Germany Team Preview

If I close my eyes and picture a biathlon race, inevitably one of the first things that comes to mind is the range at Oberhof or Ruhpolding. The German fans erupting with cheers as the shots find their targets. I could probably make an argument for why every regular venue on the IBU World Cup circuit is the best (except maybe Hochfilzen but that’s another story). The German fans and love of biathlon though is palpable even from 6 time zones away. It’s no wonder that they make for such a great setting for the racing and get to host two weekends on a regular basis!

Not surprisingly the Germans have almost always had a top contender on both the men’s and women’s teams. From the likes of Magdalene Neuner to Sven Fishcer the German flag was consistently fighting for wins. As we head into a new season the women certainly seem to have the talent to keep that trend going. The men though, find themselves in a bit of an interesting place. This is going to be an important year as the Germans all want to perform well at the World Cup they are hosting in Oberhof. Let’s go heck out what we can expect!

Women

Quota: 6 Athletes to Start

For the briefest of moments there was a question of whether the German women were heading into a bit of a wilderness. That was a very very brief moment. Now they appear to be in a very strong position. Denise Herrmann appears reinvigorated, Franziska Preuss is healthy, young Vanessa Voigt looks to be pushing for higher and higher, and the talent in the Juniors level is very bright.

Star Level:

The top three women on this list are not only locked in on the World Cup, they have the ability to win any race they line up at. I’m not saying they will win a lot. They may all not even win a race this year. But they have that ability and it sets them apart from the rest of their teammates.

Denise Herrmann (34)

The team leader for Team Germany last season, Denise Herrmann is coming off yet another successful campaign. She attained her fourth straight season in the top 10 of the overall rankings and won the Individual Gold medal at the Beijing Olympic Games. The year didn’t start off spectacularly but starting the the Olympics she was absolutely on fire for the last month of the season. After returning to Europe she never finished lower than 7th and added another win and three total podiums to her career totals. At 33, now 34, years old the former cross country skier shows no signs of slowing down.

While not quite as fast as she always was, Herrmann still maintains a position consistently in the top 10 of the course ranks week in and week out. While she is getting a little older it’s hard to see her dropping off too dramatically. Almost more impressive she’s actually managed to get just a little more accurate each of the last three seasons. While her prone shooting has always been solid if not spectacular, averaging around 85%, she’s finally getting her standing shooting into the 80s.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201885.376.881.135.4
2018-201983.474.979.133.3
2019-202082.973.578.232.2
2020-202185.577.581.530.9
2021-202285.681.783.632.5

Looking ahead to what may be Herrmann’s last season it’s hard to expect anything less than the best she can give. In fact if you are looking for a comparison to a recently retired athlete look no further than fellow German Erik Lesser’s farewell campaign. You can almost see the day when he knew he was going to retire. Starting in Oberhoff, Lesser seemed to decide that he was just going to absolutely empty the tank and give it all. He ended with 9 top 10’s in his last 11 races including his magical win in Oslo. If Herrmann really is going to retire this season you could see her doing something similar. Just going full bore and leaving it all on the course. It could be really fun!

Franziska Preuss (28)

Coming off of what I would politely call “the year from hell” Preuss has a chance to bounce back in a big way. She had a freak injury, she had COVID, and was feeling so down she said she contemplated retirement. Then at the Olympics she started to feel a little bit better. She closed out the year finally starting to show what she can do again with 5 top 10s including second in the season closing Mass Start.

This was much more like the Franziska Preuss we have come to know. Over the previous four years it was a step forward every year. In the 2020-2021 season she was showing all of her potential when she finished ranked #3 in the overall standings behind the Norwegian power duo. She had improved all the way to top 10 skiing levels, finishing the season ranked #8. Her shooting, while not as high as her peak of 88% in the 2019-2020 year was still solid at 85%.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201895.579.487.427.9
2018-201990.678.984.727.2
2019-202090.486.788.526.7
2020-202193.879.186.429.2
2021-202289.682.285.929

Preuss is only 28 as this year gets under way putting her as entering what should be the peak of her physical potential. Assuming a healthy summer and training she as the ability to be back to top 10 in skiing this season. The real question will be can her shooting rebound a little bit. If she can ski top 10 a shooting percentage around 88% puts her in position to compete for the globe. We know this because we’ve already seen it!

