Best Overall Women’s Performance: Marte Olsbu Røiseland/Elvira Öberg. The top two women on the World Cup had the two best performances. It’s remarkable how well they mirrored each other. Each with a win and each placed 2nd during the other’s win. Elvira Öberg went perfect during her Sprint win and Marte Røiseland went perfect during her Pursuit victory. Røiseland actually had just one miss in all all 3 races she participated in including the relay.
I’ll discuss Elvira Öberg more below (spoiler alert) but she deserved to be mentioned as one of the winners of the weekend. As for Røiseland she is somehow looking even better than Öberg does. She had no misses in 30 shots this weekend. She had a great race in the Sprint and only lost because Elvira Öberg was perfect on the range and faster. In the Pursuit though Røiseland did what Öberg can’t do (yet) which is 20/20 shooting. It was an incredible performance. Ruhpolding isn’t a difficult shooting venue but any time you shoot perfect with a chance to win that’s incredible in my book. She’s also doing it with the full expectations this season. The spotlight is on her to perform and sometimes not having a true peer is even more stressful than having rivals. Also its remarkable to see somebody peak at age 31.
Best Overall Men’s Performance: Quinton Fillon Maillet. I won’t belabor the point here. QFM won both solo races. Hard to argue that anybody had a better weekend than he did. Let’s just break it down quickly by looking at the top line numbers. In the Sprint race he was 10/10 and was the fastest on the course. In the Pursuit he starts with a 7 second advantage, shot 18/20, and won by 8 seconds. Hard to analyze his ski speed in the Pursuit for multiple reasons. First of all Pursuits are more tactical races so the tactics will determine your speed and somebody chasing form the 15 bib might need to go faster while somebody in the 1 bib doesn’t. Also though whoever is leading late, if the lead is big enough, can take an easy last lap. A combination of both of those led to QFM not being the fastest in the Pursuit ranking 21st and +50 from Loginov. Long story short, Quinton Fillon Maillet was absolutely dominant this weekend. He’s emerged as a true and proper heir to Martin Fourcade. He is meeting all of the benchmarks of an all around champion including two more wins this weekend.
Best Young Women’s Performance: Elvira Öberg. I already mentioned Öberg’s win and second place finish but how she did it was the most important thing. Elvira Öberg seemed to gain some confidence on the range this weekend. She was 28/30 in her two races which is her best overall shooting weekend of the season. We’ve focused primarily on her speed, and for good reason, but her shooting is improving almost by the week. More on this tomorrow. Any other weekend she may have won twice but she and her sister used the off day during the relay for big training day and she didn’t have her usual speed today. Today she was 15th fastest and +26 and the entire race looked like she just couldn’t quite kick it into gear. For her overall goals this year training and building towards the Olympics was likely the better option (and it didn’t hurt too much as she still got 2nd!). This may not be her year to win the overall but at just age 22 she is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the seasons to come. We saw just a glimpse of that this weekend.
Best Young Men’s Performance: Sebastian Samuelsson. This is basically by default. He finished 18th in the Sprint after having 2 misses on a fairly easy shooting day. He was 5th fastest in the Sprint and 3rd fastest in the Pursuit which isn’t quite up to the standard he set at the beginning of the season but is still excellent. He’s been putting in the training to work towards Beijing so if this is his dip before his peak I can’t wait to see the peak. He, like most of the Swedes, has the tendency to hurt himself on the range. That was his trouble this weekend and all the speed in the world won’t be able to help him if he doesn’t get more consistent there. That’s the last thing he needs to reach his full potential in winning a crystal globe.
Best Race Women: Sprint. Ruhpolding is not a difficult shooting venue, but the top 10 women had 2 misses combined. It was a high level performance and you can argue that these women all strongly deserved their spots in the top 10. From Elvira Öberg’s terrific 10/10 while absolutely dusting the field, to Wierer’s first podium, Alimbekava once again in 4th, to Linn Persson and Mona Brorsson tying for 9th. What really made it fun though was it felt like so many women had a chance at the top 10. The entire time I was trying to give live updates, as I thought it might be winding down, another woman would come through with clean shooting and have a chance at the top end of the leaderboard. In the top 10 you had Hauser in bib 13 all the way to Mironova in bib 66. They just wouldn’t let me look away.
Best Race Men: Sprint. I won’t argue that this was the best race of the season, but it did have something I really like to see with an incredibly diverse leaderboard. You had the obvious heavy hitter Quinton Fillon Maillet with a superb performance going 10/10 on the range and the fastest time on the course. Smolski on the podium and Desthieux in the top 10 weren’t big surprises. The other 7 members of the top 10 all had good stories though. Benedikt Doll and Erik Lesser flew the flag for the home Germans. Both had their best finishes of the year in front of an unfortunately empty stadium. Vytautus Strolia from Lithuania in 4th (more later), the Finn Tero Seppala continued his great season in 5th, Dmytro Pidruchnyi from Ukraine in 7th, the very young Frenchman Eric Perot in 8th, and Joscha Burkhalter of Switzerland in 10th. Of course this was all made possible by the Norwegians skipping the weekend but these athletes all had to step up and they good advantage.
