Ekholm: “Impressed with Elvira and Sebbe”

When the lights went off in the Oestersund biathlon stadium and all competitors were gone to try and get warmer after the intense fights on the glacial air of Sweden, Helena Ekholm joined us for a little chat to evaluate the first fortnight of this new biathlon season. As a former champion and now TV expert, Ekholm has been following these first two weeks of the BMW IBU World Cup closely and, even in the cold, she did not hesitate to share thoughts and anecdotes especially regarding the home team.

Biggest takeaway: Elvira Oeberg

BiathlonWorld: What is the thing that impressed you the most over these two opening weeks?

Helena Ekholm: “I think Elvira Oeberg’s skiing, she’s taken such huge steps this year. It is hard to tell sometimes where such strength comes from, but some people just have it: in her case, I heard rumours that she was flying during the summer and when you are good in the Swedish team, you know you are in a good place. She probably had no sickness nor injuries and that makes the difference, and her body clearly responds well to the hard training”.

BW: What is a tip you feel like giving her now, so that she doesn’t become a victim of her own desire for success?

HE: “I think now she has to keep calm and trust the fact that her skiing is world-class, the shooting will come and she will show there what she’s capable of, she just needs to get used to the situation in which she is the best on skis”.

“Just” a season start: lots can and will still change

BW: Is there anything that surprised you in a negative way?

HE: “I was quite surprised by the difficult start of Tiril Eckhoff, but I also have in mind the horrible start she had last year and then we know how it went on, so I think she will also be back on top of the podium soon”.

BW: Speaking of chances to turn things around, the next stop is in Hochfilzen, should we still expect the Swedish team on top?

HE: “We saw it last year that after a brilliant start in Kontiolahti, in Hochfilzen things changed and I expect something similar to happen again. The season start is always interesting because the first competitions make everyone a little nervous and this year we had quite a number of spectators in Oestersund, which we did not have for some time now. So, once they go to Hochfilzen, a lot of these things will change, together with the conditions of tracks and climate, so I expect tough fights there”.

BW: As a former athlete, how much can be drawn for the start of an Olympic season?

HE: “I think, as always, in an Olympic season people come to the opening in different levels of form, so I doubt that Elvira will be able to ski 50 seconds faster than all the others throughout the winter. More girls will be closer to her level. Obviously, it is good to start the season well and probably it’s easier to carry the form, rather than chase it. However, now the pressure will be on them as people expect results after such a good start”.

Little brothers and sisters

BW: You obviously focused on Elvira, how do you think will Hanna react to the spotlight shifting to her younger sister?

HE: “I hope Hanna takes Elvira’s success well, but I had a younger sister competing in biathlon and I can tell you that the times she beat me I was not happy: a little sister should know her place behind! (laugh) I am sure that Hanna is happy to have Elvira in the team, because when you can train with someone who is currently the best in the world, this gives you so much on everyday training: for me it was the same when I had Anna Karin Zidek in the same team and I knew that if I could follow her in training, then I was on a good place”.

BW: One last thought on Sebastian Samuelsson, whom you know very well. Did you expect such a start from him?

HE: “Samuelsson has been impressive too, the fact that he was capable of being on the pursuit podium despite four mistakes shows what a new level he has reached. For me, it is special to see him doing so well because we grew up in the same club and he was just a little kid running around when I was competing… this is cool! He is the age of my little brother, so there is a special connection and yeah, it makes me feel old!”

As we thank Ekholm for the great insight and the time given to us in the cold, we are also looking forward to the rest of the season, starting from competitions in Hochfilzen this weekend. We are thrilled to see if her expectations will also resolve into reality starting from sprints on Friday.

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