Vanessa Voigt (25)

Last year Vanessa Voigt was our newcomer of the year. She started out the year letting us know who she was with a couple of top 10s. She built up throughout the year and peaked during the weeks of Antholz through the Winter Olympics until getting her first podium with a 2nd place Sprint in Otepaeae. Coming off an 1st overall in the IBU during the 2020-2021 season Voigt landed at 13th overall in her debut campaign.

Right away we can see Vanessa Voigt is one of if not the very best shooter week in and week out. She ended the year at 91.75% and was incredible both prone and standing shooting. This wasn’t a new thing as she had been shooting in the 90% both prone and standing shooting on the IBU Cup for the last couple of seasons as well.

Skiing was not quite as good as she ended the season ranked “only” 34th. That doesn’t tell the whole story though. There seemed to be some times where she was holding back just a touch. You could see this as she would start races further down in the course time ranks for the first laps but the last laps were consistently up there with the best. Looking back to her IBU Cup stats you can see consistent top 10-20 finishes in terms of course time. This is a clear opportunity for growth.

One other obvious area for growth is shooting time. She took on average 35.5 seconds per trip to the range. This ranked 152nd on the World Cup level last year and was nearly 10 seconds behind the fastest shooters like Hanna Oeberg. It did represent a nearly 2 second improvement from her shooting speeds in 2019-2020 so she has been improving.

This year it’s hard to know what to expect from Voigt. She is still relatively young in her career. She could easily have a bit of a regression. On the other hand, she has been shooting at this level for years so it wasn’t an abberation. Also her skiing could absolutely improve as well. And she can pick up a few seconds on the range, hopefully without affecting her accuracy. Let’s cautiously predict here that Voigt will move up. In fact I’m predicting three Germans in the Top 10 with Voigt being one of the three. It is well within her abilities.

World Cup – just not Super Star Level

This next group will be taking up two of the remaining 3 slots on the World Cup. Hinz and Hettich are very good and are solid members of the team and will continue to be for at least the foreseeable future.

Vanessa Hinz (30)

I count myself solidly as a member of the Vanessa Hinz fan club (pictured below). That’s not just because she came on the podcast this season either. She’s just a fun all around biathlete. While she doesn’t get the wins or the headlines of the three women above her, she still goes out there and is a solid competitor week in and week out resulting in top 30 overall finishes each of the last five seasons with a peak of 10th in the 2017-2018 season.

Over the last two years there has been a slight regression in ski form. The top 20 course time ranks just aren’t coming as frequently or as easily as they used to. As a result it puts just a little more pressure on being perfect with the shooting. Prone shooting has maintained its always absolutely stellar form. Unfortunately the standing shooting continues to be the Achille’s heal. Even with that sub 80% standing shooting she still was able to shoot just a hair over 85% overall! Her shooting times are still solid at 31 seconds, about where she has always been.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201888.885.487.130.5
2018-20199083.386.730.3
2019-202087.379.383.330.2
2020-202192.481.887.131.3
2021-202291.579.485.531.1

Hinz has potential for a few more days in the sun. She is only 30 years old so it is not out of the realm of possibility that with a good summer of training, and the new coaching of Sverre Roeiseland she can get back a little of that old speed. That plus a standing shooting back in the low 80s could see her return a top 25 overall finish. I am absolutely not ruling that out. Also, more likely when you take into consideration the absence of the Russians and Belarussians this season.

Janina Hettich (26)

At age 26 Janina Hettich on most any other team would be considered a rising hope for the future. Two years ago when she set her as of yet career high overall ranking of 22nd she had three top 10 finishes including a career best 5th place in the Individual at Antholz proving the talent is definitely there. For the Germans though she seems to be a bit of a forgotten woman. She is right between Preuss and Voigt in terms of age and while showing flashes hasn’t shown the consistent stretches or the peaks that those two incredible talents have.

