fought and a fitting conclusion to the first year of the IBU Summer Event series.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni