Dzinara Alimbekava and Sturla Holm Laegreid were the best athletes of the 2020/2021 season younger than 25 years old and finished the season in the Blue bib. Even more compelling is the point that Laegreid finished second in the BMW IBU World Cup Total Score, just 13 points behind the three-time winner JT Boe. Alimbekava finished seventh in the women’s BMW IBU World Cup Total Score and won the U25 title with just 27 points more than Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold in the eighth.
Laegreid’s fiercest challengers were his compatriot Johannes Dale who finished fifth in the Total Score, and Sebastian Samuelsson in the sixth place; no other men athlete younger than 25 years ended in the Top 20 in the Total Score in the 2020/2021 season. Apart from Alimbekava and Tandrevold, Marketa Davidova (11th), Elvira Oeberg (12th), Julia Simon (13th), and Justine Braisaz-Bouchet (15th) finished in women’s Top 20 Total Score standings.
The big question before the start of the 2021/2022 season is: How will Laegreid and Alimbekava back up their U25 wins with (far) more expectations on their shoulders?
To put things in perspective, we analysed the past five seasons to find out how did (at that time unofficial) winners of the U25 title perform a year later.
JT Boe was the best U25 athlete two times in a row
In the 2016/2017 season, JT Boe finished third in the Total Score as the best U25 athlete among men. He went one higher in the 2017/2018 season as he finished just behind Martin Fourcade - who had the best season ever - and again as the best U25 men. JT never looked back since then and won three consecutive Total Score titles in a row in the last three seasons. In the Olympic 2018/2019 season Sebastian Samuelsson (he was just 21 years old) finished 22nd as the best U25 athlete; he finished 28th in the 2019/2020 season and was bitterly disappointed. In the 2019/2020 season, Emilien Jacquelin finished seventh in the Total Score as the best performing U25 men and went two better last season when he finished fifth.
Laura Dahlmeier finished in yellow when only 23
Laura Dahlmeier had one of the best seasons ever in 2016/2017 when she was the absolute star of the IBU World Championships 2017 in Hochfilzen and won the BMW IBU World Cup Total Score title. She was only 23 at that time and would have won the U25 title as well. Dahlmeier was again the best U25 athlete in the Olympic 2017/2018 season which she finished fourth in the Total Score. She was 12th in the Total Score in 2018/2019 when she didn’t encounter the whole season due to the injury sustained in the summer. Lisa Vittozzi finished second in the Total Score in the 2018/2019 season as the best U25 women athlete; he was 10th a year later. Hanna Oeberg was the best U25 athlete in the 2019/2020 season when she finished fourth in the Total Score. She finished fourth repeatedly in the 2020/2021 season. She was in contention for the Total Score title for two-thirds of the season before Tiril Eckhoff switched gears and left everybody in the snow.
Photo: IBU archives