Czech Republic Team Preview

Eons ago when I started this project, the team I most had in mind was the Czech Republic. Throughout last season I found myself more and more becoming a fan of this group, especially the women’s team. The combination of Marketa Davidova, the rise of Jessica Jislova, and the seeming abundance of young talent coming up made them so easy to root for. Then over the summer we got the chance to speak with head coach Egil Gjelland and it was such a terrific opportunity.

Looking at the men’s team there is actually quite a lot of potential there. Michal Krcmar has been the definition of stability at the top of their team for the last 5-6 years. But right behind him with Vaclavik, Karlik, Stvrtecky, Honig, etc there are a lot of guys who seem to be right on the verge of becomming soild World Cup athletes. By and large they all have solidified either their skiing or their shooting and are just that final step away. Overall the future, and maybe the present, of the men’s Czech team looks quite bright as well! So, at about the mid point of this exercise its time to jump in and explore the Czech Republic Biathlon team for the 2022-2023 season.

Women:

Quota: 6 athletes to start

World Cup Regulars:

The Czech Republic rode a late surge of points into the top 5 of the Nations Cup allowing them to have 6 starters on the line for Sprint and Individual races this season. It’s a huge accomplishment for this biathlon nation on the rise. There are a handful of women who likely have spots locked down, so lets check them out:

Marketa Davidova (25)

Marketa Davidova is not only the unquestioned team leader on this team, but she’s also turned herself into a contender at the top levels of biathlon. The last two seasons have seen her finish 11th and 10th overall. It really feels like she is just on the verge of a major breakthrough to the absolute upper reaches of the sport. It was for that reason that the revelation this past winter, just around the Olympics, that she might step away from biathlon to pursue her true passion in veterinary medicine made every biathlon fan hold their collective breath. Fortunately for us, the lover of unicorns decided to put that on hold for a few more years. Until then she and Coach Gjelland can continue to bond over the care of large animals. (If you don’t get that reference then please go listen to our interview with him!!)

Anybody who is a fan of biathlon, and has watched Davidova the last few years, knows that her rise in this sport didn’t happen by chance or over night. It’s come about by consistent hard work. Every year has seen her improve just a little bit not just on one thing, but seemingly on several things. First the jump to be a consistent top 10 skier. Then building the prone shooting. Last year the standing shooting started to rise to match. The shooting speeds are slowly moving faster and faster as well. It’s really quite something to watch.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201879.471.772.436.1
2018-201981.27779.437.9
2019-202086.973.18035.6
2020-20218976.582.832.8
2021-202285.58484.832.6

So what can we expect from Davidova this year? Well it’s hard to expect her to get much faster. Top 10 each of the last four seasons is pretty damn good but she might be able to eek out a bit more speed. I would hope to see her overall shooting percentage start to come near 86-87% with just a small improvement to both standing and prone. That alone should put her in contention for the big globe. Add in another second or two on the range and she’s going to compete every single race for the win. And that’s really the final frontier for Davidova. She has her maiden victories. Now time to string together the high finishes.

Jessica Jislova (28)

Speaking of delightful development stories who hasn’t enjoyed watching Jessica Jislova’s growth the last few seasons? Last season was without a doubt one of the most tremendous leaps I can remember. Yes I do have short term memory and I tend to forget big stories from years past but I think this is legitimate. Jessica Jislova went from a name few people new to a name most biathlon fans could recognize with ease. 13 of her 15 best finishes of her career happened last year. Talk about a career year. The amazing thing for us fans is that at 28 Jislova may not be done improving yet.

