March 7, 2022 Power Rankings

Biathlon is finally back! Those two weeks felt like they lasted two years. It was so good to be able to actually watch some races. The post championships period is difficult to predict. It’s especially difficult post Olympics. Some athletes have a rapid decline in form, some are able to hang on, and some actually have a late season peak. Watching for those late season peaks can be very interesting. Last year we actually saw some of this year’s best or breakout performers start showing that form late last season. QFM have his best races of the season late in the year as did Hanna Sola.

This season is actually a little more complicated. In addition to the normal ups and downs we also have several athletes not competing for various reasons. JT Boe is taking the rest of the season off to rest and recharge before next season and the next Olympic cycle. He sounds like he wants to make another run at the more overall crystal globes. Tarjei Boe, Lisa Vittozzi, and Dominik Windisch all missed it due to illness and they likely won’t be the last. Then sadly we have our Ukrainian athletes as well as the Russians and Belarussian athletes missing for much worse reasons. For better or for worse that means we have four men and two women missing from the Power Rankings that otherwise likely would have been there.

Having said all of that let’s get to the Power Rankings!

Men’s Power Rankings:

1.Quinton Fillon Maillet (Previous 2) – Quinton Fillon Maillet was already ranked #1 in the Power Rankings. Then he went out and won twice more. That brings his total on the year up to 9 total wins. Prior to this season he had 6 wins total. He’s won 9 out of the 21 solo races this season for a crazy 42.8% win rate. His win in the Sprint race wasn’t even all that close. It was the 2nd largest Sprint race victory of the season by time. Then he won his 6th straight Pursuit race matching Fourcade’s record for most in a season. At this point I’m convinced there is nothing QFM can’t do. After Fourcade retired I didn’t know who would be able to touch JT Boe for at least a couple of seasons. QFM is every bit the equal and worthy challenger, and now holder, of the throne.

2. Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen (10)
3. Emilien Jacquelin (Unranked)
Honestly these two could be in either order. I put Christiansen slightly ahead because he’s been ever so slightly more consistent. But honestly Jacquelin’s peak is higher. I guess it will play out in the next few weeks!

After a bit of a dip in form in the early part of 2022 Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen is has found it again. He was the top Norwegian man at the close of the first trimester of the season. After that though he wasn’t able to finish higher than 13th until winning bronze in the Mass Start to close out the Olympics. He also had the dramatic closing leg for the Norwegian relay team at the Olympics. In Kontiolahti he had another terrific closing leg followed by a 24th in the Sprint. However he bounced back with a 5th place in the Pursuit.

For Jacquelin we started seeing signs at the Olympics. But this weekend we started seeing the full Emilien Jacquelin again. Yes he only finished 6th in the Sprint and 4th in the Pursuit but he was in the fight again. His ski form was far better this week that we’ve seen it since 2021. He was fastest in the field in the Sprint for the first time since Annecy. In the Pursuit race for a brief time he was right on QFM’s tails. Ultimately he tailed off and just missed the podium, but it was great to see him in the fight. I would love to see him back on the podium, or even win, before the end of the season!

4. Sebsatian Samuelsson (9) – Samuelsson rising this high is as much about who isn’t racing anymore as his own successes. He certainly hasn’t been as good as he showed the first couple of weeks of the season. However he certainly hasn’t been bad! He’s had 5 top 10’s in the last ten races which most men would love to have. He showed he still had some top end speed when he had the 2nd best course time in the Kontiolahti Sprint race. If he can bring that speed he’ll have a chance in the last two Sprint races as well.

5. Erik Lesser (unranked) – Erik Lesser recently announced his upcoming retirement at the end of this season. This means that in the last two seasons the German men have lost two of their top athletes. It seems like Lesser is going to give it a run to try to go out with some great finishes! He had 3 top 10 finishes in the lead up to the Olympics where he only raced the Individual. This last weekend though he had a 2nd place in the Pursuit which was his best finish since a 2nd place in the 2016 Oberhoff Mass Start. He also had his best course time rank of the season and shot 29/30 on the weekend. Hopefully he empties the tank the rest of the way and we see more success!

6. Benedikt Doll (5) – Speaking of German men who may be nearing the end of their career, Benedikt Doll at age 31 can’t have that many more years at a competitive level. After having a fairly bumpy start to the season he started to see some better finishes starting in Ruhpolding. Since then he’s had 5 top 10’s including an absolutely tremendous win in the Antholz Mass Start and 3 top 10’s in the Olympics. He didn’t look as good this weekend but he was still showing top 10 ski speed. If he can get his shooting back he can still fight his way to some top 10 or even top 5 finishes.

