Oslo, Soldier Hollow, and Canmore: Five Trends Worth Watching

The final lap in the 2023/24 BMW IBU World Cup season is about to begin. With the BMW IBU World Championships in the rearview mirror and visits to three distinctly different World Cup venues upcoming, it is time to ponder some season-ending scenarios and trends.

Number 1 on the list is the obvious fatigue and usual end-of-season deflation that always follows a strenuous Championships. Every competitor tried to peak for the World Championships; some succeeded, other missed the mark. Regardless, everyone put in huge mental and physical efforts during those two weeks. With virtually no real training time before the first Holmenkollen competitions, the focus has been purely rest and recovery. A few who maybe missed their NMNM goals but were close to individual medals could grab a podium or two: think Emilien Jacquelin, Sebastian Samuelsson, Franziska Preuss or Lisa Theresa Hauser. At the same time, this group and others may have little left in the tank, just trying to stay upright in the season’s remaining weeks. Watch for fatigue or lack thereof, running on fumes, and dreams of a spring beach holiday to play a part in what some podiums look like.

The post-WCH blues and illness could affect the final outcome of the Total Score battles, especially in the closely-contested women’s tussle.

Long Travel, Time Changes

This week is not a big travel ordeal, a quick flight to Oslo and four competition days with individuals, mass starts and the lightweight mixed relays. Then it gets tricky: a long travel day to Salt Lake City; in an eight-hour time change and a couple of days acclimating to the time change for good measure. After Soldier Hollow, it’s another travel day, just 2.5 hours of flying time, but another full eight hours from hotel-to-hotel plus more rifle checks and unavoidable travel mishaps. With just four competition days remaining, there will be some athletes on the starting line not with fire in their eyes, but a rather hollow-looking stare.

Conditions and Altitude

After the travel, acclimation point number 2 is Soldier Hollow’s 1600-meter, high-desert altitude with very dry air. Hydration is a critically important component for success at the 2002 Olympic Biathlon Venue. The dry air presents another challenge for ski technicians; Utah snow is unlike anything they encounter in Europe. Luckily, after previous Soldier Hollow experiences, most of the teams are aware of this, but 2024 will also be their first experience in the non-fluoro era. Physically, most of the athletes will acclimate well; those who do not will have zero fun at the exposed-to-the-elements venue with its steep climbs with short recoveries.

The season’s final week at Canmore Nordic Centre will not be quite as challenging physically: it is not as high, roughly 1400 meters. Still this 1988 Olympic venue’s tracks are challenging with again different snow conditions. Although it will be mid-March, Canmore can always throw another curve: Arctic cold fronts drop in quickly, dramatically dropping temperatures by 25°C or dump huge amounts of late winter snow. Let’s hope this does not happen, but altitude and weather are always the wild cards in this outdoor sport!

The Last Hurrahs

The end of every season always brings a few retirements. Although it is less than 24 months until the next Olympic Winter Games competitions at everyone’s favourite venue Antholz, there could be a few more final hurrahs as the season winds down. Benedikt Doll and Mona Brorsson are the only announced retirees at this point.


The most fun in the next three final weeks will be following the season-long trends, newcomers and big stars who have made this a very interesting season. Think about the possibility of Norway sweeping the top 6 in the Men’s Total Score or Justus Strelow ending the season with an eye-popping 95% shooting percentage. Will Tommaso Giacomel claim the U25 Blue Bib title he just missed last season? Does Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen have anything entertaining planned for a special moment as the season winds down? On the women’s side, will anyone challenge the overwhelmingly strong French women’s team? Is there a chance that Lou Jeanmonnot will get that 95% on the range and win a couple more times? Lisa Vittozzi: World Cup Total Score winner? A Swedish rebound after a less-than-expected IBU World Championships?

And…there just might be one more unheralded biathlete who will have a career day at Holmenkollen, in the US or Canada when all of the stars are distracted. It is biathlon…anything can happen in the last trimester!

Three more weeks of biathlon ahead…ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

Photos: IBU/ Christian Manzoni, Vianney Thibaut, Bjorn Reichert, Harald Deubert

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