How did Jislova make her massive improvement? Everything. She had a career year in skiing to go along with a massive leap in shooting accuracy, and her best shooting speed in 4 years which was her career best. So, what’s the best way to have a career year? Simple! Set a career best in every major attribute.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201891.877.384.630
2018-201984788131.7
2019-202082.578.880.632.5
2020-202179.27577.131.9
2021-202292.589.59130

Here’s the important part though, while they were career bests, the only one that she hadn’t achieved before was her shooting accuracy. She had several decent ski years before this, most recently in 2017-2018. This was just one more step above that. Her shooting speed last year, while a career best, was equal to what she had done in 2017-2018. The total shooting percentage of 91% though was on a different level from anything she’s done before though. Her previous career best was 84.5%. She topped her prone shooting career best by 0.8% and her standing shooting career best by 11%!

What do we expect next? Further climbing on the road to glory? Or is Jessica Jislova a prime regression candidate? I think you can make compelling arguments for both and realistically you might expect at least a half step back after that great of a year. But this is primarily a bastion of optimism so I’ll take the positive approach. She’s just 28 and reaching the peak of her ski potential. Shooting like that for a full season is pretty good sample size so hopefully she found something golden in her rifle. I am optimistic. Top 15 look out!

Lucie Charvatova (29)

Unfortunately Lucie Charvatova has been following the opposite trajectory as Jislova and Davidova over the last two seasons. While those two have been finding their way closer and closer to the top of the standings Charvatova has been sliding backwards. After reaching a career high overall ranking of 27th just two seasons ago, she’s been in decline the last two years.

Looking at her statistics it is clear that Charvatova was skating on a knife’s edge. Her skiing, which was quite good to be honest, was just enough to keep her competitive with her mediocre at best shooting. Over the last two seasons she has seen struggles with a little bit of everything. In 2020-2021 she actually skied better but he shooting slipped to an ugly 65% and shooting time fell backward two seconds. Last season her skiing slipped back to where it had been (still very good!), and shooting climbed 72.9% but her shooting time slipped further.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-20187552.563.828.1
2018-201973.871.372.529.7
2019-202071.968.870.327.9
2020-202173.658.265.929.6
2021-202281.464.372.930.2

As I said Charvatova exists presently on a knife’s edge. Shooting in the low 70’s doesn’t give much wiggle room. She needs to be an excellent skier to be able to compete for top 20s much less top 10s. Her path to success is pretty clear. Keep her skiing where it is, as it is already good enough to compete on the highest level. Get her shooting even up to 75% overall and she’s going to be good. Looking at her shooting breakdown this is almost entirely reliant on her improving her standing shooting. Easier said than done, but look at what she did last year with her prone shooting! Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a rebound season from her.

Tereza Vobornikova (22)

At this point I think it is fair to say that the secret is out on Tereza Vobornikova. She’s the hot pick to be the new sensation on the World Cup this year. We’ve had a lot of newcomers make an immediate splash and this year the money is on Vobornikova to be the one. And why not?

Entering her age 22 season she is already showing all of the potential you would hope for from a prospect out of the Czech Republic. She isn’t coming out of the ski factory of Norway so we don’t expect her to be blazing right away. She’ll have to build into it like Davidova, Jislova, and Charvatova have. Over the last two seasons of IBU Cup action though her course time ranks were steadily improving from week to week. By her last races on the IBU Cup, which were week 2 of last year, she was posting course time ranks of 16, 22, and 8. Those are good enough to compete on a high level. This is backed up by her Juniors ski ranks consistently being top 15 over the last four full seasons.

Her shooting is already phenomenal. On the Juniors level you can watch it improve year by year up to the 90% range overall last year. The last two years on the IBU Cup has seen her shooting exactly 85% overall. And last year in eight total races on the World Cup her total all around shooting was 89.2%. She has an entire career (well up until 22 years old) of really good shooting. It’s fair to say that she’s a good shooter.

The only think she doesn’t excel at (yet) is shooting speed. Even still her shooting speed last year was 30.9 seconds on the world cup. That’s good enough for top 70.