7. Martin Ponsiluoma (6) – Martin Ponsiluoma came back from some relatively poor showings to have a very good Olympics capped by a silver medal in the Mass Start. This weekend was back down again finishing 21st in Sprint and 20th in Pursuit. I’m not sure what is going to come next. Ponsiluoma continues to show absolutely terrific speed. Even this weekend he was 5th fastest in the Sprint and 1st in the Pursuit. If he shoots well he’s a threat for the podium. Trying to guess when he’s going to shoot well is almost impossible to do though.

8. Johannes Kühn (unranked) – For the early part of the season Kühn was the strongest of the German men. In the first trimester he had a win and two other top 10’s. Then he missed a large portion of the second trimester with COVID before coming back for Antholz and the Olympics. He seemed to find himself as the Olympics progressed with improving finishes as the fortnight progressed. He capped the Olympics with a 10th place in the Mass Start. He started the final trimester of the season showing the same form he had to start the year, finishing 3rd in the Sprint race. He seems to be firmly back to where he was in the first trimester. He can be a threat mostly in the last two Sprint races.

9. Sturla Holm Lægreid (unranked) – Well this weekend we had the full Lægreid experience. For his brief World Cup career he’s been known as a phenomenal shooter with good speed. Somewhere along the way this season things got a little backwards for him. In the second trimester of this season he became regularly one of the top 10 fastest every race. However his shooting became increasingly erratic to the point where he shot just 50% in the Olympic Pursuit race. In Kontiolahti he was again top 10 fastest in both races including 3rd fastest in the Pursuit. In the Sprint he shot just 7/10 but in the Pursuit he was back to 18/20 shooting. Not surprisingly he finished 22nd in the Sprint and 6th in the Pursuit. I have no idea what to expect when Lægreid hits the range and that’s a bizarre feeling.

10. Lukas Hofer (unranked) – Lukas Hofer is back! It’s been a really rough year. Coming off a year in which he finished 8th in the overall rankings he likely expected to be in contention throughout the year. He finished up last season with a win the Sprint and a 3rd in the Pursuit in Ostersund. This entire season he’s had just three total top 10’s with no podiums. At one point he even took off the Oberhof races to try to find his form. Of late though he’s starting to show that he’s coming around. In the Winter Olympics he just missed the podium finishing 4th in the Pursuit. This weekend was easily his best of the year going 8th in the Sprint and 3rd in the Pursuit. With the more limited fields going forward he may find more success as the season comes to a close.

Considering:
a) Filip Fjeld Andersen
b) Sivert Bakken
– I really wanted to put these two guys on the list. Unfortunately though I just couldn’t do it. Ultimately I would have had to have put both of them as you really can’t separate them based on their recent performances. However one or both of them just may make it onto the list before the end of the year.

Women’s Power Rnakings:

1.Marte Olsbu Røiseland (Previous 1) – Marte Røiseland just had her worst week of the season. She finished 8th in the Sprint and 4th in the Pursuit. That’s what a phenomenal season Røiseland is having this year. It’s going to take a whole lot more than that to bump her down the list. She still has top form as well ranking 4th in course time in the Sprint and 1st in the Pursuit. No doubt about it Røiseland remains one of if not the favorite going forward.

2. Elvira Öberg (2) – Elvira Öberg was mostly ignored this past weekend. In the Sprint race she finished 7th and was overshadowed by Stina Nilsson and in the Pursuit she finished 9th which wasn’t good enough to be recognized and not bad enough to be criticized. Overall it was a ho hum weekend for her. You know you’ve made it to the top tier of athletes when you have two top 10 finishes and it’s not a big deal at all. As with Røiseland she remains one of the fastest women, ranking 2nd in the Sprint in course time, so she should be competitive the last two weekends. I have no doubt we’ll see her near the top of the standings in the last few races.

3. Tiril Eckhoff (10) – I was tentative with Tiril Eckhoff after the Olympics because we really hadn’t seen too much from her yet. Well after this weekend Eckhoff rockets right to the top. She had a very good 2nd place finish in the Sprint just a handful of seconds behind Herrmann. She then completed her year long comeback by winning the Pursuit for her first win in nearly a year. That’s now her fourth straight podium finish. She’s fast. She’s shooting well for the first time all season. I could actually argue that I should have put her at the top of the rankings. There is a very good chance that’s where she ends the year. I certainly wouldn’t bet against her finishing top 5 in any race the rest of the way.