So far in her career Hettich profiles very similarly to Vanessa Hinz. She is a solid skier, a very good prone shooter, struggles with standing shooting, and shooting time around 30 seconds. It’s actually startling how closely they resemble each other. It’s like someone copied Hinz, made her 4 years younger, and put her on the German team just to see if we are paying attention.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2019-202073.368.370.830.8
2020-202193.983.388.631.7
2021-202292.576.784.630.1

Janina Hettich therefore should have a similar potential to Hinz then right? She’s almost the carbon copy, so what we saw from peak Hinz should be possible from Hettich. That would look like top 25 skiing, low 90’s prone with mid 80’s standing, shooting time around 30-31 seconds. When Hinz did that she finished 10th overall. I’m not saying we will see that from Hettich this season but that’s what her peak potential would look like. I do think we see improvement from her this year. Maybe half way there? Let’s be optimistic and say she can get to top 15 this year.

World Cup/IBU Cup Go Betweens

The women in this group are fighting for one last World Cup spot that will be open on a regular basis. They are going to have to perform at their highest levels because the competition for this spot is going to be tough.

Anna Weidel (26)

Anna Weidel at age 26 has struggled to break through to the German World Cup team, primarily because the top of the team has no reason to go anywhere else! With her first consistent racing on the World Cup the last two years (primarily 2020-2021) Weidel did okay. Just okay. Not enough to firmly establish her hold on the World Cup spot, but not bad enough to be out of the running entirely. However last year on the IBU Cup she was tearing it up.

Her World Cup racing to date shows a career best of 9th that she set at the very start of last year. Otherwise she has a lot of finishes in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. On the IBU Cup though she went all top 20 including a 2nd place. Finish. This is one year after she had six top 10’s in seven IBU Cup races. So clearly racing very well on the IBU Cup is the take away.

Weidel is basically a very good shooter. In her limited World Cup races last year she shot of 93%. However, she normally shoots in the upper 80’s, so good but not quite as spectacular as that. She is really held by her performance on the skis. She is a below average skier and she is just losing too much time on the course that even her spectacular shooting is not enough to make it up. It’s not surprising that her career best was in an Individual which is especially penal to poor shooting.

So what’s her outlook? She is going to be stuck in the in between of IBU and World Cup until either she makes significant improvements on the skis, or unfortunately for Weidel, one of the talented young women coming up supplant her in the pecking order. That may happen as soon as this season unless the ski improvements happen quick. I will say that the big thing Weidel has in her favor is that if for some reason a couple of the top athletes are out she can step in well in the relay with quick and accurate shooting.

Lisa Marie Spark (22)

Last year Lisa Marie Spark had some amazing results on the Junior level. She was an absolute force at the Junior World Championships, winning the Individual event gold medal, bronze in the Sprint, and 4th place in the Pursuit. Then she was a member of the silver medial 4x6km relay team. An all around nearly perfect Junior Worlds.

The problem for Lisa Marie Spark is that she is aged out of Juniors and can’t continue to dominate that level anymore. Now to the IBU Cup where she hasn’t seen nearly as much success yet. It has only been two half seasons so far (she only raced the first half of the last two seasons on the IBU Cup, leaving after that to focus on Juniors). However in those 18 races she has just one top 10. Year over year there was an improvement in finishes with many more top 40 finishes last year vs. the prior season.

In general her entire performance seems to suffer when she makes the leap to the IBU Cup. It makes sense with the more challenging competition to see her ski ranks slip. She goes from one of the top Juniors to more in the 30-40s on the IBU Cup. There is a clear upward trend last though and she does seem to rank a little higher every week. She ended with three top 20 course times ranks in the last four races.

Shooting also takes a dramatic fall off though. For her entire Juniors career she averaged around 85%. On the IBU Cup though she is consistently shooting about 5% lower. It’s really apparent in her prone shooting which drops from consistently in the low 90s with well over half of her races being perfect 100% to just around 80% and only 5 perfect prone shootings.

