It’s the very first weekend recap in this history of this blog and we are already breaking the rules! As you all are quite aware the world championships take place over much more than just a single weekend! Did anybody not have fun watching worlds the last few weeks? I guess if you’re a fan of German Biathlon you probably aren’t super thrilled but overall it was a very entertaining week. And it needed to be because those of us in the US or even further west had a couple of very early mornings. Let’s get to it!
Best Overall Performance Men: Sturla Hold Lægreid. And honestly it wasn’t even that close. He tied with teammate JT Bø for most total medals with the difference being Lægreid won 2 individual gold medals in addition to the 2 he won in relays with JT Boe. No other man won more than 1 gold. His worst finish on the weekend was 7th in the Sprint. It’s hard to fault him too much for that one when he went 10/10. Just needed a warm up race to get ready for the rest of the week. In fact Lægreid won the last 3 races he entered: the 20km Individual, the 4×7.5km relay, and the 15km Mass Start. How did he do it? Well he had 5 misses…for the entire weekend. Just 2 in individual events. He’s got significantly more speed than other sharpshooters like Simon Eder. The result? A whole lot of hardware.
Best Overall Performance Women: Tiril Eckhoff. You know how Lægreid was the easy overall victor on the men’s side? Eckhoff was even further ahead of the competition on the women’s side. She was actually just the best overall performance period. She had 2 more medals than even Lægreid and Bø. Gold medals in Sprint, Pursuit, 4x6km Relay and Mixed 4×7.5km Relay to go with the silver in Single Mixed Relay and bronze in an epic Norwegian sprint to the finish in Mass Start. She even delivered, in my opinion, the quote of the championships echoing herself from just before Christmas saying “I’m going to sleep…I’m going to eat, and…I have nobody to make love with so…” She didn’t shoot as perfectly as Lægreid but she just kicked everybody’s butts.
Best Young Athlete Performance Men: Sebastian Samuelsson. In my mind it came down to him or Johannes Dale. In the individual races Dale actually did perform better in all but Pursuit where Samuelsson won his silver medal. Samuelsson did participate in Sweden’s silver medal winning 4×7.5km Relay and 3rd place Single Mixed Relay though and that broke the tie. Both of these guys came in off of their top form of the year though. Samuelsson had a white hot start to the season and led the u25 season competition through Oberhoff but his performances had been dropping off the last several weekends. Dale had recently had some troubling relay performances and a less than stellar weekend in Antholtz. Both put those issues faaaaar in the rearview mirror with excellent World Championship performances. ****Editing to add that I’m leaving Lægreid out of this category because he’s too dang good. When you’ve got my overall best performance for the weekend then you’re on a different level. To be fair Samuelsson and Dale aren’t that far behind but this way I had a way to highlight them as well****
Best Young Athlete Performance Women: Okay I’m going to cheat here…how about Ingrid Tandrevold, Markéta Davidová, and Ida Lien. Briefly the case for each: Tandrevold had her best Worlds since Junior Worlds 2017 with silver in Pursuit and bronze in Mass Start to go with the team gold in the 4x6km Relay. Probably her best full competition performance at the World Cup Level. Davidová got her second career individual W and it came in style in the Individual Race. Ida Lien gets a mention too not because she performed as well as Davidova or Tandrevold but relative to expectations she was excellent with 17th in Sprint and Pursuit followed by an even more excellent 11th in Individual. She also during the 4x6km relay inherited a lead and kept it. Was she the best young woman in Pokljuka? No. But she did have a tremendous showing and I’m excited for her future!
Best Men’s Race: Mass Start. Reasonable minds may differ on this one. I didn’t think there was any single race that was significantly more exciting than another. Why I liked the Mass Start though was just watching Simon Eder and Jakov Fak hang around while the lead group steadily was whittled down. I started the day really wanting to put each of them, and especially Eder, on my top 5 list but I didn’t end up doing it. Of course they didn’t end up reaching the podium but every time they left the range and they were still amongst the leaders I got more and more excited and ultimately they ended up top 5. Really nice performances from each of them and a very enjoyable way to close out the Pokljuka World Championships.