Yellow Jersey Update: I’m not going to spend too much time on this this weekend as the leads are getting larger for Røiseland and QFM at an accelerating rate.
a) Men: QFM has just about wrapped this up now. Jacquelin had a bad weekend that we’ll discuss tomorrow so Samuelsson is now in 2nd. Quinton FIllon Maillet is 97 points in the lead. That is basically insurmountable. If he races as planned next weekend and Samuelsson is off then it will be insurmountable.
b) Women: Røiseland and Elvira Öberg traded points this weekend so now lead change which helps Røiseland. At this point this is a win for Røiseland in the chase for the crystal globe. It gets her one weekend closer. Also with with both scheduled to be off training next weekend this lead won’t change until after the Olympic Games. Just for completeness Alimbekava currently 3rd and 152 points back and Hanna Öberg just 17 points behind her.
German Men: It’s obviously been a tough season for the German men without Arnd Peiffer who retired at the end of last season. However there have been signs of life and maybe just a glint of optimism for the Germans over the last few weeks of the season after a barren start. Here’s a quick breakdown of how their season has progressed just by looking at their top 10’s this season:
And in list form:
|Race||German Top 10’s|
|Östersund 1 Individual||Nawrath 6th|
|Östersund 1 Sprint||None|
|Östersund 2 Sprint||None|
|Östersund 2 Pursuit||None|
|Hochfilzen Sprint||Kuehn 1st, Nawarath 8th|
|Annecy Le Grand Bornand Sprint||None|
|Annecy Le Grand Bornand Pursuit||Lesser 10th|
|Annecy Le Grand Bornand Mass Start||Kuehn 6th, Doll 7th|
|Oberhoff Sprint||Kuehn 4th, Rees 5th|
|Oberhoff Pursuit||Rees 6th, Lesser 8th|
|Ruhpolding Sprint||Doll 2nd, Lesser 6th|
|Ruhpolding Pursuit||Lesser 6th, Zobel 10th|
These are not remotely competitive with the French or Norwegian squads. However if you compare these numbers to the same time frame from last season you find the exact same number of wins (1) and top 10’s (14). The difference is last season had 7 top 5’s to 4 this season. If you’re looking for optimism though here are three keys:
a) Last season at this stage Peiffer accounted for 5 of the top 10’s including all but 1 podium.
b) Even without Peiffer the Germans have had more men in the top 10 now than all of last season
c) 11 of the 14 top 10 finishes are in the last 6 races alone showing a definitive upswing.
We’re just beyond the halfway mark. The question now is can they keep up this recent run of success?
a) Vytautus Strolia: Just one week after the greatest finish in the history of Belgian biathlon we get the best ever finish for a Lithuanian biathlete! Strolia took advantage of benign shooting conditions to go 10/10 on the day and finish in 4th place. He backed that up nicely finishing 5th in the Pursuit. He’s been trending upwards throughout the year and had set his previous career best finish of 12th in the Sprint in Hochfilzen. The 29 year old has taken a massive leap forward this season with career best ski form and shooting accuracy. He’s currently ranked 29th in ski speed, and 55th in accuracy with a total shooting percentage of 85%. He’s currently ranked 24th overall which would huge leap up from 55th last season and his career best overall finish of 49th in the 2019-2020 season.
b) Campbell Wright: Another biathlete from a nontraditional country who took advantage of the conditions was the 19 year old Kiwi Cambell Wright. He’s had a grand total of 10 races in his career and now is the proud owner of a 25th place finish from the Sprint this weekend and a 31st in the Pursuit. Both are a step forward from his previous best finish of 40th in the first Östersund Sprint race this season. He also qualified for the Olympics officially this weekend so its quite a weekend to celebrate!
c) Personal High Finishes
Eric Perrot – The young 20 year old Frenchman attained his first career top 10 in just his 8th career race. His prior best finish was 36th in the Hochfilzen Pursuit this year. Afterwards he was compared to the great Martin Fourcade. Might be a little premature for that but he’s a great talent nonetheless and I think we’ll be seeing plenty more in the years to come.
Tero Seppälä – Stop me if you’ve heard this but Tero Seppälä had another great weekend. He finished 5th in the Sprint to tie his best ever finish and 13th in Pursuit. He’s getting dangerously close to graduating off of these lists as these are becoming more and more regular for him.
Joscha Burkhalter – Burkhalter came into the weekend with just 17 prior solo races and not a lot of success. He’s seen the lowest of lows this season when in the two Östersund Sprints he finished 111 and 110. He didn’t race again on the World Cup until Oberhof and since then has finished 29, 41, 10, and 29. That 10th place in the Sprint this week was his first top 10 and those two 29th place finishes are tied for his second best finishes. Clear that he’s found something now. Hopefully we keep seeing this side of him!
David Zobel – The 25 year old German made his first starts on the World Cup for this season in Ruhpholding, and just his 3rd and 4th WC stars ever. He celebrated being chosen for the weekend by finishing 24th in the Sprint and 10th in the Pursuit. He’s had 6 top 5’s including a win on the IBU Cup this year so he’s clearly earning some more time on the World Cup circuit.
Aleksander Fjeld Andersen – While his younger brother has been a regular on the World Cup, AF Andersen made his season debut for Norway this season. He took advantage of his brother’s absence (along with the entire rest of the men’s team for training), and finished 11th in the Sprint. It was his best ever finish on the World Cup and led the Norwegian squad that was missing their top line stars. Once again we see how stacked this squad truly is.
Erdal – Not as many career weekends on the women’s side but Karoline Erdal certainly made the most of her opportunities this week. The 24 year old came into the weekend with only 10 prior World Cup level races and only 3 this season. She took advantage of Tandrevold and Lien off training and finished 15th in the Sprint and 17th in the Pursuit both of which were good enough for career bests.