Many people faced with Hofer’s challenges would have simply given up and walked away from sports. That option is not in Hofer’s DNA. The World Cup-winning, double Olympic medalist who laughs easily and enjoys life to the fullest is one tough guy; not a quitter.
Hofer confided that his recent surgeries hopefully removed the last roadblocks in his biathlon career. “I hope this solved everything, especially with my left shoulder that was the worst. I still have to pay attention sometimes to my biceps tendon but all the rest is fixed. I feel really good about that. The other problems with the tendons on my shins is really strange because I’ve never had problems there before. But now I take no risks (altering his training at that time, spending hours running in a pool with a flotation vest).”
Reflecting on his troubles, “I never had any idea that you could get so many injuries, especially after going through COVID-19. It was like wave that starts, then the next one comes. Without Johannes (Lukas), I would not be here now. He and I have put so much energy into this, before last season and now.”
The 34-year-old, thought his career might be over after anchoring Italy’s 7th place men’s relay last February. “It was really close. I took the relay like it could be my last one. I was at the point where I had no idea if I would get better and be able to solve everything. I told myself that if I could get back in normal shape and be the normal Luki, I would continue.”
With that thought in mind, he went home to heal up and contemplate his next moves. “After the knee surgeries and fixing the other stuff, it was like, we will start from zero and try to get back up again, step-by-step. In the middle of the summer, I saw my body was responding quite well, especially with my pulse and lactate testing. At that point, I was talking with Johannes and said, ‘It is not in me to give up. That is not me. I was brought up by my mom and father who always taught me to try until it is completely over.’ This was the most important point. I will go forward, try again and get back like I was before after putting in all the effort.”
The left shoulder rehab last spring was tough. “I did not know if it would be okay or if there would be problems. It worried me until I talked with a psychologist and mental trainer who told me, ‘just think about the good things. What can be the best after this.’ That changed my mindset and I felt it would all be good. After that I had no problem going for the second surgery in mid-summer with the same doctor. Ten days later, I was back on the bike. I am sure I would not be here if I had not realized how important the mental aspect is.”
Hofer appreciates being back with his adopted Swedish teammates. “I was home for so long and really missed the Swedish team. When I first met them (in 2022), they brought me into the group like I was there forever. It was amazing. It was new and I was a bit afraid, but the atmosphere was familiar and comfortable.”
The hardest part of sitting out most of last season, “was watching the others race. I was in really good shape in Idre (November 2022), fighting with Samuelsson and Ponsiluoma every day. Then I saw Ponsi winning in Kontiolahti, that was a punch to the heart. After that, I did not turn on the TV anymore for a long time.”
A big lesson came in Hofer’s comeback summer, spent mostly on the bike. “I realized how hard it is to be a professional cyclist, doing all those intervals and threshold workouts. Sometimes I would jump off the bike and it took 30 minutes to feel normal.”
Another positive outcome from Hofer’s modified program came on the shooting range. “That was positive because you can focus on details and put your attention on prone and standing separately on different days. Even though I might be shooting less than other years, my hits are up. The quality is more important than the quantity.”
Thinking about his Italian teammates, mostly ten years younger, Hofer said, “I am so proud, because it shows that the work when Dorothea (Wierer) and I were growing up inspired a lot of young guys to do biathlon. Now they are growing up, training hard and going through the same steps we did.”
Looking towards the upcoming season. “Hopefully, I can do full biathlon training once on skis and bring all the work I did cycling and other trainings to have the same shape as last November and be ready for the World Cup.” He called his recent snow camp in Idre with the Swedish team, “perfect in the right way, being able to stay with Sebastian Samuelsson and Jesper Nelin who are in pretty good shape.”
There is one more goal in Lukas Hofer’s return to biathlon: Milano-Cortina 2026’s biathlon competitions in his home Antholz stadium. “Definitely, it is no question. Before it was selected, I had the mindset I would start and end my career in the same place, Oberhof. Then the Olympics came along. Not many athletes can have the World Champs and Olympics at home. If I am able to get the results then I can say one more year twice and the Olympics will be here. But we will see…”
Bottom line: don’t ever count Lukas Hofer out.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Jerry Kokesh, Lukas Hofer, Nordic Focus/Leo Authamayou