Best Women’s Race: Mass Start. You might be able to tell but I really love a good mass start race! This one was special though. Anybody who has read anything under the ‘Penalty Loop’ label knows that I have been a major fan of Lisa Theresa Hauser. Seeing her bring home the gold in this race was tremendously exciting. Also the way she did it with clean shoot after clean shoot was so much fun to watch. But the race somehow got more entertaining just behind her with an absolutely wild Norwegian last lap sprint resulting in silver for Tandrevold and bronze for Eckhoff after she blew by Roeiseland in the last few meters. Thankfully everybody seemed to enjoy it but I have to admit that if I was Roeiseland I might have been a little ticked about Eckhoff sprinting past her to steal the bronze. This by the way was my favorite race of the entire championships.
Favorite ‘Other’ Moments:
- Single Mixed Relay final shoot. For some background, leading into the race I was a little confounded as to the French team strategy going with Antonin Guigonnat and Julia Simon. Well I was quickly corrected and came to understand the overall team strategy. And boy was I wrong to ever doubt it! To set the scene you had Dorthea Wierer and Julia Simon lead the way onto the range followed closely by Tiril Eckhoff. Blashko, Hauser, and Hanna Öberg about 15 seconds behind. Wierer and Hauser had a major struggle fest and both ended up on the penalty loop. Simon had 1 miss and Eckhoff goes clean finally eliminating the 16 second deficit she inherited. The two go neck and neck until about the last km when Simon put a move on Eckhoff and left her behind taking the gold for France. Just an incredible moment. We need more Single Mixed Relays!
- Men’s Pursuit. I’ll make this one short…Samuelsson and JT Bø together on the final lap and Samuelsson once again pulled away from Bø. This led me and @rjweise to consider the question have we ever seen JT Bø win in a final sprint? More on that to come in the near future!
- North American Skiers: I don’t have time to list them all but we had some really nice performances from American and Canadian athletes in Pokljuka. In particular for the US biathlon team Jake Brown was very good the entire championships and Canadian Christian Gow had a terrific 11th place finish in the mass start after being very highly placed early in the race to go along with a 17th in the sprint. Way to go North American biathletes!
Most Disappointing: I generally like being optimistic and positive but I think it is important to look at those who had somewhat disappointing championships in Pokljuka
- Lukas Hofer: I had high hope for him after a very good start to 2021. He cooled off a touch in Antholtz but I was hoping he was waiting for another peak in Pokljuka. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Nothing tremendously bad but I was thinking he had a podium run in him and it just wasn’t to be.
- JT Bø. This isn’t fair at all as he tied Lægreid for the most medals. Just one of those was in an individual race and do you really think he’s satisfied with that? Much much more on this to come very soon.
- Dorthea Wierer. Just a bit of an off season compared to her last 2 crystal globe winning campaigns. I was going to leave her off of this list but the Single Mixed Relay final shoot really stuck with me. I wrote a long threat on twitter about team events that I’ll convert to a more coherent post here in the future and she played a role in that. For someone of Wierer’s stature though to come in to the range in the front of the pack and to end up on the penalty loop is really the definition of disappointing. To be fair to her the comeback from 20th after the S to finish just off the podium in Pursuit was nearly a miracle comeback only someone like her could do. If she had finished on the podium she wouldn’t be on this list. But honestly like JT Bø do you think she’s satisfied going home?
- Team Germany: This mostly speaks to the enormous expectations for the German team but Peiffer’s 2nd place in Individual (actually a really good overall day for the team with 3 top 11 finishers) and the women getting siler in the 4×6 being the only medals is decidedly disappointing. Still 3 more weeks to go and I am optimistic that they will finish strong (based on nothing but blind faith…and I really like Preuss’ form).
Okay that’s it for this week. I wanted to do more and it will look a little better in the future. I was a little pressed for time trying to get this up before too much time passed from the weekend. Thanks for sticking with me!