Marion Wiesensarter (27)

Over the last four season Marion Wiesensarter has been a regular starter for the German team. Unfortunately for her she’s become a stalwart on the IBU Cup while I’m sure she would rather be on the World Cup. She’s become a really solid competitor on the IBU Cup, finishing 12th and 11th overall the last two seasons.

Wiesensarter has actually been incredibly solid all around. Her skiing has improved such that she is regularly getting course time ranks in the low teens and 20s. Her shooting has gotten a little better the last couple of years as well and overall shooting percentage was a solid 86.4% last week. The only real negative on her profile is her shooting averaging out to about 33.5 seconds per shooting.

What’s next for Wiesensarter? Well it’s hard to say. She’s a bit caught in between. She’s very good on the IBU Cup. Is she good enough to push her way to the World Cup long term? I honestly don’t know. The shooting is good enough, but likely not fast enough. When the margin for error is so small she probably needs to improve there.

Hanna Kebinger (24)

Hanna Kebinger is now in her third season out of a very solid Junior career. She actually was #1 overall on the Juniors her last season there in 2018-2019. Since then she’s finished 19th and 15th overall. Last year she finished with a tremendous close including six top 10’s in her last eight races. This included her first ever IBU Cup win.

While her shooting has maintained an average of almost exactly 85% her shooting has been progressing each of the last three seasons. During that late season surge she actually had the best skiing of her career including her first race as being the fastest woman on the course.

The late season surge Kebinger showed was the first sign of her Juniors potentials coming out. Her shooting has been 85% her entire career including Juniors. As a Junior though she was easily one of the fastest women. That final stretch was the first time she had been able to replicate that on the IBU Cup. If she can continue that for a full season she has potential to get close to the top of the IBU Cup. As the question remains for most of these woman, is that enough to break into the World Cup? We will see.

Juliane Fruehwirt (24)

When Hanna Kebinger finished 1st on the Juniors in 2018-2019 you know who was in 2nd place? Juliane Fruehwirt. Remaining attached to the hip with Kebinger, she has had a similar level of success on the IBU Cup as Kebinger with overall finishes of 9th and 18th the last two years.

She was a little better two years ago than last year with finishes primarily in the teens and 20s in 2020-2021 and 20s to 30s in 2021-2022. Not a huge drop. Looking at why it happened it is easy to see why. Her shooting which was terrific 88.6% average dropped to just 83%. Her average shooting time also dropped a full two seconds. That was enough to drive dive her average finishing place down just enough.

This season Fruehwirt gets the first opportunity to try and stick on the World Cup with the starts in Kontiolahti. If she can get her shooting back up to the 88% range that might be enough to keep the spot. As I’ve said every time here with basically one spot up for grabs she’s going to have to perform to keep it.

Sophia Schneider (25)

Another German with a strong Juniors history, she finished fourth overall in the 2017-2018 season. Unfortunately though she hasn’t had nearly as much success as Kebinger and Fruehwirt on the IBU Cup. The last two seasons of racing (she actually missed the entire 2020-2021 season) resulted in overall finishes of just 56th and 29th. A definite improvement but nearly high enough.

While Schneider has maintained her ski performance at the upper levels of the IBU Cup her shooting hasn’t been able to match that performance. Her average course time rank comes out around 25th almost every race with very little variation. Her shooting though has struggled to rise into the 80% ranges. In 15 races last year she was above 80% just four times. She also still has shooting time in the 33 second range which is holding her back a touch as well.

I included her on this list because we never know what year over year improvements might occur. If she really figures out her shooting this season, she has the ski speed to get herself into contention. She hasn’t quite shown it but the potential is still there. It helps when you’ve got the ski speed already. We’ll be hopeful we see the shooting show up this year.

Selina Grotian (18)

This might be a long shot because she is only 18, but Grotian just makes the list on her potential and talent alone. It is highly unlikely we see her for more than a weekend this season, but she belongs in this position on the listing. Grotian has two full seasons on the Junior level and has just two finishes outside the top 10, and one of those is an 11th place. Last year she had 8 total races and three wins. At Youth Worlds she went 3rd, 4th, and 1st.