So now you see it too right? Tereza Vobornikova checks every single box there is. She’s succeeded everywhere she’s gone. She’s never had a top overall finish at any level but to be fair she’s never had enough time on any one particular level. But the results are there. Just last year she won two gold s and a bronze at Junior Worlds. She’s got potential to be doing that at Senior Worlds in a few years. We know she’s got the coaches who can get her there too. I can’t tell you how excited I am but I think you know.

Next Up!

Who wants next in this race to the top for the Czech squad? The top four spots are pretty squarely locked in. After that, we’ve got a suite of challengers fighting to make their mark on the World Cup squad next year.

Tereza Vinklarkova (23)

Vinklarkova, at just 23, seems to have several years more racing than many fellow competitors her same age. She stopped racing as a Junior two full seasons ago and has been racing full time on the IBU Cup since then. It hasn’t always been a steady or easy journey in that period but she really seems to have settled in.

Over the last two years she started to have a bit more consistency. Both years, week 5 of the season provided the two worst performances of the season. Take out those two weeks of the last two seasons all top 60 finishes with the end of last year steadily improving. She ended the year with five straight top 43 finishes. Look that isn’t mind blowing but it was a solid consistent racing. It was powered by ski ranks that moved consistently into the top 60s and shooting that leveled out around 80%. Total shooting times average out to around 30 seconds as well.

Where does this leave Vinklarkova? Well this is a year of potential for her. There are a lot of young women behind her, so if she wants to grab one of those up for grab spots she needs to perform now.

Tereza Jandova (21)

Was there something in the water about 21-22 years ago? There are a lot of Terezas who are really good at biathlon. Jandova has spent most of her career on the Juniors level but she has had 14 races on the IBU Cup the last two seasons. We’ll take a look at her racing on both levels though.

In her 25 Juniors level races she has 5 top 10s including a win last season. While IBU Cup success hasn’t quite been there she is absolutely trending in the right direction. She started out with finishes in the 70-100s. Since then though she’s been moving upwards including a career best 43rd in the 2nd to last race. It’s not a perfect upward arrow but the trendline is on a great trajectory.

She’s so far not shown one particular amazing skill set. But she has shown that she an be solid. Her ski ranks on the Juniors level were moving up every season and last year she was consistently earning top 30 course time ranks. While not as spectacular on the IBU Cup, ski ranks were decidedly trending upward to the top 70s last year. Shooting meanwhile was improving across both levels to the mid 80’s.

Where does that leave us? It shows us an athlete on the rise. I anticipate she should spend most of the year on the IBU Cup. I would hope that we have shooting percentages steady in the mid 80s. I am hopeful that we’ll see her IBU Cup ski ranks move into the top 40-50s. If she is able to do that it is a sign that she’s going in the right direction and the Czech fans can get excited.

Eliska Vaclavikova (Tepla) (23)

Eliska Vaclavikova (recently married this summer) is one more of the Czech hopefuls to fill the open positions. She’s shown increasing success over the last two seasons on the IBU Cup. She’s been steadily setting career best finishes almost every week since the start of last season. Her finishes were mired in the 80-100s. But she finished the year with a career best of 11th along with another top 15 finish last year. Six of her last eight finishes were top 30s when she hadn’t had a finish better than 30 prior to the start of the season.

She powered her way up that mountain with improvements in skiing and shooting. In one mid season stretch she scored seven straight top 40 course times which was nearly as good as she had ever had prior to this season. Shooting percentages nudged up to near 85%, a career best.

The key here, as with Vinclarkova and Jandova is that these are rankings on the IBU Cup. The top women on the Czech squad are doing this on the World Cup. Now these three women are young but they have potential. These next two seasons are about turning that into real performances. If I was to rank them right now I would go Jandova, Vaclavikova, and then Vinklarkova. They are really close though. They need to compete to claim their spots!

Klara Lejsek (23)

Klara Lejsek hasn’t been the hottest name on list of young Czech athletes. Looking at her recent success though it is hard to understand why she hasn’t been included with the group ahead of her. After a couple of years on the Junior level in which she was showing some potential, the last two years on the IBU Cup have shown progress if not massive success.

