Simon and Claude became the first team to defend their World Team Challenge title and the second French victors. Martin Fourcade and Marie Dorin Habert won in 2015, while Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won four consecutive times but always with different partners.
“It’s really special”
The winning pair praised the electric atmosphere and the enthusiastic fans. Simon, looking as dominant as she did winning the IBU World Cup Total Score last season, is a huge fan of the Schalke competitions. “I really like this race, being there with all this crowd, cheering for us. It's really special; when we are outside the stadium and when we go back inside, everyone is cheering, it's something totally crazy."
Hope to defend in 2024
Her teammate added his praise while thinking about a three-peat, “We really appreciate this atmosphere. It's like a game between Christmas and New Year's Eve. We really like being here and hope next year we will defend our two titles.”
Norwegians Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold and Sturla Holm Laegreid finished second, 57.5 seconds back after finishing in the same spot in the mass start. Slovenian Veteran Jakov Fak and Polona Klemencic finished third, 1:08.2 back after Fak outsprinted Germany’s Roman Rees in a last-loop shootout for the final podium spot.
Defending Champions Simon and Claude led the ten teams from the outset in the eight-stage mass start. Simon opened with a fast, clean prone stage, with her partner doing the same.
The 2023 World Cup Total Score titlist missed her first only shot of the day in the second prone while Hanna Kebinger cleaned, closing the gap to1.7 seconds, the closest anyone would get to the French team.
Simon blew away her last standing shots and Claude pulled away for a 50.5-second finish over Doll/Kebinger, with Laegreid/Tandrevold third 1:00.7 back.
With the gaps halved for the pursuit, French domination continued; Simon cleaned her first prone, paving the way to a 20-for-20 day. Tandrevold brought the Norwegians into contention shooting well in a battle with Kebinger. Laegreid’s clean shooting put the Norwegians solidly in second and out of danger after the second standing. With the Norwegians solidly in second, Roman Rees and Fak battled for the final podium spot, with Fak grabbing second in a last-loop sprint.
Prior to the main show, IBU Junior Cup Total Score leader Austrians Anna Andexer teamed up with Lukas Haslinger to win the Talent Team Challenge ahead of the French duo of Jeanne Richard and Theo Guirand-Poillot.