She has the whole package. She was consistently in the top 10 course rank with only two races outside the top 10 and they were both 12th place. Her shooting percentage last year was up to 87.5% for the season with 90% prone shooting and 85% standing shooting. Even her shooting is only 31.5 seconds per shooting. Tremendous all around performances.

Like I said, just 18 years old and likely not going to race that much this year, but look at those stats. She has serious potential to not only make the World Cup but to be a future star.

Juniors and Junior Graduates

The bottom women on this list are all currently Juniors or just finished their last season on the Juniors list. Just the breadth of this list alone should let you know all you need to know about how different biathlon is in Germany than so many other countries.

Johanna Puff (20)

20 year old Johanna Puff showed a dramatic improvement over the last three seasons. Over her first two years she rose race by race from the 50s to the teens. Last year, her first full year of racing, she had 12 total races. During one mid season stretch she had five straight top fives including her first win. While Junior Worlds didn’t quite go as well as she might have hoped she finished 2nd overall in the standings.

Overall she’s a decent skier with very excellent shooting. Her skiing was primarily in the teens but during that winning stretch she made it to the top 10. Her shooting was tremendous shooting 90% of better in 7 of her 12 races. She did that while averaging 31 seconds per shooting.

She’s rounding into a very good biathlete. I’m hopeful that she can show the next step and get into the top 10 more regularly while skiing this season. Although she might not get that opportunity if she is racing on the IBU Cup on a regular basis. I really want to see good things from her this year!

Luise Mueller (21)

Mueller is yet another of the very very good young biathletes coming out of Germany these days. No she wasn’t 1st or 2nd in the Juniors, she was just 3rd overall. She showed her potential with five top 10 finishes including an 8th in the Junior Worlds in Pursuit.

Mueller has very high ski potential. Last season she was top 10 in course time rank in 7 of the 12 races. She needed to to overcome her shooting which averaged out to just 81% overall and just 71% standing shooting. To reach her full potential that absolutely has to get straightened out. If it does though she can be very very good. One more German woman with top 20 overall World Cup potential.

Mareike Braun (22)

Braun came in 7th overall on the Juniors list last year giving German four of the top 10 Juniors last year. He had six top 10 finishes last season including a 4th in the Individual at Junior Worlds. She was tremendous on the skis last season finishing top 10 in course rank every race but one. This of course means she has room to improve with her shooting when she averaged just 76.9% for the season.

Braun is going to be on the IBU Cup this season. Her ski form is going to keep her in the race. For her to reach her potential she needs to straighten out her shooting urgently. If she can shoot she has potential to be very very good on the World Cup. More than the women ahead of her here she has a big hole to fill in her profile.

Hanna-Michelle Hermann (22)

Hanna-Michelle Herrmann has been racing less and less over the last several years to the point where I’m not entirely sure if she is planning on continuing to race. However I haven’t seen anything definitive one way or the other so I’m going to assume she’s planning on continuing.

Last year she ran in five races after missing the entire 2020-2021 season, and only racing five times the season before that. In those five races last year though she still gained two top 5 finishes including a win. She had all top 7 course time ranks. Her shooting was up and down with two races shooting 90% and three races shooting 60%.

I truly don’t know what the future holds for Hanna-Michelle Hermann. If she continues to race she clearly has the ski ability. If she can regularly shoot in the 80’s then she has potential to be very good. Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of her.

Iva Moric (18)

Last year was Iva Moric’s first racing of any sort associated with the IBU. She raced just three times all at the Youth Worlds and did she make an impact. She finished 2nd, 3rd, and 6th. Right now she has an average career finish of 5.5. Not bad! Her skiing was very good with course time ranks all between 11 and 13. Her shooting was 100, 100, and 90. I have no idea if that’s where we should expect her to be with her skiing. And if her shooting stays there she will set all time records. I’m hoping what we saw in that limited window of racing was her potential, very fast and good shooting. I can’t wait to see more of her this season!

Julia Tannheimer (17)

Julia Tannheimer came onto the IBU Juniors racing last year with an absolute bang. She was easily the fastest woman out there as she raced to a 5th, 9th, and 8th in her first three races. Of course her shooting wasn’t perfect going just 80%, 70%, and 70%. That ski speed at just 17 years old though gives her an incredible ceiling. Let’s see what this season brings. I’ll be checking out the Juniors races just to see if she’s racing and how fast she is.