Her finishes have definitely been trending upward slowly but surely. Last year she scored a career best 25th along with three other top 40 finishes, each of which would have been a career best before last year. Ski ranks reached consistently into the top 40-50s last year. That may not sound like much but it was a career high and a definitive year over year improvement. Shooting was steady in the mid to upper 70s throughout the last several years.

Lejsek has been moving steadily in an upward direction. She may not explode all at once but if we look up in 4-5 years and she’s a regular on the World Cup I won’t be shocked. She just needs to continue to improve every year.

Natalie Jurcova (24)

At 24 years old Jurcova is a bit of the old lady of the bunch. She’s got two full extra years under her belt on the IBU Cup. For her that is both a blessing and a curse. The extra experience is great but with a team with this much competition for the top spots there is really not a lot of room for error. You need to keep showing that you are moving upward to keep your spot.

Right now Jurcova’s sheet doesn’t show that continued upward movement. Over the last three seasons she has plateaued and slipped backward. In 2019-2020 she scored five finishes in the top 21 places. Since then just two. And her average finish has dropped backward from the mid 30s to closer to 50th. While her shooting percentages have stuck around 85% her ski ranks have fallen off considerably. For Jurcova’s dreams of being a World Cup regular its time to start getting the car out of reverse and going forward again. Otherwise with all of the competition on this roster its going to get late early.

Kristyna Otcovska (22)

Already 22 years old Kristyna Otcovska has just one season of racing on IBU events. She spent most of the year getting her feet wet on the Juniors level. And she actually did quite well considering it was her first year of racing. She had five top 25 finishes in just 10 races. Her ski ranks were almost all in the 20’s. Her shooting percentages, while inconsistent, came out to the mid 70s.

Honestly for just one year of IBU racing I feel like this was a very good start. Really solid skiing to start. She can definitely do better on the range but she’s just getting started. Now its time to see what she can do on the IBU Cup.

Gabriela Masarikova (20)

Two years younger than Otcovska, Masarikova has been racing IBU level races since she was 17 years old giving us plenty more data. Unfortunately right now the data isn’t pointing upwards. Her career best occurred three years ago. Her ski ranks are in decline each of the last two years. Fortunately she’s holding steady and actually improving her shooting into the mid 80s. She’s still young though and given another year or two to develop on the Juniors level she can get things turned around.

Men

While the women have been one of the most fun teams to watch develop over the last several years, the men’s team hasn’t quite had the same success. And while they don’t appear to have the same absolutely supernova bright future that the women do, the are still some really nice pieces on this team.

Quota: 5 Athletes to Start

World Cup Solid Starter

Michal Krcmar (31)

Michal Krcmar has been a rock solid competitor on the IBU World Cup for the last seven years. Year in and year out he comes in and competes at a high level with very little variance in his performances. It has resulted in some very good moments highlighted by his Silver medal at the 2018 Peyongchang Winter Olympics. He has 25 total top 10s in the last seven years of racing. You can almost count on at least 1-2 high finishes from him every year to go with a whole slew of very good finishes.

When you look at his stats it is really surprising how unsurprising it is. There is just minimal change in all of the major statistics, ignoring shooting speed, over that entire span. Ski ranks are always going to be in the 30-40s. Shooting percentages are always in the mid 80s overall, with stronger prone vs. standing shooting. Year after year after year. I think he might be one of the most under appreciated men on the World Cup.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201888.281.88533.6
2018-201987.380.583.932.7
2019-202083.882.583.128.6
2020-20219083.186.629.2
2021-202289.57984.330.8

What can we expect from Michal Krcmar going forward? Why would we expect anything different? That graph above shows almost a flat line. I am going to anticipate more of the same. And for that we should all be grateful and excited. He’s been very good for a long time. It’s time to celebrate him!

