And so it goes; the two talented sisters, after sterling seasons (Hanna 4th, Elvira 12th in the World Cup Total Score) sat down a few weeks ago, during a camp at Font Romeu for a relaxed conversation about their relationship, summer training, and Beijing 2022.
Biathlonworld: You trained in Sweden the last two summers, what is it like to be in a camp in Europe after such a long time?
Hanna Oeberg: I think this year, we have a good balance between being at home and now going away. Last year was nice to have some extra time at home. This year, we had some camps in Sweden, but it is also important to get the high altitude training. It was good to be in Sweden this summer because we had good weather and training conditions. Now, when the weather is worse at home, we got some extra days of summer with the high-altitude training and the long uphills.
Elvira Oeberg: Last year, I was one who wanted to go to camps in Europe, because I am not so tired of going away and travelling like many of my older teammates that have been in the game longer than me. This camp has been good because I was really looking forward to a change in environment and doing something different. It is also a good mental break.
BW: You two made quite splash early last season, going 1-3 in the second sprint. Did you expect to start like that?
HO: We did not think we would be so good there in the beginning, but it was not such a big surprise being on the podium together. I knew Elvira had taken a huge step forward…I personally stepped up my sprint performances; to share the podium was special.
EO: We knew I had taken a huge step. Our team has a high level; how you perform within the team shows what your capacity is. We knew it was possible. It was a bit funny because the sprint is my favorite and it is the one Hanna has been struggling with…Five or six years ago, (being on the podium together) unthinkable, especially that it would happen so fast. It is something you want…Hanna adds, “but I do not think we ever said it.”
BW: There is enough age difference (Hanna is 26, Elvira 22) that you were never in the same training group until a couple of years ago. What is it like to be out there together every day; is it very competitive?
HO: Since we have been on the national team, we spend lots more time together than we ever did before. It is really good; great! We were more different when we were smaller. I left for sports school when I was 15, was there for 4 years and then Elvira was there next for 4 years. In those 8 years, we did not spend much time together. In the last couple of years, we have become closer again.
EO: Of course, I want to beat Hanna, but if I can’t win, there is no one else that I would rather see win than Hanna. We try to help each other do better.
HO: It is like teamwork. We talk a lot about this. It is a lot on me to be happy even though she beats me. She used to follow me in training to see what I was doing. Now, when she is on this level, she can help me back; I can follow her. That will help me even more…We really try to help each other every day.
BW: Watching training: Elvira is shooting faster; Hanna is more deliberate but deceptively fast, is there a middle ground, faster and accurate?
EO: She is still the better shot. It takes more effort for me to shoot as fast as Hanna. She is way faster than me if you look at shooting times in the winter. That is something I am working on.
HO: I have a bit better balance knowing when I have to slow down and when I can speed up. That comes from more experience.
BW: Shooting is the key to success in biathlon, what have you been doing to get to that 88-89% golden mark?
HO: I have worked really hard on my prone shooting to identify those things when I am not in the flow. When I am in the flow, prone shooting is perfect. When I get out of it, I struggle a bit; we worked to find what that I can do to stop the mistakes, and found something that I think is the key…I am not going to say what it is…but it should help.
EO: I have done a lot. I have a new rifle stock, because we saw there were some possibilities to improve with that. I worked a lot more on speed, not shooting as many shots as the previous year, but work on the quality, be more effective on the mat, faster, and not losing the hit percentage.
BW: Was your sister’s success an inspiration when you were a junior?
EO: Of course, even before I was junior and Hanna had good international results, it was super cool to see that ‘wow, this is possible.’ Then when Hanna performed well on the World Cup and Olympics, it was a huge inspiration. We went to the same sports school, and had the same coaches; seeing what she did, I knew what was possible. If she did it, then I can do it. BW: Elvira, what is Hanna’s strength?
EO: I think it is her mental strength on the shooting range; being able to show her highest capacity in those big moments.
BW: Elvira’s strength?
HO: She never gives up. We’ve seen her last loops in the winter; she gives her all right to the finish line. It does not matter what the place.
BW: Hanna, even though you do not like to talk about it, is it fun to be in the mix for the World Cup Total Score?
HO: I know I am one of the girls that has the possibility, because one of my main strengths is consistency. This year is special since it is an Olympic season. As it looks at the moment, I will not race all the World Cups. Still, it is hard to say if I will go for the Total Score as well or not. It depends on what the others do, but my main focus is the Olympics.
BW: Speaking of the Olympics, what would it be like to make that trip together?
HO: It would be fantastic! That is something of a dream, to be in the Olympics together and know that both of us can do good performances there. It is special to say these competitions are the most important in the whole season. What drives me forward is to get better. I do not think the Olympics will define me as a biathlete. I can have the same performances in a World Cup and be very happy about it. When you focus on something, do all the hard work and skip some races, you can be in your best shape at the Olympics. Last year when I tried to do all the races, I was not in my best shape at the World Champs…It is really hard to do all the races…
And for fun…
BW: Who would win a photo-finish sprint?
EO: Me, definitely.
HO: It is not that sure. If you ask many people on the team, they would say Elvira, but if there is someone who could beat her, it would be me!
EO: (laughing), I think you are one of the few! It would be close…
BW: Is there one trait that you both share?
EO: We are both pretty stubborn.
BW: First thing you pack when you leave on a trip?
EO: My phone because I have everything there; Netflix, my whole life.
HO: I bring my yoga mat everywhere.
BW: Most used app on your phone?
EO: Instagram or Snapchat. The Snapchat Generation within the team; that is me!
BW: Describe your sister in three words?
EO: Ambitious, thorough and stubborn.
HO: She is also really ambitious, persistent and very self-secure.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Evgeny Tumashov, Jerry Kokesh, Svensk Skidskytte/Hakan Blidberg