2022 Beijing Olympic Recap

I sit here, exhausted from the early mornings, exhilarated from the early mornings, and honestly just very happy about how the last two weeks have gone. This is going to be the first of what will be several pieces covering what we’ve seen over the last two weeks. I think it is going to take some time for me to absorb and process everything that happened. We’ll get this started though with our normal recap following the usual process breaking down the best things we saw during the recent competitions. Truthfully I look forward to the Olympics more than any other sporting event, and while I love the Summer Games its the Winter Games that really get me excited. I can’t believe we have to wait four more years! Well before we look ahead, lets look start our long look back at a fun two weeks in China!

Best Men’s Performance: Johannes Thingnes Boe – You were expecting Quinton Fillon Maillet? If you wanted to argue for him I would listen to it, but I would argue back that JT Boe made a late surge and took the crown for these Olympic Games. He finished with 4 gold medals and a bronze including golds in the Sprint and Mass Start to go with the Mixed Relay and Men’s Relay and paired those with a bronze in the Individual. QFM, also with 5 medals had 2 gold medals in the Individual and the Pursuit with silver medals in the Sprint, Mixed Relay, and Men’s Relay.

Yes JT’s edge in gold medals relies on the strength of the Norwegian team but Boe was a huge reason the Norwegians won those gold medals. He had an incredible comeback and won the sprint to the finish in the Mixed Relay. And then he turned in a heroic effort in the Men’s relay that brought them back and set up Christiansen for his terrific final leg. JT Boe wasn’t just a member of those relay teams, he was a critical reason for why they won the gold in those relays.

At times this season there were big question marks around JT Boe. Was he just training for a peak for the Olympics or was he past his prime? As late as Oberhof it was a legitimate concern that something was seriously wrong with Boe. He went home to Norway to see his family while the rest of the top men went to an altitude training camp. You could see the signs of a return to form in Antholz. Then throughout these Games he started to look like JT Boe again.

The Mass Start was a classic example of JT Boe dominance. If I were to just show somebody that one race they would understand why Boe has been so feared and why he’s won so many races. He went clean in the first shooting and then he started to punish the field. Every lap he made the field work a little harder than they were comfortable with and pushed his advantage a little more. He was fastest on the course for 4 of the 5 laps including the final lap when he could have shut it down. On the range he wasn’t the cleanest but he was quick with the 3rd fastest shooting on the day. He won every aspect of the day.

This is not to take anything away from QFM. They both finish with 5 medals tying the most for an athlete at the Winter Olympics for any sport. I just felt JT Boe did enough to separate himself as the best of these Olympic Games. Now he has 8 total Olympic medals placing him in 2nd alongside Ricco Grosse, Emil Hegle Svendsen, and Sven Fischer behind only the great Ole Einar Bjorndalen.

Best Women’s Performance: Marte Olsbu Roeiseland – No controversy here as Marte Roeiseland was easily the best woman at the 2022 Beijing Olympics from start to finish. She ended up with gold medals in the Sprint and Pursuit as well as the Mixed Relay, along with Bronze in Individual and Mass Start. She leaves these Games as the only athlete, man or woman, to medal in each of the solo events which just goes to show how much better than her peers she was over the last two weeks. The only race in which she didn’t medal was the Women’s Relay but that can’t be laid at her feet as she had just 2 misses and turned herself inside out trying to close down the gap at the end.

From the very start you could tell that Roeiseland was primed for a huge Olympic Games. In the Mixed Relay, the very first race to open the Games, she showed her form with the fastest course time in her leg and just 10 seconds slower than Eckhoff’s fastest course time. She had just 1 miss in what was the trickiest shooting day of the entire competition. Nothing changed from there on out. Her course time ranks for the 4 solo races were 2, 1, 7 and 2. She was also one of the better shooters, with just 3 misses total in the relays, and shooting 90%, 100%, 95%, and 80% for the 4 solo races.

At this point it is fair to say that Marte Olsbu Roeiseland is the women’s biathlete of the year. She’s leading the overall crystal globe race by a wide margin and she just swept up a huge medal haul at the Olympics while looking definitely like the best woman out there day in and day out. She should be so proud of what she was able to accomplish this season and over the last two weeks. She didn’t benefit from other women having poor performances, she went out there and earned and won everything she’s gotten.

