Experts' Corner Oberhof 2023: Erik Lesser

Erik Lesser, the Pursuit World champion from the BMW IBU World Championships Kontiolahti 2015 and a member of eight medal-winning German Relay teams in biathlon’s big events, reviews the Mixed Relay in Oberhof 2023 and the performance of his ex-teammates and other favourites. His main message to everyone: keep your feet firmly on the ground as it is very early days.

We saw great drama and fast-changing dynamics in the Mixed Relay, the opening competition of the BMW IBU World Championships in Oberhof. The penalty loop from Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold set things on fire. Italy played for the medals, and from the beginning, so did France. Sweden had all options open until the very last shooting, and Germany had its window of opportunity. Vanessa Voigt did not respond well in the crowded field in the opening lap of her leg when her skis got tangled with the skis of other athletes. She has been in this situation before and knows it can happen. Denise Herrmann-Wick’s skiing technique looked very stable, which is always an indication of great physical shape. She had no problem pulling away from Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and bringing Germany back into the medal battle. She would have preferred no reloads before the Sprint, but that shouldn't worry her. She also withstood the pressure of the home crowd with ease.

Sturla Holm Laegreid had an incredible leg, but we knew that he was capable of wonders on the shooting range. I will not yet say that his Mixed relay performance sent a message to Johannes. It is of no great help to compare the Relay and the Sprint. It might very well be that Laegreid misses one shot less than Johannes in the Sprint. But it is hard to see an athlete who can seriously threaten Johannes in three laps of 3.3 kilometres.

Benni Doll had a shaky day in the prone in the Mixed Relay, but I can tell you there is no way he will miss three shots in the Sprint on Saturday. The opening competition is the most important for the waxing teams, to see whether they got the conditions right, but it rarely defines the whole championships for one athlete. Doll is an experienced athlete. He knows that he is in fair shape. He has enough time to talk things through with the coaches and get two intense days of practice under his belt. Hopefully, he can put his relay performance aside, get his confidence back and have a successful Sprint.

Oberhof 2023 continues with the Sprint for women. To search for the favourites, you don't need to look any further than the BMW IBU World Cup Sprint standings. All the top women this season had a convincing performance today. I would count Herrmann-Wick among the top favourites for (at least) the podium position. But everybody needs to keep their feet firmly on the ground. It was day one in Oberhof. It was sunny, and wind played (almost) no role. Things can look very different on Friday.

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