Experts' Corner Ruhpolding: Simon Schempp

2017 IBU Mass Start World Champion and twelve-time World Cup winner Simon Schempp joins us this week as our resident expert before the Ruhpolding BMW IBU World Cup. Ruhpolding resident Schempp, with six career podiums in the Chiemgau Arena, knows all the ins and outs of the range and tracks after training there for over 15 years. Thinking back to his 2015 Ruhpolding Mass start victory, Schempp recalled what it was like winning in his home stadium.

That was a great week; the start of 8 podium finishes in a row. The victory was one of my most beautiful individual triumphs ever. I trained in this stadium every day and got acquainted with every meter. There were thousands of German fans in the stadium, creating a fantastic atmosphere. In addition, it was a Mass start, which promises a lot of tension anyway. We were five athletes together on the last lap. A great fight down the final stretch decided a three-athlete photo-finish, with Quentin Fillon Maillet getting his first World Cup podium in second place. I was the lucky winner, and the crowd went wild. It was a dream come true, a World Cup victory at home.

Now to the present. I have followed the season so far with excitement. Of course, Johannes impresses me the most. His performances are outstanding. I think we are currently seeing the best Johannes there has ever been so far. Compared to last season, he has improved his skiing, and - under normal conditions - he is in his own league. Over the Christmas break, he increased his speed again. Besides, he shows me a very stable and focused impression at the shooting range. With his self-confidence, Johannes seems to be unbeatable. It is also a lot of fun to follow Julia Simon. Last season she had problems hitting targets. This season, however, she is very stable and exceptionally speedy, especially in standing shooting. She has the necessary cheekiness and gets frequently rewarded for it. When one is fighting for a Yellow bib, any mistakes are costly. If you act as aggressively as Julia, then you have nerves of steel.

Julia and Johannes will still need to be at their best to be on the podium this week in Ruhpolding. It has a very uncomplicated shooting range, and many athletes can shoot clean. But that can be deceiving, as athletes tend to get overconfident. Pokljuka also has a supposedly easy shooting range, and we saw some unexpected mistakes in the sprint. Finding the right balance between aggressiveness, speed, and safety is invariably fundamental for an accurate shooting performance. Experience has shown that there is not much wind at the range in Ruhpolding. However, you have to be wide awake. You have to react on the rifle to even small changes in the wind.

The shooting range is not the only thing that stands out in Ruhpolding. The audience creates a great atmosphere. The athletes need to get ready for a much louder crowd than the one in Pokljuka. You can let them help carry you along the course, but it is necessary to be fully focused and within yourself at the shooting range.

On the tracks, the challenges come in the second part of the loops. There are some heavy meters of climbing to conquer. And in those climbs, time gaps can appear, especially in the Relays and the Mass starts. But they are also good places to get in a good position for a possible final sprint in front of the screaming fans. They are just a few meters away, and the sound they create is unique.

Thinking aloud about Ruhpolding being a stepping stone to the IBU World Championships in Oberhof for the German team: one needs to perform consistently at every World cup stop, not only in Ruhpolding. Then you have a real chance to be successful at the World Championships. From the German point of view, the candidates for the podium are Denise Herrmann-Wick and Benedikt Doll. Roman Rees will hopefully also be able to show his shooting strength in the Individual and the Mass start. In the Relays, the success chances for German teams are also quite good.

My advice to my former teammates and everyone about competing in Ruhpolding is simple. I was always an athlete who enjoyed skiing in front of 20 or 30,000 fans. When I knew the stadium was packed, I automatically had a very positive basic feeling. It is necessary to find that positive attitude and realise what a privilege it is to run in front of such a big crowd. At the shooting range, it is necessary to focus entirely on yourself. That never happens overnight; it is a learning process.

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