Krcmar Support:

On this team Krcmar is in a class of his own. Now its up to the young guys to try to live up to his standard. And there is certainly hope that they can.

Mikulus Karlik (23)

While Karlik doesn’t have as much experience as some of the other guys I think that he can be the best of the young Czech men. Over the last several seasons he’s been gradually graduated out from a successful Juniors career to the IBU and World Cup level.

In his last two years on the Juniors level he was starting to have a lot of very high successes. Six of his last nine Juniors races were top 10 finishes. He then had parts of two seasons on the IBU Cup. In the 2019-2020 year he was consistently in the 40-50 range before four top 35 finishes in the early 2020-2021 season led to a promotion.

The World Cup racing has seen him be wildly inconsistent. From top 40 to near dead last. However if you are looking for the reasons for optimism it is the last few weeks of his season starting with the Olympics. He had a 31st in the Olympic Individual and a 28th in the Olympic Sprint for near career highs and all but one of his final eight races of the season were top 55 which is his best run of consistency.

The real reason for optimism is this though: He isn’t yet competing at his baseline, much less his potential should he continue to improve as you expect at 23 year old will. His ski ranks on the World Cup are already top 30 level. And that isn’t a fluke one time thing, its been that way since he started World Cup level racing. His shooting though has been in the mid 60’s overall. On the Junior level it was in the upper 70s and on the IBU in the mid 70s.

Karlik’s path to success is pretty clear. Just getting back to his normal shooting should give him the ability to compete for more high finishes. Then as I said, he’s just 23, he should continue to improve as well both with his ski performance and his shooting. He has the ability to be another Krcmar for the Czech team. He’s already faster than Krcmar. It might be a stretch to get the shooting all the way to the mid 80s. However great skiing and low 80’s shooting would still get him to Lukas Hofer territory.

Adam Vaclavik (28)

Unlike Karlik, Adam Vaclavik actually has several years of World Cup experience. He’s proven that when performing at the peak level that we have seen so far, Vaclavik has been a decent if not spectacular World Cup biathlete. He can at least be counted on to go out there and compete hard every race. Sometimes the results are there and sometimes they aren’t.

For Vaclavik it appears that his overall performance rests primarily on his rifle. His skiing form has been good the last five seasons, always falling in the top 50 of the World Cup. Some of his competitors in the same region include Felix Leitner, Tommaso Giacommel, Benjamin Weger, and Roman Rees. Not bad names to be around if your goal is to be a solid World Cupper. The problem is that his shooting just hasn’t been as good. Over the last five seasons his best overall shooting percentage has been only 74.3%. And he’s not a particularly fast shooter, with his best season at 30.9 seconds on average per shooting. That was good for just 116th.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201881.35668.731.1
2018-20197557.566.333.1
2019-202078.67074.330.9
2020-202168767231.8
2021-202276.268.572.332.3

It’s a clear path that Vaclavik needs to follow. The skiing is okay. Those names he’s around are not bad names. But he just has to shoot better. His standing shooting is frankly atrocious. That is the low hanging fruit. But he also needs to improve the prone shooting. 80% is a high goal for him and he’s never shown the ability to get there, but that has to be his goal for the season. Easy to know what to watch for him to start the year. If we see the shooting percentage going up then he’s in for a solid season. Even just shooting 72.3% last year he still ended up 52nd overall. He definitely has potential to get a top 40 finish if not better.

Jakub Stvrtecky (23)

Jakub Strvetecky is another in a line of Czech men that are proving to be solid competitors. While still very young, in just a couple of seasons, Strvetecky is showing a somewhat similar profile to Michal Krcmar and Adam Vaclavik.

