Laegreid's goals for the new season

Sturla Holm Laegreid’s first full season on the BMW IBU World Cup circuit was one of the most remarkable rookie seasons ever. The seven victories including two individual IBU World Championships titles, World Cup Pursuit and Individual Score Crystal Globes, and second in the World Cup Total Score astonished not just the biathlon world, but also Laegreid.

“I had plenty of time to think about it and it is still difficult to comprehend what I did. I am always thinking ahead; what I can do better, what is the next goal. Now, I am not thinking about what I have done, but things to come like Olympics; I have many more years in my career so there are improvements to be made in shooting and skiing. I am just looking forward. When I was forced to sit back and look at what I have done, it is like a fairy tale.”

 

Staying out of the IBU Cup

The fairy-tale success changed Laegreid’s goal for the 2020/21 season which was simply to stay on the World Cup squad.  “To achieve so many goals in one season was so beyond my expectations. My goal going into the season was to not be switched out with the recruit guys. I did not want to go to the IBU Cup because I thought I was done with that. That was the pressure that I felt. After the first race I won in Kontiolahti, everything changed. I could relax, lower my shoulders and focus on what I am good at. That was a gift to me; to be able to work on my strengths instead of worrying about failure.”

 

Chasing Tarjei

Despite his modest goal for the season, Laegreid’s confidence was buoyed as soon as he got on snow. “I did not feel THAT good going into the season; I am worse on rollerskis compared to on snow. My self-confidence always takes a hit in the summer, because I am so much slower. But in our first snow camp, I could stay behind Tarjei, not all the time but sometimes and I was comfortable there. Because of that confidence, I was able to follow him in the Kontiolahti race; he started exactly one loop in front of me. I stayed on his back in loops 1-4 and he set a perfect pace for me.” Result: twenty perfect shots and career victory number one set the tone for Laegreid’s spectacular winter.

“Do what you are good at”

The then 23-year-old learned a big lesson in that victory. “Do your own best, you cannot do something that you did not train for. To achieve your goals, you have to work within your capabilities; show your strengths. I did that and succeeded. I thought, ‘I do not have to do something else. I do not have to shoot like Johannes or sprint like Jacquelin. If I just do what I am good at, that is enough to achieve my goals.’ It is not about overachieving: do what you are good at, do it well and you will succeed. I carried that mantra throughout the season. After the first race, everything was a bonus for me.”

Not a Sprinter

As hard as it is to believe, Laegreid has some weaknesses. Without hesitation and a big laugh, he revealed, “I and everyone else know that I am a bad sprinter! If I am in group, I will lose for sure. I always try to decide the race before that with clean shooting and a hard pace in the laps before, because I have a tendency to collapse in the last loop. I always had a good enough gap that it did not matter.” As for remedying that weakness. “I always do sprints in the summer, but I never get faster!”

 

 

  “Fun all season”

At the end of a long season, almost everyone is running on fumes, trying to survive the last few competitions. That was not the case for the young Norwegian. “When the season ended, I was not completely exhausted, because it was all new to me. Every World Cup experience gave me more motivation. I had fun all season and was a bit sad when it was over. It was a good end to the season, being second to Johannes. That was a victory for me; I was happy. I enjoyed the season and was not tired out by the races and the pressure. Maybe that is why I still had energy.”

 A big part of his individual success comes from the positive vibes and supportive atmosphere within the Norwegian team. “One of the biggest strengths of Team Norway is that we support each other, even on the individual races…In our team, we are very good at helping each other. There are no secrets… As a group, we want to achieve the best results for Norway. If one person has a bad day, he still congratulates the other person. We all have out ups and downs but as a team we support each other.”

 

Summer at Altitude

Looking towards the new season and Beijing 2022, the Norwegians as did many other teams, spent much of their summer at altitude. “It was our philosophy this year to have altitude camps to prepare for the Olympics. We structured our training program a bit differently because normally. We had to start hard combo training quite early because we wanted to do intensity at altitude. Those camps have been very good for me. I do pretty well at altitude, although I do not have much experience. Sometimes I do not feel it much, like in Martell where I won my first IBU Cup race, but Antholz feels harder to me, but that could be the tracks. 1700 or 1800 meters does not feel the same everywhere, so it was good to have camps in different places.”

The man who shot 92% last season admitted one of his best days of the summer came in moderate-altitude Obertilliach. “It was just a basic shooting session. I felt like a king. I mastered every exercise. I was fast and accurate; one of those days that pushes you further as a biathlete and motivates you. You want to have more days like that!”

Ole, Martin, Emil, and…Sturla

Last season’s four IBU World Championships Gold medals put Laegreid in rare air with just three other men winning that many Gold medals in a single IBU WCH: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Martin Fourcade, and Emil Hegle Svendsen. Laegreid humbly reacted, “I am just Sturla from Norway. Being compared to just one of those guys is crazy. I do not know how to describe it. I feel like that I have years ahead of me. To have already accomplished this is unreal.”

 

Goal is “to improve”

Such a momentous beginning to his career leads to, what is next for Sturla Holm Laegreid; is it simply to stay healthy and have a good season? “To be honest, yes. I want to do this for a long time; what drives and gives me motivation is improvement. I am not 100% in shooting and I know I have the potential to go faster on the skis. My goal this is to improve; try to be better than last season. To ask for a season of the same caliber is very selfish.”

 

Olympic Chances

Underlying the desire to improve is a single goal which Laegreid admits is not a given, even for an athlete of his talents.  “I really, really want to go to the Olympics. It may sound crazy for me to say this, but you are never safe as a Norwegian because there are so many athletes that are good enough for that. It will be a tough qualifying season but I am motivated. If I can improve, I have a good chance.”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni

 

 

 

 

 

 

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