Our expert panel: Andreas Stabrun Smith (AS), NRK commentator
Dario Puppo (DP), Italian Eurosport commentator
Alexis Boeuf (AB), La chaîne L'Équipe expert commentator
Liv Grete Skjelbreid (LG), NRK expert commentator
Chad Salmela (CS), NBC Sports biathlon commentator
Helena Ekholm (HE), SVT expert commentator
Stefan Steinacher (SS), Austrian sports commentator
Andreas Stabrun Smith : I am very excited about the upcoming season. I went through the last season the other day; it struck me that to copy that season will be impossible for the Norwegians. I still believe they will have a good one and more than anything I am looking forward to the "landskamp" between Norway and Sweden.
Dario Puppo : The thing we are all most excited to see is the tracks and the conditions of the Olympic venue at Kuyangshu. Some of the most interesting things involve the weather: the possibility of sand mixed with snow from Gobi Desert storms, the altitude, the shooting range that seems unsheltered from wind, and the chance really cold weather... it should all be very interesting!
Alexis Boeuf : I always looking forward to seeing what happens in the start of the season; really enjoy checking and analyzing the spirit and shape of the athletes in the first races.
Liv Grete Skjelbreid: Looking forward to the Olympic this season and I expect that Norway will have a least one athlete fighting for the podium in every race. Looking especially forward to the relays in Beijing. I now the Norwegian teams have made good preparations for the relay competitions so I am excited to follow these races. I am sure they will be hard to beat!
Chad Salmela : Which athlete emerges; mostly, Stina Nilsson, but that’s too many expectation eggs in one basket. To think no one ever heard of Sturla Holm Laegreid this time last year, is exciting. That doesn’t happen every year, but it makes things exciting. It’s early, but right now Tommaso Giacomel is exciting, as is Elvira Oeberg’s skiing, although she’s not exactly as obscure as Laegreid or Giacomel. If what we’re seeing out of her now is an indication of what she might be able to sustain in terms of fitness, we’re going to be saying her name a lot.
Helena Ekholm : Hopefully competitions with a lot people in the audience.
Stefan Steinacher : Exciting decisions, great variety that the sport offers. Obviously, I hope for strong performances from the Austrian team.
Andreas: I think the Norwegian team will focus on the Olympics. After last season we have to say that medals are expected. I think at least 4 gold medals is a very realistic goal for Team Norway.
Alexis: I hope this season one or two French guys will be able to challenge JTB for the overall and of course, I hope that French men and women will be able to catch many medals at the Olympic Winter Games.
Dario: It's really good to see Dominik Windisch finding good form again. A lot of interest in Tommaso Giacomel, seeing his early form, it’s clear that he wants to be a player during this winter. Having someone besides Lukas Hofer and Windisch, capable of a top 10 is exciting… I think the Italian men’s relay can compete for top three spots.
Lisa Vittozzi has no more get-out-of-jail tickets, because she was almost given a personal coach with Mirco Romanin. That seems to have paid off in Idre; she was very composed but it is all about shooting that will define her season. I am not worried about Dorothea Wierer in the two early tests (twice 7th in Idre); her main goal is the Olympics. Her approach is for consistency during the season, overall finishes in the top 5 or top 3; she will try and be at her best during the Olympics.
Liv Grete: Watch out for Elvira Oeberg, Lisa Vittozzi, Sebastian Samuelsson, Emilien Jacquelin: all athletes who can make a lot of trouble for the Norwegians!
Chad: For the USA, it’s about striking when things are good. The team has talent for sure and so is the coaching, but it’s a development system largely dependent on grabbing NCAA collegiate skiers, relatively late (early 20s) and turning them into World Cup biathletes. That doesn’t happen overnight, or even 4 years. It takes athletes in this system to look beyond their age-peers from other countries who start very early, and to stick it out into their mid to late 30s to see what can really happen for them. That’s a big proposition. I think just about everyone currently on the team is capable of big results with time and experience… Right now, it’s about catching that special fitness and riding the lightning by shooting great when the fitness lightning strikes.
Helena: I am excited to see how many of the athletes will take a step this season; hoping that some of the younger guys have improved and will perform on a higher level.
Stefan: A very strong Austrian women's team with hopefully a first relay podium this season; another great season from Austrian star Lisa Hauser.
Andreas: Johannes Thingnes Boe will win; number two will be his brother Tarjei. Quentin Fillon Maillet will be third.
Dario: JT Boe, Fillon Maillet, and Sebastian Samuelsson
Alexis: JT Boe, Fillon Maillet and Emilien Jacquelin/Samuelson
Live Grete: Fillon Maillet, Samuelsson, and JT Boe
Chad: JT Boe, Laegreid and Samuelsson
Helena: Tricky question! But men: JT Boe, Samuelsson, Laegreid.
Stefan: JT Boe, Fillon Maillet, Lukas Hofer
Andreas: Either Marte Olsbu Røiseland or Tiril Eckhoff will win the overall world cup. One of the Öberg sisters will join them on the podium.
Dario: It will be as tight as ever around the top, but I'll say Roeiseland, Hauser, Julia Simon.
Alexis: Elvira Oeberg, Eckhoff, Roeiseland
Liv Grete: Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, Julia Simon and Franziska Preuss
Chad: Eckhoff, Franziska Preuss, and Hanna Oeberg.
Helena: Eckhoff, Hanna Öberg, Hauser
Stefan: Doro Wierer, Lisa Hauser, Preuss
Andreas: After what we saw in Idre, Elvira Oeberg will be the one to watch.
Dario: Elvira Oeberg and Tommaso Giacomel.
Alexis: Young ones: Elvira Oeberg, Alimbekava and Norway’s Andersen brothers
Chad: Martin Ponsiluoma and now Giacomel; Stina Nilsson of course! And Elvira Oeberg based on what we saw in Idre.
Helena: Elvira Oeberg
Stefan: Maren Hammerschmidt, Felix Leitner, Niklas Hartweg and as always, “Oldie but Goldie” Simon Eder
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Stefan Steinacher, Alexis Boeuf, Helena Ekholm