The biathlon season got underway in Finland over the weekend and the amazing Dorothea Wierer got off to a great start, taking the 15km Individual race by a bare 0.8 seconds over Germany’s Denise Hermann. The win — Doro’s 17th career victory — was down to perfect shooting.
The back-to-back overall World Champion 2019/2020 shoots the lights out. Check out this video from February 2020:
In biathlon, miss = time penalty, so it is a huge imperative to shoot clean. To shoot clean and that fast, well, that’s how you become a two-time, back-to-back world champ, which is an exceptional athletic feat. Wierer, an Italian, is also one of only three biathletes to achieve a victory in every biathlon discipline (there are several: mass starts, individual starts, relays, sprints, pursuits). The other two are legendary French biathletes Martin Fourcade and Marie Dorin Habert.
I started following Doro on social media after her win last season — lots of training shots in the Alps through summer.
For all that, Doro claims that she’s never really ready for the start of a season and is “not in great shape” as this one gets underway. She definitely slowed in the last part of the 15km, losing almost all of a 30-second lead after the final shooting stage. She said:
“It is a good feeling to be back on the podium. I was really happy about my shooting today (Saturday). It was really hard for me on the tracks especially the fourth and last loops.”
She said she expects to get stronger as the race season progresses.
She and Hermann both had a miss in the Sunday sprint and fell to Sweden’s Hanna Oeberg.
It’s way to early to start talking about a three-peat, which would be an incredible feat. But I’ll be watching and rooting for Doro, as will Captain Schwertfeger, I am sure. And I’ll take some inspiration out to the Pit for my own kettlebell hoisting-and-shooting biathlon…
I suspect that daughter Ceili will also draw some inspiration from this lovely, charming, talented, supremely fit and thoroughly badass young woman — and Ceili has a new (to her) rifle to put through the paces when she comes home for Christmas break.
On the men’s side, 23-year-old Sturla Holm Laegreid of Norway stunned the field with a convincing 19-second margin of victory in the Individual race. He, too, shot clean.
From Biathlon World:
Laegreid’s win came in just his fourth BMW IBU World Cup start. His first four starts came last season after a Silver medal in the IBU Open European Championships and a strong IBU Cup season that included a victory in the Martell Mass Start 60. After the biggest win of his career, he said, “I am still floating in space. I do not really realize what is going on. I am just enjoying it very much.”
Regarding his success last season with just a single miss in his four previous starts plus clean shooting today, he added, “I do not know, It is just luck. I will try to keep up but it is very hard. I think some mistakes will come now and then but hopefully not tomorrow.”
On wearing the Yellow Bib tomorrow, “I did not think I would have any chance of winning today. It was so sick to hear my trainers telling me I was in the lead…It was unbelievable.”
Sunday didn’t go as well, as Norwegian Johannes Thingnes Boe shot clean in the sprint and absolutely put the hammer down on the ski tracks. Boe is considered the dominant skier in the field this season after the retirement of the great Martin Fourcade.
Like lacrosse, biathlon is a sport that was unavailable to me when I was growing up in Southern California. Nowadays, I find it far more compelling than the “big” sports, and tip my hat to one of the all-time greats — who obviously ain’t done yet.
Rick Schwertfeger says
As Jim indicated, I, too, am a big fan of biathlon. And I provided some minor financial support to the U.S. team – enough so they sent me a hat which I’ve been wearing proudly!
It was a tremendously difficult off-season for the Yanks. Due to coronavirus restrictions they could not go to Europe to train – except Clare Egan did get over there for couple of weeks with the Estonians. AND, even more difficult, they could not have team training camps here. They had to train alone or buddy up. Coaching was by Zoom. They did get in one Fall camp.
Also the sport is particularly challenging for Canadians and Americans, as they fly to Europe late November, and are there until late March. Euros frequently get a few days at home between races; and certainly for the late December holidays. That is hard.
So, how did World Cup 1 go? In the Men’s 20Km. yesterday: Leif Nordgen was 25th, hitting 19/20. Sean Doherty was 39th, 18/20. They scored World Cup points (top 40). 101 finished. In today’s 10 Km.: Jake Brown, 30th, 8/10. 101 finishers. Others 43, 48, 75.
Women: 15 Km.: Joanne Reid 29th, 19/20. Clare Egan 35th, 18/20. 102 starters. 7.5 Km.: Clare Egan 27th, shooting clean. The others were bunched from 76 – 81. 104 finishers.
So, we’ll look for improvement against the Norwegians, Swedes, Germans, French, Italians.