Hochfilzen preview: Will the real Tiril Eckhoff show up?

Hochfilzen is one of the legacy venues that has been on the World Cup schedule every season except two since 1996, and it is a December stapler on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit. Lisa Theresa Hauser and Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen are the yellow bibs. Sebastian Samuelsson is the only athlete with three podiums this season. JT Boe is skiing below the radar - but a lot of eyes will be on Tiril Eckhoff who will try to round into form in Hochfilzen, just like in 2019 and 2020.

Tiril Eckhoff looking for brighter days in Austria

Tiril Eckhoff recorded two disasters, an eighth-place finish, and a win in the two opening weeks in Kontiolahti a year ago. She disliked living in the bubble without much socialising, but she had so much pent-up energy and ambition in her that it simply had to come out. Eckhoff won 12 more times by the season’s end - two of those wins came in Hochfilzen - and collected the first Total Score title. She looked very un-Tiril in Oestersund last two weeks, for her ski speed was nowhere to be detected. Usually one of the fastest, if not the fastest on the tracks, she was succumbing 40 meters every kilometre compared to the fastest Elvira Oeberg.

This means that Elvira might beat Eckhoff in a sprint even with two misses (and when Tiril shoots 10/10). But Eckhoff is a mercurial person who will be looking for sunlight in Hochfilzen - a venue she has done well in recent years. Tiril won three times and shot a career-first 20/20 two seasons ago. Dorothea Wierer will also be looking to revive her spark in Hochfilzen, where two of her 12 wins happened. She will hope to get her fast, confident shooting cadence back and start hitting the form that could bring her the Olympic glory in China.

Look at the men’s stats in the IBU App, and you will see that JT Boe’s biathlon is not bad at all despite just one podium in Oestersund: he is skiing a notch slower than the fastest Sebastian Samuelsson and Emilien Jacquelin and shooting with a convincing 91% accuracy.  He remains steady in the early stage fight for the Total Score from the second row while others revel in their moments in yellow. Will Christiansen’s form and mind hold firm as he will start as the leading man for the first time in his life in tomorrow’s sprint?

Two other big questions before Hochfilzen’s start: 

1 How will Sturla Holm Laegreid be doing after sitting out the first two competition?

2 Will Swedes keep their phenomenal ski speed from the opening two weeks (last year they didn’t)?

Why it matters before the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022

Finishing on the podium or in flowers in Hochfilzen paved the way to the Olympic glory in PyeongChang 2018. Just think: Martin Fourcade was second and third in Hochfilzen and won gold in the pursuit and in the mass start. JT Boe won twice in Hochfilzen and won gold in the individual in South Korea. Anastasiya Kuzmina won in the pursuit in Austria and in the mass start in PyeongChang. Darya Domracheva won in the sprint and led the Belarus women relay to the most surprising gold. Arnd Peiffer was fifth in the Hochfilzen sprint and first in PyeongChang sprint.

Header iconBMW IBU World Cup Hochfilzen Winners 2020/2021

Most wins in Hochfilzen: All-time and active athletes

About Hochfilzen

Hochfilzen is one of the legacy venues that has been on the World Cup schedule every season except two since 1996 and it is a December stapler on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit. Surrounded by high peaks, Hochfilzen frequently starts its December week with a ribbon of snow set in meadows of brown grass but ends up buried in early winter snow. Sitting above the village, almost any spot in the stadium offers multiple views of the tracks that loop in close proximity to the shooting range.  The tracks drop down the valley and up a steep climb with a second long uphill before an equally long downhill and the final short steep bump into the shooting range. Hochfilzen’s all-uphill finish is one of the toughest last 100 meters in biathlon.

Photo: IBU/C. Manzoni; IBU archive

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