Beyond a spate of retirements, national team rosters announced for the upcoming season in recent weeks offered some surprises with some new names popping up in addition to the expected returnees.
The Nations Cup-topping Norwegian men’s squad got back to work virtually unchanged with their first camp last week in Oslo. Once again, the team includes the Boe brothers, Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, Sturla Holm Laegreid and Filip Fjeld Andersen. Johannes Dale returned to the top group after a comeback season where he finished seventh in the Total Score and his second career World Cup victory. At the same time Sivert Guttorm Bakken is back with the team but is still recovering after a lost season due to illness.
The Norwegian women’s squad has big shoes to fill after losing Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Tiril Eckhoff to retirement. Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold, now the de facto team leader has missed some training right off the bat after surgery but was with the team last week. The rest of the women’s squad is comprised of Ida Lien, Karoline Knotten, Ragnhild Femsteinevik, and Juni Arnekleiv. The big addition to the women’s team is 20-year-old Maren Kirkeeide, the 2022 IBU Junior Sprint World Champion. Kirkeeide earned her spot on the top team after a breakout season after a couple of wins on the IBU Cup circuit and a fourth place in the IBU Cup Total Score.
Sweden lost no one to retirement so their entire squad returns after a record-setting season with 11 IBU WCH medals and 35 podiums; IBU Mass Start World Champions Hanna Oeberg and Sebastian Samuelsson lead the way. The women’s team remains stable led by the Oeberg sisters, Anna Magnusson and Linn Persson with the still-promising Stina Nilsson and Mona Brorsson just behind. New to the top group are IBU Cup Total Score winner Tilda Johansson and 20-year-old Sara Andersson, the 2022 IBU Youth Sprint World Champion.
Samuelsson, who found his form with four medals at the IBU World Championships and World Cup Total Score fifth place Martin Ponsiluoma top the men’s team. Reliable veterans Peppe Femling and Jesper Nelin return as key members of Sweden’s multi-medal winning relay team. Malte Stefansson and Emil Nykvist add depth to the men’s group, but are several steps below the four veterans.
Preuss returns to German Team
Germany stepped into the new season with eight women and nine men in their top training groups. The women lost their leading light with Denise Herrmann-Wick’s retirement. The roster now includes sharp-shooters Vanessa Voigt and Hanna Kebinger, IBU WCH breakout talent Sophia Schneider, Anna Weidel, Julianne Fruehwirt and Janina Hettich-Walz. Franziska Preuss is back with the team, training enthusiastically after a long health-related break. Germany’s biggest addition is 19-year-old Selina Grotian, four-time Gold medalist at this year’s IBU Junior World Championships as well as the 2023 IBU EOCH Pursuit Champion.
The German men lost no personnel, but have a new head coach for the first time in 11 years with Uros Velepec taking over for the retired Mark Kirchner. Fourth in the Total Score Benedikt Doll remains the best of the German men after another solid season that included winning the Oestersund 20 km individual, his first-ever podium in that discipline. Behind Doll is a well-balanced group of Johannes Kuehn, Roman Rees, David Zobel and 90% shooter Justus Strelow that blends together as a strong relay team. All are individually capable of top six finishes and the occasional podium. Philipp Horn, Philipp Nawrath, IBU Cup Total Score second place Lucas Fratzscher, and newcomer Simon Kaiser round out the group.
Although the French Federation has yet to formally announce their top teams, potentially both the women’s and men’s teams are talent laden. Both teams will gather for their first camps starting next week on 29 May.
The French women will likely not miss a beat despite the Anais Chevalier-Bouchet’s retirement. Total Score winner Julia Simon comes back to defend her title as team leader with Olympic Champion Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, after a baby break joining the training group later in the summer. Last season’s breakthrough star Chloe Chevalier and Lou Jeanmonnot give the French ladies a talented top four; add in Sophie Chauveau who broke out with 4th and 5th places at Annecy Le Grand Bornand and Caroline Colombo who had a career-best 5th place in the Oestersund mass start at the end of the season. These group will once again give the French squad a very formidable line-up.
The French men could be primed for a resurgent year with new Head Coach Simon Fourcade assisted by shooting guru Jean-Pierre Amat behind the scope. Their fresh approach should revive Quentin Fillon Maillet and Emilien Jacquelin to compete for victories and top spots in the Total Score. Fabien Claude and Antonin Guigonnat both on the relay team that won the World Championship title in Oberhof add veteran presence and experience. 21-year-old Eric Perrot who picked up his first-ever individual World Cup podium in the Oestersund mass start and Oscar Lombardot look to be shoo-ins for the World Cup group.
That is a quick rundown of the top four, next up…6 months of fun in the summer sun!
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Harald Deubert, Per Danielsson, Svensk Skidskytte/Emma Hoeglund