Sabrina Braun (22)

Over the course of her Juniors career Braun has equally balanced high and low finishes. She averages out to the mid 20s. For example last season she had two races finishing top 10 and two races finishing below 20th. The primary culprit for this is the shooting. Her skiing is consistently good. Not as good as Tannheimer or Mueller or some of the other women. However good enough to give her a solid floor. Her shooting though was very inconsistent. She’ll need to settle down the rifle to be able to live up to her potential.

Selina Kastl (21)

Selina Kastl rounds out our list. She would be a highly prized Junior on most nations and here she sits near the bottom of our list. This is certainly not because she’s bad but because the competition is so high! She’s been solid. She has plenty of finishes in the teens and 20s. Her skiing was up to the top teens to 20s last year with a shooting in averaging in the low 80s. To breakthrough a little higher she’s going to need to be a little bit better at both skiing and shooting. It’s just a lot of competition!

Men

Quota: 6 Athletes to Start

The German men are now fully in a state of transition. Over the last few years Schemp, Peiffer, and Lesser have all retired. Benedikt Doll appears likely to retire after this season’s World Championships in Oberhoff. This leaves a new group of men carrying the flag for Germany. Will they be ready to step up? And what can we expect from a group that thus far has been good but not great?

World Cup:

We have just one athlete in this category. Not because there aren’t others that are deserving of it but because I want to honor Doll’s career and the nearing end of an era in German biathlon.

Benedikt Doll (32)

Benedikt Doll feels like the last of a generation of German men who have been retiring one by one recently continuing with Erik Lesser’s retirement last year. In the last two seasons they have lost men who accounted for 74 career podium finishes. This leaves just Doll hanging on. Doll has been a consistently very good biathlete over the last decade. He’s had five top 10 overall finishes in the last eight seasons including 8th overall last year. If this really is his last year Doll would add a 13 more career podiums to the tally above. That’s a hefty total.

Doll has been known primarily for his speed during his career. Over the last five seasons he’s been slowly regressing but even last year was still #13 overall in skiing. His shooting is solid enough to maintain contention but last year’s 84% overall was the best of his career. As his skiing inevitably slides further he’s going to need to maintain or improve on that shooting. He shot 91% prone so getting his standing shooting finally into the 80’s would be a huge bonus.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201887.879.583.727.6
2018-201989.370.279.827.7
2019-202082.979.481.227.6
2020-20218478.181.428.4
2021-202291778429.8

I do believe Doll has good racing left in him. Just last year he had a class head to head Mass Start with JT Boe in Antholz. It was an amazing race where he just kept holding Boe off until he pulled away at the last shooting. He can compete and win against the absolute best. Remember what I said about Denise Herrmann potential letting it all go if she knows she’s near the end. Copy and paste here for Doll. If he figures this is going to be it he could just drain the tank and go out as close to the top as possible.

Rest of the World Cup

The rest of the World Cup Roster is going to be made up of a group of men who are all very solid if not spectacular biathletes. This group has the potential to either dominate the IBU Cup or be top 20 on the World Cup. Looking back to what I wrote last year, I made the point several times that the German team was actually better than it looked. They weren’t getting the top level finishes that you might have expected. However almost every single race there was one of the men having a great race. What they lacked in top level talent and podium finishes they made up for in pure numbers. That’s the strength of this German team. Every race any of them could finish in the top 10 or higher! Not all of these men can fit on the World Cup roster every weekend but I have to imagine we’re going to see each of these guys for at least a few weeks.

Johannes Kuehn (31)

Kuehn is almost the same age as Benedikt Doll but he doesn’t feel like he’s been in the same biathlon generation as Doll, Lesser, Peiffer, etc. For good reason too. Last season was easily the best of his career. He finally broke through for the first win of his career and continued to be a threat in the sprint races all season long. If not for Erik Lesser’s late season surge Kuehn very well may have ended up in the top 10.