Best Young Men Performance: Unclear – It was really not a stellar showing for the young men of biathlon. That’s not to say that there weren’t good performances but It’s hard to pick any one single man to celebrate here. I will say that in their defense, when you’re in your first Olympics as these men are, the pressure can be mm

Sturla Holm Laegreid did win one medal for the men under the age of 25, doing so in the Men’s Relay. Not to be too harsh but its hard to say that he helped the cause in that race as he had the one penalty loop for the Norwegian squad and passed off to Tarjei Boe in 7th place and 47 seconds behind. To be fair Tarjei Boe’s leg was even worse but Laegreid didn’t cover himself in glory. He also showed some major concerns in his shooting. He shot 85% in the Individual race and it was downhill from there culminating in a 10/20 performance on the range in the Pursuit race. His finishes in the solo races were 15th, 7th 24th, and 6th. Those aren’t terrible finishes at all. But Laegreid has shown the ability to race and win at this level and he clearly had wanted to win on this stage. It didn’t happen this time but he’s a young man and he’ll be back.

Sebastian Samuelsson is another young man who came into the Olympics with high expectations. He started out the season with two victories in Sprint races and several other competitive finishes. He seemed to have a plan for an early season peak, a dip in January, and then a peak for the Olympics. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that. His results certainly weren’t bad, they just didn’t quite live up to the high high expectations he had set for himself last season, the first part of this season, and even from the 2018 Olympics. He comes home without a medal with his best finish at 5th place in the Sprint. He also had finishes of 30th in the Individual, 8th in Pursuit, and 11th in Mass Start. Samuelsson’s calling card is his speed but he never ranked higher than 10th in ski rank at any solo race. He’s just 24 and he’s got more opportunities for Olympic glory but you have to feel a little bit for him.

Other under 25 men who performed at the Olympics included:

  • Said Khalili who raced the bronze medal winning Men’s Relay as well as the Individual when he finished 34th.
  • Daniil Serokohvostov finished 19th in the Sprint and 39th in the Pursuit.
  • Tommaso Giacomel finished 61st in the Sprint. He did have a good leg for the Italian Men’s Relay team that finished 7th.
  • Bogdan Tsymbal finished 55th in Individual and 66th in the Sprint.
  • Campbell Wright finished 32nd in the Individual and 75th in the Sprint

Best Young Women Performance: Elvira Oeberg – The future of biathlon is strong when you have young women like Elvira Oeberg already performing at such an incredible level at the age of 22. The expectations were sky high and somehow she was able to live up to them.

She started out the Olympics looking a little off of her game in the Mixed Relay, as did the entire Swedish squad. Many people, myself included, were worried about their prospects going forward. She and the rest of the team looked slow and like they weren’t quite on the same level as the rest of the top contenders. Well that changed in a hurry.

Elvira Oeberg finished 13th in the Individual which is an event that doesn’t quite fit her strengths at this time early in her career. Then she comes out and gets the silver medal in back to back races in the Sprint and Pursuit. She finished behind only Marte Olsbu Roeiseland who is inarguably the top woman in biathlon this season. The Pursuit race was particularly impressive as she needed to have a 5/5 shooting in the last shoot to overtake Dorothea Wierer and Lisa Hauser and pull ahead of Tiril Eckhoff. Those are three incredibly strong biathletes.

She completed her medal haul by anchoring the Swedish womens team to the relay gold medal. She took over with a 7 second lead over Italy and a 13 second lead over the ROC. She had just 1 miss in her two shoots and pulled away for the relatively easy gold medal.

At the end of these Olympics she has 3 total medals to match her sister in the race for the most Oeberg medals. It’s fair to say that we’re going to be seeing much much more of her with likely appearances in 2026 and 2030. Fingers crossed she’s able to stay healthy because if so the all time women’s record for biathlon of 9 career Olympic medals may be in reach!

Best Men’s Race: Men’s 4×7.5km Relay – If there was ever a race that would make you say “that’s biathlon!” it was this one. From about the 4th shooting on it appeared to be a two team race with one of those teams, the ROC, being well ahead. On that last lap of leg 2 Loginov skied away from Jacquelin and handed off a 36 lead to Maxim Tsvetkov. That’s when, even if it wasn’t obvious at the front of the race, things started to change.

