Looking back on the past five weeks, one can see that the favourite nations - mainly Norway and Germany - played a dominant role. French women are also looking strong. Lisa Vittozzi and Tommaso Giacomel are performing very strongly for Italy this season. Lisa found her top form back last season, and I feel she is on an even higher level in 2023/2024. She remains among the top favourites for the Total Score win. Giacomel showed further improvement in skiing and is consistently stable on the shooting range. He is developing into a very accomplished athlete. He demonstrated that last week in Ruhpolding.
Tommaso’s performance positively affected the Italian men’s relay. Elia Zeni and Didier Bionaz are contributing their part. Lukas Hofer, of course, remains an essential member of the relay, but as he edges closer to the end of his career, others are coming up after him. As the youth coach, I have realised that there are ‘strong’ generations of athletes: when you have a few talented youngsters in the same generation, they tend to push each other further. The broader the basis of the kids, the likelier the possibility that there will be talented athletes. I think it is important not to jump over the levels of the competitions and move from national ones to the IBU Junior Cup, then to the IBU Cup, and hopefully at the end to the World Cup, and to learn to deal with the triumphs and defeats.
Everyone is probably wondering about Dorothea Wierer. We met over Christmas for coffee and cookies. She was herself in the casual conversation, but one could sense her frustration with health problems this winter. She decided to skip the first two weeks of 2024 and spend time training and focusing on Antholz week and then on the World Championships. I think she knows her body well and can decide when to take a break and when to train. But trust me, falling sick in the winter is frustrating. I wish her all the best for the World Championships!
With 1.600 meters above sea level, Antholz-Anterselva is the highest competition venue in the IBU World Cup. Managing oxygen consumption in the tracks is the trickiest issue. I would advise the athletes to take one breath more than usual during the shots. One needs to be 100% fit for a top performance in Antholz. Athletes who might arrive with a light cold - or have just dealt with one - might have even more difficulties than the rest.