Last week, numerous top Norwegians were “missing in action:” Tarjei Boe was out pending the birth of first child, son Aron while Marte Olsbu Roeiseland was out with a case of shingles, Tiril Eckhoff remained out on her own program and one of last year’s breakout talents Sivert Guttorm Bakken is still struggling with after-effects of his spring heart problems.
This opened the door for one significant story line: the roaring return of Johannes Dale. Dale who was dropped from Norway’s A team to basically the IBU Cup squad after struggling on the shooting range finished second in the sprint and claimed the Mass Start National Championship.
Filip Fjeld Andersen won the Men’s Sprint Gold medal, with two standing penalties in 21:44. Dale, with just single penalty took the Silver medal, 3.4 seconds back. Sturla Holm Laegreid won the Bronze medal, with three penalties, 26.6 seconds back. JT Boe, also with three penalties finished a distant sixth. 57.7 seconds back.
That same day, Karoline Knotten, took advantage of Eckhoff and Olsbu Roeiseland’s absence to win the Women’s Sprint National Championship, with one penalty in 21:45. Unheralded Marit Skogan shot clean to take the Silver medal, 17.3 seconds with Asne Skrede taking the Bronze, with three penalties, 47.3 seconds back. Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold with three penalties finished sixth, 1:08 back.
In the next day’s mass starts conducted under the same sunny but cool conditions as the sprint, Dale rose to the top of the heap with a National Championship title in 37:23 going 19-for-20. Rising star Martin Uldal, strong in every summer competition this year had two early prone penalties but finished with the Silver medal, 8 seconds back. Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, unstoppable at August’s Blinkfestivalen had three penalties in his Bronze medal finish, 31.5 seconds back. JT, with six penalties finished eighth, 1:17.5 back, while Laegreid, with five penalties finished 19th, 1:25.4 back.
Knotten was upended in the women’s mass start as Marthe Krakstad Johansen, with two penalties took the Gold medal. Knotten finished with the Silver medal, 13.1 seconds back, also with two penalties. Ragnhild Femsteinevik, with five penalties won the Bronze medal, with five penalties, 42.2 seconds back. Tandrevold, with eight penalties skied well finishing eighth, 58.1 seconds back.
Quentin Fillon Maillet came to the sprint at French Championships in Premanon this past weekend as the favorite after sweeping the 2020 and 2021 titles. On a very rainy windy day in the French Jura, he was upset by young teammate Eric Perrot who had one less prone miss than Fillon Maillet; the difference between first and second place. Perrot, with two penalties won the Gold medal in 24:24.2. Fillon Maillet with three penalties took the Silver medal, 12.8 seconds back. The Bronze medal went to Fabien Claude with four penalties, 42.8 seconds, just edging IBU Pursuit World Champion Emilien Jacquelin, with three penalties, 47 seconds back in fourth place. Perrot admitted to Nordic Magazine that “two penalties was good enough today but that will not be enough in the winter. There is still some work to do.”
Julia Simon shot clean to retain her sprint title from last fall, taking the French Championships Sprint Gold medal in 19:37.9. Strong as always, Simon easily outdistanced Silver medalist Anais Chevalier-Bouchet by 46.8 seconds. Chevalier-Bouchet had one penalty. IBU Cup star Lou Jeanmonnot, also with a single penalty won the Bronze medal 56.9 seconds back. 21-year-old Jeanne Richard, also with a single penalty finished fourth, 1:07.9 back.
Simon was particularly happy with her clean shooting. commenting to Nordic Magazine, “My objective today was to shoot well, suing everything that I have been working on all summer, actually since last year. Doing it with a bib on in a real race is great!”
Rain poured down on Pursuit Sunday at the French Championships, following the equally rainy sprint day. However, the “King of the Four-stage Competitions” Quentin Fillon Maillet after a disappointing second in Saturday’s sprint. Roared back to capture the pursuit, despite five penalties in 32:06.3. Fillon Maillet came to the last standing stage behind eventual second place Perrot and Jacquelin. However, the World Cup Total Score winner went five for five to leave unchallenged, while his rivals both picked up three penalties. Perrot, with six penalties then outsprinted the very speedy Jacquelin by .1 seconds for second place, pushing the Villard de Lans resident with seven penalties to third place. Fillon Maillet admitted to Nordic Magazine, “It was not so much of a great victory because there were a lot of shooting errors. I am not satisfied…this was not the same Quentin as last year.”
Although the men’s pursuit podium was a bit different, the women’s pursuit podium was a repeat of yesterday’s sprint. Unlike Fillon Maillet coming from second place after the sprint, Simon started the again rainy pursuit with a 46-second bulge to win unchallenged in 28:38.3, missing just a single shot in the first standing stage. Anais Chevalier-Bouchet, despite shooting clean finished second, 55.9 seconds back. Lou Jeanmonnot, with two penalties, finished third, 2:28.5 back.
Simon after her overwhelming pursuit win reiterated to Nordic Magazine how pleased she was with her shooting. “That is where I am most satisfied. The physical shape is okay…Everything is positive; I am leaving Premanon satisfied.”
Photos: Vianney Thibaut, NSSF/Emil Sørgârd, Quentin Fillon Maillet