At the head of the race Tsvetkov had a good leg and actually extended ROC’s lead over France by gaining a further 5 seconds on Desthieux. That put ROC up to 41 seconds going to the last leg. That’s a pretty solid lead. Further back though JT Boe turned Norway’s race around. When he took over Norway was 1:47 back. He completely drained the tank skiing 30 seconds faster on his leg than anybody else did on any other leg. He had just 2 misses and crucially no penalty loops. By the end of his leg Norway was just 43 seconds behind and within striking distance.

As the last leg started Eduard Latypov took over with the ROC having a 41 second lead on QFM/France, 43 seconds on Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen for Norway, and 43 seconds on Benedikt Doll/Germany. At that point the ROC squad had a very solid lead but there were 4 teams within striking distance should Latypov falter. Through the first shooting of the last leg there were no signs of faltering. Latypov was perfect while Christiansen, QFM, and Doll all had a miss and actually fell further behind to 50 seconds.

Latypov arrived to the range for the last shooting of the race with a 1 minute lead on Christiansen, QFM, and Nawrath. You almost can’t compare what happened next to any other sport because its so unique to biathlon. Latypov, maybe affected by the wind and clearly affected by the pressure of the moment had several misses and needed 2 penalty loops. Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen shot perfect and pulled Norway into the lead. QFM had 2 misses but avoided a penalty loop and France was in 2nd place. Latypov and Nawrath were in a battle for 3rd. Ultimately Christiansen pulled Norway away for an enormous come from behind gold medal, Quinton Fillon Maillet finished off a silver medal winning performance for France and Latypov salvaged a bronze medal for the ROC.

Credit: Realbiathlon.com

Norway’s comeback required JT Boe to have an incredible 3rd leg to get them within striking distance, it required Latypov missing enough to open the door, and it required Christiansen shooting perfect at the right time, coming through with all of the pressure on his shoulders, and winning the gold for Norway. It was just an unbelievable victory and the boys celebrated as they should have! France it shouldn’t be forgotten held in there throughout the race and truly earned that silver medal too. And thank goodness Latypov was able to come away with bronze. It doesn’t feel like much right now because of the situation but it is good that the team came away with a medal. What an exhausting and incredible race!

Best Women’s Race: Women’s Individual Race – Not to take anything away from any of the other races that took place but in my opinion the Women’s Individual race had the most varied top 10 list and was the most interesting race until the end. That’s as much a compliment to Roeiseland for having such dominant wins in the Sprint and Pursuit as anything else.

The Individual is a 15km race, the longest the women race, with 4 shooting events. It also is a mental grind because you’re skiing the entire event alone. You all know this already but it is just an indication of how difficult this race is. You would think that it would allow for some big time gap but here’s how it worked out: Just 15.3 seconds separating places 1-3 and just 1:21 seconds separating places 1-10. That’s a good race for any race but considering how the Individual is run with each athlete racing on their own it is impressively close. We got fortunate as the wind was much calmer than it could have been resulting in good shooting conditions and a “fair” race across the board.

It was also interesting because you had members of the top 10 coming anywhere from bib 1 (Roeiseland in 3rd) to 74th (Reztsova in 9th). While most contenders were starting early you really couldn’t tune out because there continued to be women fighting for position late into the event.

Looking at the women who made up the top 10 you had a pretty good variety of nations represented as well as some names that aren’t traditional contenders as well.

You’ve got a woman in Denise Herrmann winning the gold medal with a great story of converting from cross country skiing peaking her career at the Olympic Games. Anais Chevalier-Bouchet is streaky athlete who has shown flashes of greatness and put together the perfect race at the right time. Then there is the best of the season in Marte Olsbu Roeiseland with the bronze medal and Dzinara Alimbekava, one of the best and most consistent athletes this season in 5th. Three young talented athletes with Voigt and Reztsova. Marketa Davidova and Ingrid Tandrevold as still young women who are beginning to develop a strong resume as contenders. And Deedra Irwin and Yulia Dzhima as women from nontraditional biathlon countries who were able to put it together for a big day and a top 10.

That’s just a really fun top 10. You’ve got something for everybody. You like favorites performing well and you can point at Roeiseland winning a medal. You like underdogs? Herrmann winning the gold and Irwin getting 7th. You want to see the young talented women challenge the current leaders? Check out Vanesa Voigt in 4th. It was just a fun race and served as a great kickoff to the women’s biathlon program.

Other Memorable Moments: We’ve got 2 weeks to fill. Believe me you’ll be seeing plenty more content here and elsewhere to discuss the memorable moments of these Winter Olympic Games!

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