March 21, 2022 Power Rankings

So what are my power rankings? Basically the way I think about it is that if there were a race today the person ranked #1 would be my favorite to win. If the person in slot 1 were removed from the race then #2 would become my favorite and so on. Anybody who wasn’t competing, such as the JT Bø, or the Ukrainian athletes, were left off of the list. Fair warning these are almost entirely subjective. If you’ve got disagreements I want to hear about it! Also for this week anyway it’s the end of the season so unfortunately we don’t get to see how it plays out! Well it’s just for fun anyway!

Men’s Power Rankings:

1. Quinton Fillon Maillet (Previous 1) – I could go on for a long time on QFM (and likely will sooner rather than later) but I’m going to keep it short. This season he won 10 of the 26 total races (including the Olympics), he finished on the podium in 16 of 26 races, and finished outside the top 10 just 3 times. Since the start of the Winter Olympics he’s finished outside the top 2 just twice. Yes, in eleven races, at the end of a grueling season in which, unlike other athletes he never took time off, he finished 1st or 2nd in nine of the last eleven races. Who else would you put #1?

2. Sturla Holm Lægreid (5) – Well actually by the rules of the game you could make a very compelling case that Sturla Lægreid should be the #1. He is clearly peaking and showed unbelievable speed this past weekend. Every indicator for him is pointing in the right direction. It’s a shame for him that the season is coming to a close because I honestly believe that he would have been poised for a good few weeks. Hopefully this is the Lægreid we see when the IBU returns in November!

3. Erik Lesser (3) – Quite sadly when the IBU returns in November Erik Lesser will no longer be racing. You have to say though, that he went out about as well as anybody ever could have hoped for. It appears that once Lesser made the choice to retire he absolutely drained the tank and gave everything every single race. Through the first five weeks of the season Lesser had just two top 10s, and one of those was in the last of those races. Over the last five weeks of the season Lesser finished outside the 10 just twice. It’s like he flipped a switch and went into super Lesser mode. Over that stretch nobody was more consistent.

The only reason Lægreid finishes the rankings higher than him is statistically speaking Lægreid’s speed right now would give him an advantage. But Lesser finished his career absolutely on fire. He also went out with a magical finish winning his second to last race in come from behind fashion. What a way to close a career!

4. Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen (2) – Several times throughout the weekend Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen appeared to be fatigued. At key points in races he fell behind his closest competitors and was unable to make up the ground. Still he found a way to fight his way into the top 7 each race. Coming off a terrific Mass Start win in Otepää he finished 7th in the Sprint, 5th in the Pursuit, and 6th in the Mass Start. He’s going to finish the World Cup season ranked 4th in the Overall Rankings which somehow feels too low. He’s been one of the most consistent racers on the circuit all season. If there was another race to be had I wouldn’t count him out.

5. Sivert Bakken (6) – We mentioned him in this week’s episode of the Penalty Loop podcast as the Under the Radar athlete of the week. However he’s not Under the Radar anymore! Bakken as spent the last three weeks establishing himself as a man to be watched in the 2022-2023 season as he’s finished no lower than 16th since the Antholz Mass Start. Over that stretch he’s had four top 5 finishes seemingly setting a new career high finish every week. Well that’s not going to be possible anymore as he finished the season with his first career win in the Oslo Mass Start.

Over this stretch he’s proving himself to become a “younger” Sturla Lægreid, which is of course wild to say because Lægreid is only 25. Bakken’s statistical profile is exactly like Lægreid’s right now: excellent shooter and improving ski speed. He’s just not quite as good a shooter and not nearly as fast. His shooting has only gotten better as the season has come to a close as he in six of the last seven races he shot 90% or better including two perfect races. He’s also been slowly getting faster and faster as the season goes on. He had six races where he ranked in the top 10 of course time and five of those were in the last four weekends of the season.

6. Sebastian Samuelsson (8) – Over the course of the season no athlete has seemingly been both over rated and under rated to the same extent as Sebastian Samuelsson. He came into the season as one of the favorites to contend for the overall Crystal Globe title. When he won the first two Sprint races he immediately went to the top of the list and briefly wore the Yellow jersey. That was his high water mark. For awhile after that he entered “over rated territory” when he was expecting to be in the top of the races but struggled to repeat his success.

