The upcoming week is all about the IBU Open European Championships. Situated in the magical Bavarian forests of central Germany, the Arber biathlon venue has perfect pre-conditions for great competitions. Despite taking place just before the Olympic Winter Games, the level of the competition is bound to be high.
Will the Germans have the home-venue advantage?
The home team Germany, undoubtedly with one of the strongest lineups, is surely expected to fight for the shiniest medals. Coming right from the Antholz BMW IBU World Cup, Franziska Hildebrand, Janina Hettich and Lucas Fratzscher are the ones to keep an eye on during the OECH. All three have secured one or more IBU Cup wins and good races at the World Cup.
Despite the strong German team, their rivals will not make it easy for them. Looking at the Russian team line-up, they are here for the win as well. Evgeniia Burtasova, the current leader of the IBU Cup Total Score, has proved to be in great shape. She has been constantly on the podium throughout the IBU Cup season and the icing on the cake was the pursuit win at the IBU Cup Brezno-Osrblie. After a very successful IBU Cup season start, Anastasia Shevchenko returns from the BMW IBU World Cup and has to be considered a top contender for the medals.
Despite carrying the pressure of being the leader, Evgeniia Burtasova keeps her calm: “I am not thinking about being the leader at all. Every time I am in the start I just try to do the maximum. Of course, for the Open European Championships I have the goal to show my maximum result.”
On the men’s side the IBU Cup circuit welcomes back Anton Babikov, who in addition to winning two IBU Cup competitions in Sjusjoen, also won the men’s 20 km individual in Antholz. Showing a great ski and shooting from, Babikov will not leave Arber without putting up a big fight for gold.
Of course, when talking about the favourites, Norway cannot be forgotten. Three men holding the top three places in the IBU Cup Total Score Globe hunt, are surely here for the win. Erlend Bjoentegaard, Aleksander Fjeld Andersen and Haavard Gutuoboe Bogetveit have all shown top results at the IBU Cup throughout the season so they have their eyes set on the medals. Adding young Vetle Paulsen into the mix, the Norwegian men will be one of the favourites throughout the OECH.
Erlend Bjoentegaard on his goals for the OECH: “This is the first time for me to be here in Arber. As I’ve seen from the last season when Filip Fjeld Andersen and the Norwegians had quite strong competitions, I have heard and I do know that there are steep uphills here so it is going to be a tough fight in the hills. Some nations really send their top athtlets to fight for the top medals here so I expect tough competitions - a lot of athletes want to win a medal so I have to bring out the A-game.”
From the women’s side, in addition to the German and Russian top contenders, Norway’s Karoline Erdal and Ragnhild Femsteinevik, France’s Camille Bened and Sweden’s Elisabeth Hoegberg are also amongst those to look out for.
The Individual Score Globe
The OECH will kick off on 26 January with the season’s final individual competitions. The results of those competitions will determine the winners of the IBU Cup Individual Score. From the women’s side, Norway’s Marthe Krakstad Johansen has a two-point lead over Russia’s Evgeniia Burtasova. With both athletes showing good results throughout the season, the fight between them for the Globe is worth to keep an eye on.
Germany’s Justus Strelow is in the lead on the men’s side. Considering the fact that the closest competitors Endre Stroemsheim and David Zobel are not attending the OECH, the odds are in Strelow’s favour. Not that far away from the German is Norway’s Paulsen who took the surprise individual win in Brezno-Osrblie. Will the winner be determined between the two or will there be bigger surprises? As unpredictable as biathlon is, the competition days in Arber will offer a great biathlon-show with turns and twists of this beautiful sport.
Live streaming during the weekend
The IBU Open European Championships will be live-streamed Saturday and Sunday on www.biathonworld.com and many of the regular television outlets. In addition, the LIVE results will be reachable throughout the competition via the official IBU app.
The competition schedule
Wednesday, January 26th
10:15 Men’s 20 km individual
14:00 Women’s 15 km individual
Friday, January 28th
10:30 Men’s 10 km sprint
14:00 Women’s 7.5 km sprint
Saturday, January 29th
10:30 Men’s 12.5 km pursuit
13:30 Women’s 10 km pursuit
Sunday, January 30th
10:30 Mixed Relay
13:30 Single Mixed Relay
Photos: Christian Manzoni & Harald Deubert / IBU