Experts' corner: Clare Egan

Clare Egan is serving her final weeks as the Athletes' Committee representative in the IBU Executive Board. She has trained annually and competed at Soldier Hollow in the BMW IBU World Cup and domestic competitions. She analyses the 2023/2024 season before its final two weeks and explains what might change as athletes face increasing fatigue.

The World Cup is heading for its final two weeks in Soldier Hollow and Canmore, and Norwegian men are dominating the game, but they got shut out of individual victories at the Opening in Oestersund. They are dominant but not unbeatable, and we might see fresh changes as fatigue builds among the Total Score contenders. The teams will also face the unusual challenge of adapting to a new time zone and high altitude in North America.

On the women's side, I have been impressed by the shooting accuracy. The three best shooters, Voigt, Vittozzi, and Jeanmonnot, are hitting 93-94% on average. Sometimes, the best shooters are not the best skiers, but all three are ranked in the Top 10 in the Total Score. They are setting such a high standard on the range. It is almost impossible to win without hitting 20/20! For comparison, the best shooter among men in the Top 10 is Tarjei Boe, with 88% accuracy. It has also been a joy to witness the surge of the French women’s team. If they can hold it together with the travel, we can expect an exciting contest for the Total Score to win.

Soldier Hollow will be challenging. At its highest point of 1800 meters, it is one of the highest venues on tour. For some reason, it always "felt" much higher than European venues of similar altitude. (Antholz, for example, is only slightly lower). I think the European athletes who have limited experience traveling to compete in faraway time zones will face an added challenge. Still, travel is part of the game. The Italians might manage the altitude and possibly the wind well. But first, they have to manage the travel.

Of course, the Americans will benefit from having trained in Utah and from having their home fans! The US team has been exciting to watch this year. The men have more depth than in a long time. They are really competitive for their four start spots, pushing each other. But while competing with one another, they maintain a supportive culture, which also promotes their performance. I’m really proud of them. And I think their atmosphere will help drive development on the women’s side, which is in a building phase. Deedra Irwin continues to highlight the results. She and Campbell Wright have proved to be a very good match in the Single Mixed Relay, which is very exciting.

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