Over the last few weekends he’s gone all the way to “underrated.” This seemed to change around the Winter Olympics when he had only one time 5. He ended the season though with three top 10’s and two top 5’s in the last 4 races. It was almost like he found his form again in the last two weeks of the season. He also finished #3 in the Overall Crystal Globe title rankings. I know that Samuelsson was trying to set up a peak for the Winter Olympics but this season likely did not play out quite how he was hoping it would. Hopefully next year he’s able to maintain his peak for a longer stretch of the season. If he does he really could be a contender for the overall.

Image from Otepää races

7. Benedikt Doll (4) – As with Lesser, Benedikt Doll has been on one of the most consistent men over the last 5 weekends of the season. Over that stretch, 14 races for him, he had one win, four top 5’s and eight top 10’s. Truthfully you could make the argument he should even be higher on this list but he tailed off just a touch after peaking around the time of the Olympics. Still this weekend he showed well with a 4th in the Sprint and 9th in the Pursuit. Just feels like Samuelsson is heading upward with his form and Doll is slowly ticking downward so Samuelsson gets the nod.

8. Emilien Jacquelin (9) – If you were ranking this list purely by talent alone Emilien Jacquelin would be higher up. However two reasons we can’t do that. First, just because you have the talent doesn’t mean you are on form. And second, just because you are on talent and on form doesn’t mean that you perform well every time out. That’s where Jacquelin comes in. Regardless of his ski form and his shooting form it always feels like he could have a terrific race and win. However at the same time it also feels like he could finish 60th any time out. A prime example is that over the last sever races his finishes have been: 6, 4, 32, 8, 30, 19, 3. It’s just a level of variance the men above him on this list don’t have. Hopefully he finds a way to even out that high variance and keep up the consistence he had the first four weekends of the season!

9. Martin Ponisluoma (10) – At the bottom of the rankings here things get a little wonky. There is a bit of a drop off here but this weekend Ponsiluoma made the argument for himself. He actually went very well finishing 10th, 6th, and 12th. He continued to show his terrific ski speed finishing top 3 in all three races. That’s his calling card. It’s just a matter of being able to shoot well. When he does, like he did this weekend, he can compete to win. He just doesn’t do it as often as the men above him. Still when the race starts and you’re looking at your top 10 for the race at this point you can’t leave Ponsiluoma off of it.

10. Filip Fjeld Andersen (Unranked) – Truthfully there were about 4-5 men I considered for the 10th spot. I wanted to give it to FF Andersen though to recognize the push he has made over the last several weeks. Just 23 years old he’s become a consistent member of the Norwegian World Cup team this season. Over the last 3 weeks he’s really taken advantage of that. Since the Olympics he’s gone 2, 8, 14, 7, 19, 12, and 13. Not as good as Bakken but still very consistent. Hopefully he uses this as a springboard to next season!

Women’s Power Rankings:

1.Marte Oslbu Røiseland(2) – From the beginning of the season through the end no woman was more consistent than Marte Røiseland. Just like with QFM I could write an entire article on her success this season, and just like QFM I’ll keep it short. She won 8 of 26 total races (she only raced 23) this season including the Winter Olympics. She had 17 podiums and finished outside of the top 10 just one single time. In that one race she finished 12th. Yes in 23 races she finished no worse than 12th ever. She kept it up right through the end of the season finishing in the top 3 in the last four races of the season. Every race out she’s giving herself a chance to win and that’s the name of this game.

2. Tiril Eckhoff (5) – I would absolutely listen to an argument that Tiril Eckhoff should be #1 on this list. She is peaking at the absolute end of the season but was able to win two races this season. She’s showing terrific ski speed and she’s finally starting to get more consistent and confident on the range as well. You could see this start to happen at the Winter Olympics as she showed her speed and then got better and better every race. Finally she got her victory in Kontiolahti but took a step back again in Otepää. This weekend though, with two wins, she was the best woman on the course. Who knows what would have happened if we had more races. As it stands though, with what she’s showing now she’s #2. But going into next season she has a very good chance at winning another Crystal Globe.

3. Elvira Öberg (1) – In Tiril Eckhoff’s race to win another overall Crystal Globe she’s going to face a new competitor in Elvira Öberg. This season she had her first win and proved to be a worthy competitor for Marte Røiseland. Elvira was just a little bit more inconsistent than Røiseland with only five races outside the top 10 and a season worst finish of 18th in the opening race of the season. That’s really really good. She ended the season with four wins and ten total podiums finishing behind only Røiseland in both categories.

