Anna, Gilonne and Selina: The Next Generation Arrives

The 2023/24 BMW IBU World Cup season ended with retirements, crystal globes, plenty of fatigue and a new generation pushing its way into prominence with breakthrough performances. High on the breakthrough list are three women poised for bigger things in coming seasons: Anna Gandler, Gilonne Guigonnat and Selina Grotian.

All three had big performance jumps, ending the season in the World Cup Total Score Top 30 buoyed by career-first Flower Ceremonies and in the Guigonnat’s case, first World Cup podium.

Gandler’s Four Flower Ceremonies

Anna Gandler’s last trimester made her season. After Antholz, she languished at 38th in the World Cup Total Score, yet by season’s end, Gandler was 19th. Her late push began with an at-that-time personal best 7th in the IBU World Championships Mass Start, continuing through the Canmore competitions. She admitted the late season surge came after a string of colds began in summer, continuing through winter. “Every single cold threw me back and I had to start from the beginning. I had to use the competitions as hard training…to get back into shape.” After Antholz, “some hard but very good training in Obertilliach” put Gandler on the road to a sterling finish, with career-first Flower Ceremonies in four of the five Soldier Hollow/Canmore individual competitions. Gandler added an exclamation mark to her season with a personal best 5th place in the Canmore Mass Start.

Although the 23-year-old shot at a solid 85% clip over the season, in those last five competitions, she went 73-for-80 on the range, about 92%. That plus consistent ski times confirmed the 2020 IBU Pursuit Youth World Champion’s arrival in just her second BMW IBU World Cup season. After four Flower Ceremonies, “For sure… the next goal now is a podium!” Based on her recent performances, expect Gandler to tick that off her list early next season.

From IBU YJWCH Star to World Cup

The youngest of this up-and-comers trio is Selina Grotian who just turned 20-years-old last week! Grotian, like Gandler ended her season with a string of highlights. The Mittenwald resident came into her first World Cup season as the unquestioned star of the 2023 IBU YJWCH. After warming up with 2022 IBU SBWCH Junior Sprint Gold and 2023 OECH Pursuit Gold, Grotian was the dominant force in Shchuchinsk, winning four Gold medals including a sprint/pursuit double. Those medals were her ticket to the German A-team.

Grotian’s first months in the World Cup were a roller coaster, first points, unexplainable bad days on the range, surprise relay team promotion culminating on the Oestersund podium, and after a seven-penalty day in Oberhof, a short reset at the Ridnaun IBU Cup. That quick step down netted two podiums there and motivation, setting up a spectacular 4th place day in Nove Mesto na Morave. She wrote on Instagram, “The excitement was there…I was able to keep myself calm…never shot four times zero in a race. Suddenly, the number four was on the finish line display. Best race of my career.” Grotian followed that 15 km individual personal best with a steady second leg on the relay; nervously watching, she screamed joyfully when Sophia Schneider’s last shot sealed Grotian’s first-ever IBU WCH medal.

The North American World Cups were as successful as the IBU WCH, with a relay second place, and Grotian’s second and third best-ever results. On the range, this new generation youngster hit 90% of her shots in the final five individual competitions, well above her 81% season average. Improvements like will put the newest German star in the battle for individual podiums very soon.

Guigonnat, “I have to trust myself”

Gilonne Guigonnat is the veteran of this next generation, with six seasons of IBU Junior and IBU Cup experience. The 25-year-old has the fewest World Cup starts of this trio, 18 compared to Grotian’s 23 and Gandler’s 53. Like her counterparts, Guigonnat was on fire late in the season spurred by two consecutive clean-shooting January IBU Cup victories.

After missing victory in the 2022/23 IBU Cup Total Score by a mere 2 points, Guigonnat jumped to the World Cup this season, peaking in Hochfilzen with a 21st/20th sprint/pursuit and first-ever World Cup relay podium. After getting sick in Lenzerheide, she started 2024 in the IBU Cup, leading to her late season resurgence. She admitted learning one thing in those weeks away from the top circuit, “I am capable of doing good things in biathlon and I have to trust myself.”

Shooting Keys First-ever World Cup podium

Known for her shooting skill, Guigonnat used it to her advantage in the season-closing weekend, hitting 48 of 50 shots in three progressively better performances: 11th sprint, 5th pursuit and a career-best third place in the season-ending mass start. In her career-second World Cup mass start, the budding French star shot clean in each stage. With each zero, Guigonnat moved from 11th to 9th to 4th to 3rd , and her first-ever World Cup podium. There is no question Canmore is her fave venue. “(The podium) feels really good, especially here in Canmore; I really like this place. Finishing the season like this could not be better!”

Anna Gandler, Selina Grotian and Gilonne Guigonnat arrived as rising stars this season, no one will be surprised to see to see them reach new heights when the new season kicks off in eight months.

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Vianney Thibaut

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