IBU Youth and Junior World Championships in Otepaa begin

Otepaa, the "winter capital" of Estonia, as the city in the south of the country is also known, is hosting the IBU Youth and Junior World Championships this year. From February 23 to March 2, the best young athletes from their country will be competing for medals.

It is the last stop on the junior and youth biathletes' race calendar in 2024 and the highlight of the season. The World Championships, which will take place this year in Otepaa, Estonia. The title fights start on February 23 with the mixed relays, the following weekend is dedicated to the individuals. The second week will see the sprints on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by the mass start 60 races on February 29. The event will conclude with the relays on March 1 and 2. A total of 480 athletes from 39 nations are registered.

Strong seasonal performances by the Austrian and German team

At last year's World Championships in Shchuchinsk, Kazakhstan, Germany topped the medal table with nine gold medals. In the current IBU Junior Cup season, the German team has also achieved several podiums finishes in both the women's and men's events. Leonhard Pfund, Alina Nussbicker and Benjamin Menz won races. Among the Austrians, Anna Andexer was particularly impressive. She won five sprint races in the Junior Cup and the bronze medal in this discipline at the IBU Junior Open European Championships. She also secured gold in the individual and mass start 60, while her teammates Lara Wagner, Wilma Anhaus and Leonie Pitzer have also been on the podium. Lukas Haslinger is currently leading the overall standings of the IBU Junior Cup.

Title defense mission

Seven athletes are embarking on the "title defense" mission in Otepää. They are Julia Kink, Kaja Zorc, Julia Tannheimer, Jakub Borgula, Benjamin Menz, Kasper Kalkenberg and Sivert Gerhardsen. They all stood at the top of the podium a year ago and are now trying to repeat their triumph. Julia Tannheimer has even had a taste of World Cup action this season. She got to compete in the sprint and pursuit in Ruhpolding. Maya Cloetens from Belgium took part in the World Championships in Nove Mesto na Morave and will also be competing in Otepaa.

What are Norway and France doing?

It will be interesting to see how Norway and France perform. Like Sweden, the Norwegian team has not taken part in any Junior Cups this season. Maren Kirkeeide is considered the favorite. The 20-year-old became European champion in Orsblie in the individual, pursuit, and mixed relay. She won silver in the sprint. The Norwegians also have two athletes with IBU Cup experience in their ranks: Gro Randby and Isak Frey.

The French team took part in the competitions in Pokljuka and Ridnaun in December. Fany Bertrand impressed there. They also have a favorite on their team in Antonin Guy, who won gold in the sprint, singles and single mixed relay at the Youth Olympic Games in Gangwon in January and celebrated a silver medal with the mixed relay.

Who can surprise?

There are always surprises in biathlon. Who can pull it off at the Junior and Youth World Championships this year? Enkhbat Enkhsaikhan from Mongolia could be one of these candidates. The Mongolian won his country's first biathlon victory at the Junior European Championships in Jakuszyce. He won the 15-kilometer individual. The host team has also already made an exclamation mark this season. Ramses Tiislar finished second in the individual in Pokljuka. The Estonian team wants to repeat such a success in front of their home fans.

Photos: IBU I Koksarov

Share this article

Header iconSign up for our newsletter