Sweden’s Johannes Lukas: Insights on a Successful Season

How do you top a season with over 30 podiums, one Olympic Gold and four Silver medals, women second and fourth and a man third in the World Cup Total Score, plus the Women’s World Cup Relay Score Globe for good measure? That is the challenge for Sweden’s Head Coach Johannes Lukas and his staff as they analyzed the 2021/22 season.

“Surprised we had so many different successes”

Although the team showed strength all season going, Lukas was caught off guard by their World Cup results when all eyes were focused on Beijing. “I was surprised we had so many different successes. I was hoping for Olympic medals but we did not put that much priority on the World Cup and then we were fighting for the Yellow Jersey on both sides. That we were one of the strongest women’s teams was not a surprise. At the Olympics, on the day that counted, with everyone expecting a medal, from the first meter, you saw that the girls were thinking, ‘today we win Gold.’ They really handled the pressure well.”

Sweden’s improving performances in recent seasons saw the men move to 4th and the women to 2nd in the Nations Cup last season. “Overall, we are a really good team and I am not surprised that we continue to go up and up.”

Hanna’s shooting struggles

Besides success, there are also disappointments. Yet Sweden’s lows, as in the case of Hanna Oeberg would be reasons to celebrate for many nations. “We were not happy with Hanna’s season. She had really good ski performance but her shooting has been going down the last two years (dropping from 86% in 18/19 to 79% in 21/22). We made a clear cut this year, new rifle (stock), new focus on shooting and a step back on physical. The goal is to hold the physical level where it is, get the shooting level back; then she is one of the best!”

Regarding Hannah, “Really hungry after last season. She was not satisfied, nor were we. Her physical shape is better than ever. She just has to get back to calm and simple; one of the best shooters in the World Cup. When she gets back to basics, Hanna will have a hard fight with Elvira for the Total Score.”

Men’s Mixed Bag Performance

The men’s squad was a mixed bag performance-wise; highlighting Samuelsson’s overall great season and Martin Ponsiluoma’s Olympic Mass Start Silver medal, but beyond that on significant low point. “The men’s relay was our biggest disappointment. We only showed what we can one time, second in Kontiolahti. All the other relays, every time a penalty loop; three great performances and one bad.”

Regarding Ponsiluoma, “Martin is a World Champion with an Olympic Silver medal but we still are not happy with his development. His shooting is so unstable. The big goal is to get stable and it will automatically be a big step forward. The goal is to keep up the plan, give him time because after the medals, he can work under less pressure. Winning a World Championship and an Olympic medal is the last race is not luck; he is always dangerous in big events.”

Sebbe’s Great Season

Going into Beijing, Sebastian Samuelsson was second in the World Cup Total Score, hoping to add to his 2018 Olympic Gold and Silver medals. “Sebbe was not 100% happy with the Olympics; we knew that altitude is a tough point for him but he made good results, not great. He and Martin were five and six in the sprint, which is a great result. Unfortunately, at the Olympics, it is a medal that counts. Still the total season was a great step forward, especially fighting for the Total Score. We 100% agreed it was a great season.”

As for Samuelsson, “Sebbe is probably the craziest athlete I know. I think he spent more time on his rollerski treadmill in May than most others do in a whole season. He is so special that you sometimes have to hold him back. If he hold his energy in balance, there are not many men who can beat him.”

Highlight/Surprise: Elvira Oeberg’s Big Talent

On a talented team, Lukas said it was easy to find the highlight performer. “Elvira was the biggest surprise. It is so easy to think what she did was normal, but the steps she took in the last three years were just amazing. To win two medals in your first Olympics shows she was mentally (as well as physically) strong. That she held the energy level through the whole season was the biggest surprise. We expected her to fall off after Beijing, but she was still hungry. Most people do not realize that this was the first year she trained like the other girls.”

Elvira’s challenge, “One of the biggest talents in biathlon. Now is the time to have a stable level for the whole season. Her biggest challenge is to maintain her mindset; keep it fun, do not think so much and she will win the Total Score one time in the next four years.”

Linn and Stina

Despite all of this success, Lukas admitted that the season was not perfect; there is always room for improvement. “I am sure we can top that season; we are not done yet. We have many athletes like…Linn Persson. I am just waiting for the day when she shows the world what she can do. I really hope we can push her up that last percent. Stina Nilsson is more and more ready to be a biathlete. Her podium was one season early, had she followed my plan! Being a regular top three might be too much this year but her goal is to be in our top four or five, and be ready for the relay.”

Stina’s future, “We are really happy with her performance. She is more relaxed than ever and trusts us. I think the next four years we can expect really good things. She is a top athlete.”

Do Things Better

“The season changed our mindset. We know that we cannot just do the same things. We have to do things better, to develop further; I think everyone is ready.”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Jerry Kokesh, Svenskt Skidskytte

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