4. Denise Herrmann (unranked) – At age 33 Denise Herrmann is having an improbable late career peak. She’s had two of her nine career wins in the last two weeks of competition including Olympic Gold in the Individual race. This weekend she had the second of those two wins and backed that up with 3rd in the Pursuit race. She’s showing great ski speed finishing 3rd in course time in both races in Kontiolahti. She’s also been shooting better lately. We’ll see if she can continue that recent run of accuracy. With two recent wins though she’s impossible to doubt at this stage.

5. Dorothea Wierer (4) – Dorothea Wierer’s slow start and long build up through the season has been well documented. She showed better and better form throughout the second trimester as the Olympics paid off. In the Olympics it all proved to be worthwhile as she won the Bronze medal in the Sprint race. In Kontiolahti while she didn’t have the same success in the Sprint she had a terrific Pursuit race. With the best overall time she came back from the 17th position all the way to 2nd place. After the Sprint I was prepared to say that she had built to a perfect peak and was going to slide backward the rest of the season. She showed no significant deterioration in form from the Olympics so if she can just shoot clean and fast like the did in the Pursuit she’s going to be dangerous.

6. Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet (9) – More so that about any other biathlete I can’t quite figure out which version of Anais Chevalier-Bouchet we’re going to see on any given day. For example she started the Olympics with a silver medal in the Individual. She followed that up with a 68th in the Sprint and 19th in the Mass Start. This weekend though she was back to her good self finishing 5th in Sprint and 6th in Pursuit. Following this pattern she is likely to have a rough stop in Estonia before finishing strong in Oslo. She hasn’t shown consistency in ski form or in shooting accuracy so it’s hard to figure what’s coming next except likely more inconsistency. At her peak though, as her silver medal shows, she’s got winning potential.

7. Justine Braisaz-Bouchet (3) – See above. Braisaz-Bouchet has been very similar to Chevalier-Bouchet. Great one week and hard to figure out the next week. Looking back she had an incredible week in Antholz with a win in the Individual and 5th in the Mass Start. The start to the Olympics were a mess, even skipping the Pursuit to rest. But she ended up finishing with a gold medal in the Mass Start. This weekend she was back to finishing 14th in the Sprint and 31st in the Pursuit. As one of the fastest women all season we know she’s got the speed. For her its all about the shooting. This weekend she didn’t have it. If she does though you can count on her competing for the podium.

8. Vanessa Voigt (Unranked) – Welcome Vanessa Voigt to the Power Rankings for her first time but undoubtedly not the last. The 24 year old in her first season on the World Cup has slowly but surely worked her way up the standings. She nearly won an Olympic medal finishing 4th in the Individual race, but in a way this weekend going 6th in the Sprint and 11th in the Pursuit was almost more impressive to me. Why? Because it wasn’t surprising anymore. It’s still a really good finish, and I’m incredibly excited to see it, but finishing top 15 isn’t stunning anymore. She came to the World Cup a terrific shooter. Anything below 90% is surprising. She’s starting to develop some speed. If she gets just a touch faster she’s going to be in the top 10 regularly. As it stands now I would be pleasantly surprised if she makes the podium this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her get several more top 10’s!

9. Hanna Öberg (Unranked) – When I initially made these rankings I completely left Hanna Öberg off. Truthfully I had just completely forgotten about her. In a way that seems to be the best summary her season that I could think of. Ever since Elvira came rocketing out of the gates in the first weeks of the season Hanna has been completely overshadowed by her sister. She actually hasn’t had a bad season though. She’s currently ranked 4th in the Overall standings. It is clear though that her form is on a general downward trajectory at this point. Here are her finishes since the start of the second trimester: 9, 2, 11, 3, 16, 19, 18, 25, 4, 18. She could absolutely still find her way to a podium as she has done intermittently in 2022. However at this point my expectations are for more finishes outside the top 10 than inside the top 5.

10. Linn Persson (Unranked) – In her 5th full season on the World Cup Linn Persson is having the best stretch of her career. It started with two top 10’s in the Ruhpolding races and peaked with a 5th place in the Olympic Pursuit race. Over this stretch her worst finish was 24th in the Mass Start and she is in the top 15 for every other race. She’s been on solid ski form but over this stretch she has been more accurate than ever, never shooting worse than 90% except for that 24th place finish. I am really enjoying seeing her strong races lately. Shooting like she is she can definitely be in the top 10 again and hopefully she can take advantage of her current form to find her way back to the top 5.

Considered:
Julia Simon – Earlier this season Julia Simon had the best and most consistent stretch of her career primarily as a result of the best shooting of her career. Of late her shooting accuracy has been slipping again. Since the start of the Olympics she’s only shot about 90% one time. If she is going to keep shooting like that her ceiling is severely limited. In the middle part of this season though we saw her true potential. I have hope she can find that shooting form again and maybe get another podium!


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