2021-2022 First Trimester Recap

I was sitting here trying to figure out where to start so I decided to just make a short list of what I thought were the top moments/stories/events of the first month of the IBU World Cup biathlon. Almost immediately the list was way way way too long. This has been an absolutely terrific season. I know that I say this every year but that’s probably just a reflection on the nature of biathlon as a sport. It lends itself to unpredictability, wild swings, and excitement. I desperately want the season to restart but I also want it to slow down because I miss it so much from late March to late November! I did finally make my list (a little) shorter. I’m sure this won’t be the last I put up between now and the restart in January. Some of these sections might be blown out into longer form pieces. I just love it too much!

1. French Revolution?

For the French men’s team last season was about learning how to move on with life after Fourcade. As it turns out the season was more than a little bumpy. Early in the season every week the question was “where are the French men?” “Who is going to step in and lead after Fourcade?” The narrative of last season was one of a struggle for the French men. And it wasn’t always wrong.

This was a French program that had grown used to being on top. Over the last 20 seasons there had been consistent top notch high level French biathletes vying for the crystal globe and that simply did not happen in the 2020-2021 season. This year though is a completely different story. The French men have dominated early season storylines and as we break for the holidays continue to lead the pack. It feels like an enormous reversal, a revolution if you will. But was last season really as bad as it was made out to be? And is this season really that much better?

Continue Reading French Revolution?

2. Career Best Seasons (so far)…

Anybody who has followed me for any amount of time knows that I get really excited about biathletes with career bests. I get even more excited when somebody is have run of career best finishes turning into a career season. And I get ecstatic when I identify somebody early that is turning in a career year. Well we’re four weeks in and I wanted to make special mention of some men and women who are doing exactly that!

I’m going to start by pointing out some that are having early career seasons. In order to qualify for this list these athletes need to have shown that they have moved into a new tier, at least so far this season. For example if somebody were to currently be in 11th place and their previous career best was 13th they haven’t really moved up. However (spoiler alert) Alimbekava moved from 7th last season up to 3rd right now and this is a move up. I also want to point out at least one statistic or indication for where this improvement came from. I promise I won’t go too deep as I want to keep this fairly breezy.

Continue Reading Career Best Seasons (so far)…

3. Great Norwegian Expectations:

Norway is one of the dominant biathlon nations. The sport was invented in Scandinavia (possibly even Norway) with the skiing soldiers and has deep roots amongst the Norwegian people. Since the founding of the IBU Norway has 14 overall men’s titles to go with 8 women’s titles ranking 1 and 2 for most titles respectively. This success has not surprisingly carried over to the Olympic level as well. Biathlon was competed as “military patrol” in the early Winter Olympic games, but it first appeared in the Olympic program as we would recognize it in 1960. Since then Norway has won a total of 41 medals including 16 gold ranking behind only Germany in both categories.

This isn’t only history though. Over just the last 20 years Norway has won 10 men’s overall titles as well as 9 second place finishes. On the women’s side, while there hasn’t quite been as much recent success, Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff have won 3 titles in the last 10 seasons. This all amounts to a history of success and high expectations.

Continue Reading Great Norwegian Expectations

4. Where Are They Now?

It’s the nature of sport that not every athlete will be at their top form every single year. There are so many variables in every sport from natural aging, illnesses (especially the last 2 seasons), changes at home not to mention changes to training regimens etc. Of course as fans we hope that every biathlete is going to be at their peak for every for every race but that’s clearly not possible. It’s not even advisable as athletes will have different goals every year such as peaking for Olympics/World Championships. As a result there will always be some turn over in the top 10 from year to year.

What I wanted to do now was take a look at several athletes who were in the top 10 at the end of last season who aren’t there now. Think of this as a bit of a companion piece to the Career Best Seasons (so far…) I am going to try to look at what has changed in their performances that caused their regressions this year and if it appears to be fixable. (I’m really going to try to make this shorter I promise!)

Continue Reading Where Are They Now?

5. Previewing Women’s Overall Race:

As we gear up for the next segment of the season I want to take a look at the women’s race for the crystal globe. Looking back over the last several seasons its right around weeks 4-5 that the separation occurs between the true contenders and the rest of the pack. There are probably many reasons for that including not the least of which by now competitors start to accumulate enough points to really make the differences more stark. It’s also around week 4 that some of the preseason training is wearing off and starting again in week 5 you can see who made the most of the holiday break. Either way, this is the point in the season where usually the true contenders become clear.

So who are the true contenders of this season? Well let’s start by taking a look at the current top of the women’s overall standings.

Continue reading Previewing Women’s Overall Race

6. Previewing Men’s Overall Race:

We’ve taken a look at how the women’s overall World Cup overall race is shaping up so now let’s take a look at a very deep and very tight men’s race. Looking back over the last several seasons and usually its right around weeks 4-5 that the separation occurs between the true contenders and the rest of the pack. Really its usually right around now that the eventual winner separates out from the pack as the men’s World Cup has had a lot of not very close overall races recently. However if it is a close season this is usually where the leaders pull away. There are probably many reasons for that including not the least of which by now competitors start to accumulate enough points to really make the differences more stark. It’s also around week 4 that some of the preseason training is wearing off and starting again in week 5 you can see who made the most of the holiday break. Either way, this is the point in the season where usually the true contenders become clear.

So who are the true contenders of this season? Well let’s start by taking a look at the current top of the men’s overall standings.

Continue reading Previewing Men’s Overall Race

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