He’s already showing the skiing skills that are actually better than those of his compatriots. He’s been in the top 40 of skiing on the World Cup each of the last three seasons. The shooting though could use a lot of work. Particularly the standing shooting. While he’s actually been passable as a prone shooter, standing shooting in the 50’s and 60’s has been a significant drag on his performance. Meanwhile shooting times in the mid 30s put him close to the bottom of the shooting time rankings. He’s losing almost 10 seconds per trip to the range on the fastest shooters. And frankly the extended time on the range isn’t paying off. He shot a career best total shooting percentage last year and hit just 73.5% of his targets.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2018-201976566635.4
2019-202087686633
2020-202175.767.171.434.8
2021-202282.36473.535.7

Actually though, as with Karlick and Vaclavik, I’m optimistic. He’s already got the skiing taken care of. The shooting has been trending upward as well. Although to be fair it really only had one direction to go. Regardless, he is putting in the work and the shooting is improving. As with Karlick and Vaclavik the goal is the same: improve the shooting and results will start to come.

IBU Cup with World Cup Dreams

The next group here are men who have spent the most of their career on the IBU Cup. They are still dreaming of the World Cup though. And there should be one open spot open almost every week for them.

Vitezslav Hornig (23)

23 year old Honig has spent most of the last four seasons getting experience on the IBU Cup. If I had written this two years ago Hornig likely would have been one of the key men that I highlighted for the Czech team. However over the last two years his progress seems to have plateaued and maybe regressed.

Back in 2019-2020 everything seemed to be going up for him. He was in the top 25 almost every single race if not the top 15. He scored a career best 2nd place in a sprint. His first IBU Cup win seemed to be a sure thing. He was soaring with career best skiing and maintaining shooting in the mid to upper 80s. That same year at Junior Worlds he was 1st in Individual and 2nd in the Sprint. Everything was looking good.

Ever since COVID though he’s taken a step back. His shooting is still very good. His course time ranks however have done back down to 30-40s after being in the top 20s. As a result he’s only broken the top 15 three times in the last two seasons. He did manage three top 10’s at 2021 Junior Worlds at least which is a success.

So in the last four seasons we’ve seen the potential of Hornig. He has the ability to be mentioned in the same breath as Karlik, Vaclavik, and Strvtecky, but he needs to perform well enough to earn it now. If he can get his skiing form together again he can absolutely group with them to form the core of the next generation of Czech biathlon.

Tomas Mikyska (22)

Tomas Mikyska is yet another young Czech man trying to be apart of the core of the next generation of Czech biathlon. His Juniors career and his performance last year on the IBU Cup indicate that he’s going to likely have every opportunity to do just that.

Over the last three seasons of his Juniors eligibility he finished outside of the top 20 just a handful of times. He started his IBU Cup career a little slowly but last year as the year wound down he started to find himself again. He ended the year with five straight top 25 finishes.

Tomas Mikyska is more like Hornig in that for him the shooting is the constant and the skiing is the important variable. It took him until the lastter half of last season to start to find his IBU Cup legs but when he did he rode them to those top 25 finishes. The rifle though remained steady with consistent shooting in the mid 80’s no matter where he is racing. One thing that Mikyska does better than pretty much everybody else on this list though is shooting time. He averaged just 28.4 seconds per trip to the range last year.

Easy to know what we are watching this year for Tomas Mikyska. It’s his skiing. If we see the course time ranks in the 20’s to 30s that a really good sign that he’s in for a good year.

Milan Zemlicka (26)

At 26 Milan Zemlicka feels like he’s on the older end for the men in this group. And by the young standards of his crew he really is. On the other hand though, over the last couple of years he’s really started to show that he shouldn’t be immediately overlooked for the young guns. The last two seasons he’s split on the World Cup and the IBU Cup, but the results on the IBU Cup were easily his best of his career. Over those 15 IBU Cup races he has been consistently earning top 30 finishes and had three of his four career top 10s. His 11 races on the World Cup weren’t quite as successful with just three top 50 finishes (and one of those was 49th).

