Game-changing Christmas Break for Oeberg

Hanna Oeberg, the most successful women’s athlete of the BMW IBU World Championships Oberhof 2023, speaks about how her absence from the Pokljuka week brought her inner joy for biathlon back and explains the complex but loving sister-to-sister-champion-to-champion relationship with Elvira.

Let’s start from new-found happiness at biathlon that - as you said - brought you on the path to glory again. Where and how did you find it?

It’s hard to say exactly how I found it again. I believe that getting sick during Christmas break and missing out on the World Cup in Pokljuka had its part. Although I came into the season feeling well-prepared, I struggled a bit before Christmas with my performances. Being forced to take this sick break in the first days of 2023, I watched the first World Cup from home and felt my motivation rising. I wanted to get back to racing. I also had to put aside the thought of finishing in the top position in the Total Score standings. After that, I could take it to race by race and day by day.

How would you describe it?

I would describe my newly re-found happiness mainly as a curiosity. I’m going into the races with a positive inquisitiveness. My mind sets on doing my very best in every situation and not on the prestige of having a fast course time or making that many points in the Total Score. I am enjoying the process!

Five years bridge your medal in the Individual in PyeongChang 2018 and Oberhof 2023. Five years is a lot in the life of a sportsperson. How have you changed?

I don’t know if I have changed so much, but I have learned a lot! For example: what’s included when you do good results regarding media and sponsors? I understand the importance of recovery and refuelling much better. And so on.

Header iconThe Queen of the Individual: Hanna Oeberg

How has biathlon changed in these five years?

I think that women’s biathlon is getting increasingly competitive every year. We now have a fair number of girls with a very high level of skiing and shooting. I have always been a fast shooter, but compared to five years ago, the best girls are performing very well in every aspect of the competition: fast skiing, high hit rate at the range, and also speedy range times. At the time of my breakthrough, I could win some time on the shooting range compared to the best women. Today you lose time on the best if you’re not pushing your range times.

For a few seasons in a row, you have started strong, with wins, just for your level to fade with Christmas approaching. Your shape tends to rise at the Highlight of the season again. Wolfgang Pichler started this, and Johannes Lukas seems to be staying the course. Is this always the plan: to thrive at the main even of the the season?

Yes, I guess the plan is to start the season strong and get at least one good training block before the championships. Oberhof 2023 are the record Championships for Sweden in the medal count.

While physically unforgiving, biathlon is also a sport that demands a lot of self-reflection. From the outside, the targets seem like a mirror telling you about your state of mind or at least your daily form. Do private life and biathlon performance relate?

Of course, it’s essential to have good well-being throughout your life, both in sports and outside. I have also learned that it is necessary to have things outside of sports that mean something to you. It’s more about finding things that are something else than training and can get your mind a bit of rest.

It is beautiful, but not easy, to be one of the two wildly successful sisters. The good thing about biathlon is: it offers plenty of opportunities for triumph. With you having three big Gold medals, is it easier to be generous?

I see it as I have the very best situation you can have as a biathlete. We train together nearly every day, and we can push each other in most of the sessions. I am thankful to have her, and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to improve my ski speed the way I’ve done the last couple of years without her. I do also feel happy about her her successes. It gives so much energy when you feel pleased for someone else but only yourself! But I must say that at the beginning of Elvira becoming super fast on her skis and more powerful than me in some sessions, I struggled a bit. We talked a lot about it at the time. It was up to me to recognise that her success didn’t mean I was performing poorly.

How are you managing the ambitions-affection-friendship combination?

In the hard training sessions, we have a genuine competition going on between us. In the lighter sessions, we do a lot of talking. We have a lot in common and have also grown closer to each other since we both ended up on the national team. Today it means a lot to me to share this journey with Elvira. We get to share so much. And I’m very grateful for it.

Photo: IBU/C. Manzoni, B. Reichert

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