Women’s Power Rankings: I don’t usually do this but just a quick thought on the Women’s World Cup this season…it’s pretty wild. Røiseland (spoiler alert) has really been the only one to separate herself as being a half level above. But there is a group of about 12 women who I am not surprised to see push for the top 5 on any given today. It’s been a lot of fun. Still early in the season but it could be a pretty wild 2nd half of the season if this keeps up!
1. Marte Olsbu Røiseland (Last week 1) – I think at this point its hard to argue against Røiseland as the best women’s biathlete right now. She is consistently in the mix week in and week out with only 1 finish outside the top 10. She’s also been the best at turning her opportunities into successes with 2 wins on the season already. She had 3 wins all of last season so she’s well on her way there. The interesting thing is that if we were doing this exactly a year ago (which we weren’t quite yet) there is an argument that Røiseland would have been the #1 then as well. Of course we all remember last season for Tiril Eckhoff’s dominance but Røiseland took the yellow jersey from Hanna Öberg in the third weekend of the year and held it until the World Championships. Her ski speed is actually just a little bit behind where she has been the last few seasons but her shooting is significantly improved. Now is that sustainable is the question. If she does keep shooting like this she may very well carry the yellow jersey for the rest of the season.
2. Elvira Öberg (2) – Another week and another podium for Elvira Öberg. At the start line I still believe she has one of the best chances to win because of her phenomenal speed on the snow so she’s got to be left high on this list but she may see a drop unless she starts converting some of these chances.
3. Dzinara Alimbekava (4) – Alimbekava, for better or worse, has been the most consistent biathlete man or women. After this weekend out of six total solo races she has never been outside the top 10 including four 4th place finishes. That is both so incredible to have such a great start to the season and incredibly frustrating to be that close to the podium so many times without breaking through. She is skiing really well this season regularly ranking in the top 15 just as she did last season. And she’s shooting much cleaner particularly with her prone shooting up from 83% to 95%. Just like with Öberg though it just feels like a matter of time before that W comes.
4. Hanna Sola (10) – The fast riser on the list but that’s what happens when you have a dominating Sprint win and a 2nd in Pursuit. Just like her teammate, Sola has maintained the gains she made in ski speed last season but added improved shooting. Her shooting rank is up from regularly being in the mid 40’s to now being at least in the 20’s. It’s very early but last season her prone shooting percentage was 73% and that’s up to 93%. Standing percentage also up from 68% to 81%. If she can keep up this newfound shooting though the Belarussian duo is going to be heard from every weekend.
5. Hanna Öberg (7) – Is it possible Hanna Öberg is actually having a better season that Elvira Öberg? If you took out her disastrous Individual race to open the season she would be 3rd overall in the points standings. She’s finished higher than her sister in half of the races. So why is she ranked 3 spots lower? Honestly I’m not sure why. Well because I had to put down and order and this is what I landed on. Is that a good reasoning? Absolutely not. I can stare at the data all day but when the skis meet the snow I just feel more comfortable with Alimbekava and Sola over Hanna Öberg right now. That could and likely will change by next weekend. I expect this to be most “controversial” of these rankings.
6. Lisa Theresa Hauser (3)
7. Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet (5) – These two are in roughly the same the same boat this weekend. Neither did much to distinguish themselves this weekend. However they’ve also already proven they can race well this season and have history to back them up so I won’t drop them too far.
8. Denise Herrmann
9. Justine Braisaz-Bouchet
10. Franziska Preuß – All three have shown flashes that they have to be considered. Herrmann has been the most consistently dangerous even though Braisaz-Bouchet has the highest finish of the bunch. Preuß has just missed on some big opportunities this season with twice having inopportune misses that kept her off the podium.
Men’s Power Rankings: The men on the other hand seem to be settling in to a bit of a rhythm. Not that every race goes the way you would expect but it *feels* less up and down for whatever that is worth.
1.Sebastian Samuelsson (1) – Actually didn’t have that great of a weekend finishing 14th in the Sprint and just edging into 3rd in the Pursuit but he also grabbed the yellow jersey from Christiansen. Can’t really bump a guy down when he gets the overall lead can you? This is when things started to get a little shaky for him last season so it will be key to watch how his form holds up.
2. Emilien Jacquelin (3) – Actually did have a great weekend. He finished 6th in Sprint and a solid 2nd in Pursuit to establish himself as the #2 man behind Samuelsson. I believe he will have a serious crack at the leaders bib before this season is over. He’s skiing just a touch faster this season, and if you ignore a rough Individual race to start the campaign he’s been shooting at about his career average. He’s got a few areas where he can clean it up too including a fairly pedestrian shooting speed and range time. Would not surprise me in the least to see him grab a win or two this season.
3. Quentin Fillon Maillet (7) – Hard not to put him in 2nd after a weekend with a W and a pretty solid upward trajectory. Just couldn’t find a way to get him above Jacquelin though. His ski rank is down a little bit though, including a surprising 14th fastest skiing in his recent win which indicates he relying a bit too much on good shooting. We’ll see if his ski speed doesn’t pick up. May actually be an indication that he is only going to get better.
4. Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen (2)
5. Tarjei Bø (6)
6. JT Bø (4) – Not sure what to make of the Norwegian bunch here. I mentioned yesterday the Norwegian women showing signs of life. Well the Norwegian men haven’t been bad this year it’s just been the absence of individual dominance such as JT Bø and Laegreid showed last year or that we’ve seen from Tarjei Bø in the past. Christiansen had a really really good start to the season but that always felt like it was unsustainable. We’ll see if he doesn’t rebound but he’s never shown that kind of consistent staying power at the top of the rankings before. Meanwhile Tarjei has been consistent and fairly good. Results are actually fairly in line with what he did last season with 3 top 5’s already. JT Bø though is not nearly at the same level he’s shown. His ski speed has been “down” just a hair but in the Pursuit race this weekend he was the fastest on the course for the first time this season. Could be a sign that he’s about to get it going as the calendar turns to 2022 and we get closer to the Olympic Games
7. Eduard Latypov (8) – A welcome sight for Russian biathlon fans, Eduard Latypov has been really getting into the mix this season. His 12th place finish in the Pursuit this weekend was his worst result of the year so far which is a fair step up from last season. He only has 1 solo podium in his career but barring injury he will definitely get another this season.
8. Simon Desthieux (9)
9. Martin Ponsiluoma (unranked) – These two to varying degrees all have boom or bust potential. Ponsiluoma is one of the fastest men out there so he will always have a chance if he can get his rifle to cooperate. Desthieux this season is seeing ski speeds he hasn’t seen in 2-3 seasons so its a similar story from him.
10. Johannes Kuehn (unranked) – Kuehn meanwhile got his first W of the season so he wins the 10th spot. This spot may turn out to be a revolving door or whomever I want to highlight at any given time. I could have made compelling arguments to put Smolski or Claude or even Seppälä here but I’m going to go with Kuehn for now as he’s actually won a race this season.