She’s established herself as one of the fastest women on the World Cup circuit and has slowly but surely improved her shooting throughout the season. It won’t take much to move from 2nd to 1st in the Overall rankings. If she can improve her prone shooting from 81% that may make all the difference in the world. Too many times this season she found herself behind and chasing early. If she could save her legs for the end of the race, where she has proven to be one of the toughest women around, she can be truly great.

4. Denise Herrmann (3) – At age 33 you might have been forgiven for thinking that Herrmann was on the downside of her career. However, starting with her gold medal in the Individual at the Winter Olympics she went on one of the best runs of her career. She won another race in Kontiolahti, and finished no worse than 7th in her last seven races. That’s her best stretch in over three seasons. A converted cross country skier she has always been fast, but during this period of time she was ranked in the top six of course time every race, her best run in again three seasons. She combined that with the most consistent shooting of her career, going below 85% just twice in the last 12 races. The result was she firmly established herself as one of the women to beat in the two months of the 2021-2022 season.

5. Franziska Preuss (7) – The last of a very solid top 5 in the rankings, Franziska Preuss has finally gotten herself back to her normal top level form. It’s been well documented but Preuss has had one set back after another all season long. Over the last month, finally healthy again, she has rebuilt herself. Her results have been steadily increasing and she’s reached a point where she can content for victories again.

Over the last two weeks she’s had multiple chances but wasn’t quite able to convert. In Otepää with the Mass Start she appeared to be on her way to victory but late misses held her back. In the Pursuit race this weekend she had the best overall time. And in the Mass Start, the final race of the season, she finished 2nd, her best finish of the season. It’s been a long road back but finally Preuss made it. Hopefully she can have a complete season next year and we see her back at the top of the overall.

6. Vanessa Voigt (4) – Voigt is the last of the German trio in the middle of the top 10. She definitely didn’t close out the season as well as I’m sure she would have hoped. After several weeks of improving finishes she had her first setback in over a month. However it’s hard to doubt her abilities after what she’s shown during that period. One of the best shooters in the World Cup she’s going to have a chance every time out. She showed great consistency the last few weeks so hard to doubt her at this point. I truly can’t wait to see her next season.

7. Justine Braisaz-Bouchet (10) – Winner of a miraculous come from behind victory in the Mass Start, and one of the most consistently fast women on the World Cup it would be easy to think she should be ranked significantly higher. Here’s why I can’t put her any higher: 1, 5, 40, 48, 1, 14, 31, 35, 7, 42, 21, 1. Those are her finishes since the start of Antholz. Every single race she’s either amazing are middle of the pack. Her shooting is entirely too inconsistent to believe she is going to win even though she definitely has a chance. If she shoots reasonably well she has a chance. She just doesn’t do that frequently enough.

8. Anais Chevalier-Bouchet (9) – Far more consistent than Braisaz-Bouchet, Anais Chevalier-Bouchet just isn’t quite explosive enough to get to the top of the podium. Over the last several weeks she’s had five top 10’s in the last seven races. However she was never able to get higher than 5th. That’s been the story of her season. Fairly consistent, but never quite able to get over the hump and to the top of the podium. She ends the season ranked 20th in ski rank and 57th in total hit rank. That’s about right for somebody ranked 5th in the Overall and 8th in the Power Rankings. Good, but this season not quite Great.

9. Hanna Öberg (6) – Hanna Öberg finished the season with unfortunately her worst weekend of the season. She finished 39th in the Sprint, 30th in the Pursuit, and 11th in the Mass Start. That this was the worst weekend of her season says a lot of about her consistency as one of the top women and the expectations we have for her.

This next statistic I think says the most about her season: This was the only weekend besides the Winter Olympics without a top 6 finish. Every weekend out she’s seemed to have at least one very good race. She had one win this season which is a great season for most biathletes. That consistence propelled her to 4th in the Overall Rankings. It’s difficult for Hanna Öberg though because she’s not only compared to the high level that she’s set for herself but to the very high level of her sister. So after having said all that why is she down this far? Because last weekend was her worst of the season and if we were to have races next weekend I honestly would not have very high expectations. It’s a reflection of her current form, not her season.

10. Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold (8) – And finally we get to Ingrid Tandrevold. There were a handful of women that could have been in this position but Tandrevold get the nod due to her finish to this weekend as much as anything. She finished 11th in the Pursuit, moving up from 26th. Then she closed the season in 6th in the Mass Start. Finishing 15th in the Overall it was a definite step back from last season’s 8th place finish. Her ski form was slightly off all season and she was never able to find the podium. It was a season mostly defined though by health concerns. I strongly expect her to bounce back well next season though.

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