Zemlick is a lot of Lucie Charvatova in that he walks a very fine line. Except it is the absolute opposite fine line. He shoots really really well. Last season on the World Cup he shot 88.3% overall. On the World Cup he shot even better at 91.5%. Shooting times are okay right around 31 seconds. Unfortunately that means that his ski times have to be bad. And they are. His ski ranks on the IBU Cup are generally in the 40s. On the World Cup last year he was ranked 162nd in ski rankings. Not great.

Zemlick is like the two other men just above him on this list. If he can get the skiing organized then he’s in amazing shape. Very few men shoot as well or better than him. At age 26 though and with so many young competitors the time is now.

Juniors:

Yes it feels like everybody we’ve talked about so far is a Junior. How are they so young? Well these last guys on the list are pure juniors. Well at least we’re just focusing on their Juniors level racing.

Jonas Marecek (21)

Okay I’m breaking that rule right away. Jonas Maracek not only has four World Cup races already, but he has spent most of the last two years on the IBU Cup. So why do I include him on this list? Because most people who recognize the name will recognize it because he won the Individual race at least year’s Junior World Championships. That was one of four wins he’s had in the last three years of Junior racing to go along with another 2nd place finish, and 12 total top 10s. To put that in perspective he’s had just 8 races outside the top 10. Not a bad Juniors career at all.

Because of all of that success he was bumped up to primarily IBU Cup racing two years ago. The high finishes aren’t quite there yet with just two top 20 finishes. However one of those top 20’s was in the last race of the season so how’s that for ending on a high note? Most of his finishes at this early stage though are between the 30s and 60s.

As a biathlete Marecek has primarily relied on his ski speed for all of his success so far. He’s been terrific at the Juniors level, almost always top 10 course time the last two years. At the IBU Cup his skiing is starting to show signs of coming around as well. Last year he moved his course times up to the 40-50 range, up significantly from being near the bottom in his debut campaign.

His shooting is solid. Throughout his career it has stayed around 85%. With his ski potential this is good enough to be a very good biathlete. However, he hasn’t yet shown to compete with the absolute fastest, and if we’re projecting to the World Cup, shooting around 85% would need him to be one the absolute fastest. So what do we expect of Marecek? Let’s hope we see more growth this year. The shooting stays even or even a little better and the skiing keeps bumping up? It’s definitely possible.

Ludek Abraham (20)

Ludek Abraham has just 22 races to look at, most of which are on the Juniors level. So far he’s shown flashes of success, his highest point being the Junior Euros where he finished 8th in Pursuit following a 13th in Sprint which itself was one week after his first top 15.

So far in his career he seems to be a better skier than shooter. He’s achieved almost all top 20 course time finishes. Shooting started out a little rough but really made a jump last year all the way up to 78% overall. Yes that was a big leap.

He’s young and early in his career. I’m more than happy to watch and see how he develops over the next year or two.

Ondrej Manek (21)

Ondrej Manek returned last year after spending the 2020-2021 season not racing. After a season off you might expect him to be rusty but he came right back with four top 10s almost immediately. That included three 5th place finishes. After achieving a 5th in the Junior European Individual he had a bit of a rough finish to the season, never finishing higher than 32nd.

Manek does show signs of being a vey good all around biathlete. When he had his peak racing at the start of last season he was skiing very well, consistently getting into the top 20s in course time. When he didn’t have as much success later in the season it was when his course time ranks went down to the 40s and 50s again. At the same time his shooting has been steady around 85% throughout his career.

Manek has plenty of potential. I will be watching him early this year to see if his skiing looks more like the first half of last season or the second half of last season.

Petr Hak (19)

We finish with easily the youngest man on the roster, Petr Hak. At just 19 he has only three career races, all of which were at Youth Worlds last year. He finished 25th, 16th, and 13th. Not bad for his first races! The best part? His ski ranks were 3, 2, 3. Not much higher than that! Hopefully we get to see more racing out of him this year to see if this skiing is the real deal. That little taste though makes me pretty excited.

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