Hartweg's last minute Home run

A week before the last hurrah of his first full-time BMW IBU World Cup season, Niklas Hartweg felt he had nothing left to give. He posted a telling message: “Batteries dead." In a dramatic reversal of fortunes, Hartweg cleared all 50 targets in Oslo-Holmenkollen, transformed 32nd place in the Sprint into 6th in the Pursuit, and closed the season with the 2nd place in the Mass start and the winner of the Men’s U25 Cup Score, a worthy successor to Sturla Holm Laegreid.

Blue Opening

Hartweg opened the season with a career-first 20/20 and a sensational 2nd place in the Individual in Kontiolahti.

“I am speechless at the moment. During the race, I felt that my skiing was pretty good, and my shooting went well. After I closed the last target, I thought this might be the day I could reach for the stars for the first time in the World cup. I got the right pacing from the beginning and kept it through the end,” said Hartweg.

First-ever World cup podium brought Hartweg a Blue bib on the first day of the season and opened a world of possibilities. Could he be Sturla Holm Laegreid’s successor as the U25 Cup Score winner? Hartweg stayed humble.

“It would be nice to fight for the Blue Bib, stay consistent, and see what’s possible after Christmas with some good training. Staying in the top 10 or 15 in the Total Score until the end of the season would be great. Filip Fjeld Andersen and Tommaso Giacomel are strong competitors for the U25 Cup Score win,” said Hartweg.

Andersen and then Giacomel take over

Hartweg’s instincts proved him right. Andersen had a run of strong results in Annecy Le Grand Bornand and grabbed a Blue bib after the Pursuit in France. But a super important part of a biathlete’s life is staying healthy for four months. Andersen contracted a virus before Ruhpolding and never came remotely close to the shape he held just before Christmas until the end of the season.

And just as Andersen started to fade, Giacomel became hot and connected two Flower podiums in Pokljuka. Hartweg took over Andersen as the U25 Cup Score leader after the Mass start in Ruhpolding. But a second-place finish in the Individual in Oestersund catapulted Giacomel to the top. He was the man in form. And with Hartweg’s ski speed on a downward spiral, Giacomel looked set to finish the season in Blue.

Header iconBiathlon Insider 27 - Feature - Blue bib - Niklas Hartweg

Blue closing

Hartweg usually needs a lot of skiing to feel good on the tracks. With his body tired, he and his coaches opted for three days of complete rest in Oslo.

“Oestersund was a disaster for me. My skiing was slow, my batteries empty, and I felt the pressure of the U25 Cup Score battle. I felt I needed to head into the off-season. I still went to Oslo. After three days of rest, I shot clean in the Sprint and finished only 32nd. I paid the price for the days of rest. But my energy levels started to rise, and come the weekend, I felt ready,” explained Hartweg.

Hartweg clocked the best Pursuit time and finished 6th. Before the Mass start, Giacomel had 39 points advantage, a seemingly unassailable lead. Hartweg had other ideas. He was sixth after the first shooting, briefly took the lead after the second, and fought hard with Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen until the end. A mighty final lap brought him a second podium finish of the season and - with Giacomel missing five shots and finishing 21st - the U25 Cup Score win!

“This season had been a learning process. Increased media attention was new for me. I grew into the situation and learned how and when to switch it off. I was quite comfortable with the stressful situations on the shooting range at the end.”

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