The first week in Oberhof is in the books – and if we’re just looking at the gold medallists, the favourites really came through so far: Denise has been the most consistent in sprints, Julia really shined in pursuits all season and Johannes dominated the field.
But even looking past the golden names, the first week already had a lot of good comebacks – just look at Sebastian Samuelsson who had a tough mixed relay with rifle problems, and lots of criticism and battled his way to bronze in the pursuit. I like those stories and it shows you, in biathlon, everything can change so fast. Hanna Oeberg also had a great sprint after an up-and-down season. This should give many others confidence that they can come back, and get new chances, even after a difficult first week.
I also know the feeling, how it is in biathlon that it’s mentally really challenging. Not everyone can be stable all the time – well, maybe Johannes aside. Everyone deals with it differently, it also depends on the team around you. Just like the Swedish team with Samuelsson, the German team supported Doll after his tough mixed relay day. After Herrmann-Wick sprinted to Gold, both the men and the women started trending up and looked good on Sunday. Funnily enough, Ole Einar, Sven and I all correctly picked Benedikt Doll as the biggest climber in the pursuit.
Denise is such an experienced athlete, she knows her body, that it reacts well to the altitude in South Tyrol and she has come in with such a good plan and focus for herself. That’s why she had her best form in Beijing, winning the Individual and now Oberhof, winning Gold and Silver. I like everything that I see and know that she’s doing, the pressure is off now. Of course, she’s still not a fast shooter but she knows what she can do on the tracks after. It's really nice to see how much she’s enjoying this and also for the younger members of her team like Schneider and Kebinger to watch, learn and let “Mama” inspire them. They’ve had some very impressive World Championship debuts.
Speaking of the Individual: Since the 2004 World Championships, the Individual has never been competed here – the shorter loops here all have the toughest uphills in them, so the athletes will already feel tired after this first week. Usually, the one-minute penalty in the Individual is a lot – but here with the tough tracks, it might just feel like 50 seconds for someone like Johannes if the conditions are slow like on the weekend, putting even more pressure on others to shoot clean. This will be *really* hard - but this is probably also the best chance for the other guys to really beat him, so they have to be even more focused on the range.
As for Johannes – not a lot of things can stop him right now he mastered the challenging conditions really well in the sprint on Saturday). The “Greatest Of All Time” discussion has been coming up a few times in recent days and weeks and he’s certainly the most dominant athlete at the moment but I find it really difficult to compare the best names of the generations or even to compare individual seasons and events. Martin’s 2016/2017 was incredible, Tiril’s 2020/2021 was so strong, Ole Einar’s Salt Lake City remains legendary, and Forsberg had an amazing 2000/2001 season. It’s great that we have had so many superstars and Johannes is the star right now – but I don’t see the need to compare “this” Johannes to “that” Martin for example. Let’s enjoy the great performances we are seeing. I’m pretty sure we’ll get more of those in the next few days.