Will Elvira Oeberg sustain her winning momentum?

Elvira Oeberg won two competitions and 168 points in Annecy Le Grand Bornand and is coming to Oberhof as the most exciting athlete of Trimester 1. Marte Olsbu Roeiseland will work hard to keep her consistency high, while ten men can each prevail on any given day. Or as Tarjei Boe said in France: “The level of biathlon this season is mind-blowing!”

Elvira is riding a winning momentum

Still only 22 years old, Elvira Oeberg broke through the ranks with great force in Trimester 1. She clocked 16 (out of 37) fastest course times in the first four weeks of 2021/2022. That translates into the two fastest course times on average in 20/20 competitions and (at least) one fastest course time in the sprint. Elvira will wear the Blue bib in Oberhof. She will also try to step up the pressure on Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, who is atop the Total Score standings with 417 points, 30 ahead of Elvira and 90 ahead of Dzinara Alimbekava. If we break down Trimester 1 week by week, we see that Olsbu Roeiseland was never the highest collector of points. Marketa Davidova and Alimbekava won 86 points at the season opener, Lisa Theresa Hauser 103 points in the second Oestersund week, Hanna Sola 114 in Hochfilzen, and Elvira Oeberg 168 in Annecy-Le Grand Bornand. Olsbu Roeiseland came in third in both Oestersund weeks and second in Hochfilzen and Annecy-Le Grand Bornand and was thus the most consistent one. She lost head-to-head skiing battles with Elvira and Hanna Oeberg in France. That might be concerning for a wise champion who says out loud that her focus is the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, but undoubtedly has the Total Score on her mind.

On the men’s side, the field is more expansive and more exciting than it has been in years. We had seven Yellow bib holders – Sturla Holm Laegreid, Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, Simon Desthieux, JT Boe, Quentin Fillon Maillet, Sebastian Samuelsson, and Emilien Jacquelin – with Samuelsson managing to wear it three times and Christiansen twice. If Norway skips one week before Beijing 2022 (most probably Ruhpolding), Jacquelin’s, Fillon Maillet’s, and Samuelsson’s odds of wearing the Yellow bib at the end of the season increase a great deal. Add Tarjei Boe and Eduard Latypov to the mix, and we are looking forward to another week of magnificent battles in Oberhof. 

Why does it matter before the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022?

With just a 20-point lead over JT Boe, Martin Fourcade arrived in Oberhof in January 2018 as focused as ever. He knew he had almost no room for mistakes on the shooting range if he wanted to win, for he couldn’t match Boe’s formidable skiing speed. The great Frenchman won the sprint and the pursuit, where he stared down his chasers, Johannes, his brother Tarjei and Emil Hegle Svendsen, before heading towards another victory. “I just wanted to show them that I fear no one,” explained Fourcade. He won gold in the pursuit and mass start in PyeongChang 2018, while JT won gold in the individual. Arnd Peiffer was 12th in the Oberhof sprint, not exactly a clear indicator that he would take an Olympic gold a few weeks later. Anastasiya Kuzmina won both the sprint and the pursuit and continued her winning ways in Korea by taking gold in the mass start and silver in the pursuit and individual. Laura Dahlmeier, who took the sprint and pursuit gold in PyeongChang, was 13th in the sprint and 7th in the pursuit in Oberhof, her skiing speed not even close to Kuzmina’s. Sweden won the men’s relay, a remarkable feat that they repeated at the Olympic Winter Games. France won the women’s relay, whereas Belarus got lapped due to three penalty loops from Dzinara Alimbekava. Six weeks later, Iryna Leshchanka replaced Nadzeya Pisarova, and Belarus stunned the competition with a win in Korea!

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About Oberhof

Oberhof’s Lotto Rennsteig Arena typically packs close to 100,000 biathlon fans for the BMW IBU World Cup over the first weekend of each New Year. The face of this venue, just 2 km from the village, is constantly changing with ever-larger grandstands, a revamped shooting range, and recently redesigned tracks that cut through the pine forest. The fans in the grandstands are renowned for their boisterous cheering and singing. The tracks, frequently lined with fans, 10 deep in spots, have tight turns that cause frequent crashes and feature steep grinding uphills, culminating in a long flat run to the shooting range.

Photo: IBU; C. Manzoni; IBU Archive

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