Giacomel is coming off a breakthrough season where he ticked off a couple of boxes on his goals list. He opened his second IBU World Championships anchoring Italy’s mixed relay team to the Silver medal, a mere 11.6 seconds behind the dominant Norwegians. After that, the 23-year-old teamed up with the resurgent Lisa Vittozzi in the single mixed relay and despite two damaging penalties in his last leg, managed to grab the Bronze medal. Yet Giacomel’s season was not over. In Oestersund, the stars aligned when he hit 19 targets and skied the fourth fastest time for second place in the men’s 20 km individual, his first-ever individual podium. When the season ended, the Italian had jumped from 36th in the previous season to 12th in the World Cup Total Score.
Reflecting on his big season he admitted, “It is like when something magic is happening; you do not know the reason. I just think I found a good flow between my ski speed and my shooting. That and of course, hard training is the key…and a bit of luck, of course.”
The big breakthrough started in the Hochfilzen pursuit where, “I felt good. Before that, I was shooting poorly despite feeling physically pretty good. I was really confident after feeling good in the sprint, better in the relay (shooting clean) and then with 18 down of 20 you have the chance to deliver a good race.” That gave him sixth place and his first Flower Ceremony.
That turnaround to his season came in the form of some good advice from his coach. “He talked to me after Kontiolahti. I was skiing strong but shooting bad. He knew it was just a problem in my head. It was nothing about the technique of other stuff. The day before we went to Hochfilzen, he called into his room and said, ‘You have to enjoy. You are not in a war. Biathlon should not be a stress for you.’ It opened my mind with another view of the sport.” As the saying goes, “The rest is history.”
All season long, Giacomel was in a tight battle for the Blue Bib (under 25) with Niklas Hartweg eventually winning by 18 points. “It was fun racing with it, but it was really not my focus. I was more focused on podiums and medals. Winning it would have been cool but I cannot be disappointed with my season.”
Even after his significant performance uptick last season, Giacomel still has things to work on, especially on the range. “It is mostly about the approach to shooting. Last season gave me a lot of confidence. In past years, there were a lot of ups and downs in my shooting but this summer, it was much more stable almost every day. Consistency is the key… I have managed to shoot zero in a sprint, but not yet in a four-stage, so that is one of those small goals.”
The budding Italian star confirmed that reaching his current level has been a learning process. “When I was a junior, I focused only on biathlon and I was wrong. There is more than biathlon in life, many other things. Now in my spare time, I try to shift my focus, do other things. If you think only about biathlon, you will have a mental burnout, sooner or later.”
Even with the podium and IBU WCH medals off his list of goals, there is another, a World Cup victory that he would like to have, sooner rather than later. “You always want more. It is not easy; you have to stay relaxed and do your tasks. I love all types of races, but If I had my choice, I would like to get my first victory in a pursuit. That is where you are fighting against 60 of the best and it should be in either Le Grand Bornand (although not on the 2024 calendar) or Anterselva. I love the French crowds, but in Anterselva, they are cheering for me.”
Beyond that first victory, another goal way out on the horizon is 2026. “I do not think I can win the Overall World Cup before 2026, but winning a medal in the Olympics would be a relief. I would hope to win the Overall afterwards; I hope Johannes continues, because he makes the competition that much tougher.”
Stepping away from biathlon, sports remain a big part of Giacomel’s life.
“I love tennis. I have been watching the US Open; had some sleepless nights! It is different from biathlon but not so much. It is a mental game like biathlon. Technically all of us are able to shoot zero. In tennis, everyone has good forehands, good backhands and service, but it is a mental game; execution at certain times is key.”
Beyond the eat, train, sleep, repeat routine, “I live with my girlfriend now and I have discovered a lot. Like just going out to walk the dog. going out with friends, playing cards. There are a lot of things to do; life is more than biathlon.”
Tommaso Giacomel describes himself as “chill and relaxed,” but admitted he has one big fault. “I am really messy in everything away from biathlon. In biathlon, I am really organized, but away I am disorganized and my girlfriend hates it!”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Tommaso Giacomel, Jerry Kokesh