Kuehn is a very fast skier which keeps him in the race. Every season the last six years he has finished in the top 15 in overall skiing. And boy does he need to with the numbers we’re about to see. First the good ones…his prone shooting is very good. Look at those last three seasons in the upper 80s and low 90s. Now the rest. His prone shooting is just not good. Never breaking 70% the last five years. Overall that puts her mid to upper 70s.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201881.868.274.434
2018-201982.966.374.833.2
2019-202093.562.978.230.7
2020-202188.261.87533
2021-202289.468.278.831.9

At 31 it is hard to see him getting faster. He may be able to maintain a top 15 ski rank this coming year. If he wants to extend his career a few years though he’s going to need to dramatically improve his standing shooting and quickly. For just this year though if we’re going to look at where he will end up he could definitely find his way to the top 10 overall. He was knocking on the door last season. He could also be a prime regression candidate. It took excellent prone shooting to keep save him from his really bad standing shooting. Only time will tell.

Roman Rees (29)

Roman Rees is certainly not the first name that comes to anybody’s mind when they think of top German men. However he has steadily been improving the last several years and ended last year ranked 16th overall. Because of that it actually makes him one of my favorite athletes. He has never been one of the greats but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to work hard and try to improve.

If you look at his ski ranks they’ve stayed pretty steady each of the last few years. Remarkably so actually. Every year on the World Cup (2019-2020 was primarily IBU Cup) he finished between 40th and 46th in overall ski rank. Shooting though has improved each of the last few years. Last year his prone shooting ended at 92.5%, a new career high, and 89% for standing shooting.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201891.889.490.628.3
2018-201989.284.686.932
2020-20219084.787.330.4
2021-202292.585.58930.5

Roman Rees is a plucky biathlete that could. Just keeps plugging away and working hard to improve. He should be able to maintain his ski form as he’s a bit like Simon Eder. When you aren’t a speed demon you don’t have to worry about fading too much. The shooting should maintain at least decently well. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Roman Rees in the top 20 or even top 15 this season.

Philipp Nawrath (29)

Philipp Nawrath has almost perfectly straddled the line between the IBU Cup and the World Cup the last few years. Also like those two he has kept working hard to improve. Like Kuehn and Rees, last year was his best ever World Cup season when he finished 18th overall. This came off of his best ever IBU Cup finish in 2020-2021 when he was 2nd overall. In his late 20’s Nawrath is still a biathlete on the rise.

Nawrath’s profile is very similar to Johannes Kuehn. He continues to be a very fast biathlete as he ranked 11th overall in skiing last year and was consistently top 5 on the IBU Cup the two prior seasons. His shooting meanwhile is always right around 80%. He consistently has prone shooting in the mid to high 80s with prone shooting in the mid to low 70s. So overall a more even shooter, but still similar overall shooting. Even the shooting times are similar.

What can we expect to see from Nawrath? Well why not more of the same. He should be able to maintain his ski form barring injury. His shooting might improve a little bit? I’ll keep my fingers crossed on that account. Maybe, just maybe that standing shooting can rebound and he will have a career high overall. I think a top 15 overall is possible if all goes right.

Philip Horn (27)

Unlike Kuehn, Rees, and Nawrath Philip Horn saw his best season three years ago and has gone backwards since then. Last year after a series of unspectacular races he was demoted to the IBU Cup to end the season. On the IBU Cup though Horn seemed to find his place and was suddenly dominant. He had 13 races on the IBU Cup and all finishes were 16th or better including two wins and three more podiums.

Comparing his World Cup and IBU Cup stats they were fairly similar in terms of skiing. His course time ranks were consistently top 20-30. When he went to the IBU Cup he was top 5-10 every single race. His shooting was within 1%, 82% on IBU Cup and 83% on World Cup. It just speaks to the difference in the level of competition.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2019-202071.783.577.729.6
2020-202171.783.377.531.1
2021-20227294.783.329.8

Horn can be very solid but he doesn’t have a lot of room for error. Without having a top ski potential and without being a deadeye shooter he needs to be on his game every week. Maybe Horn is the latest in the string of German men finding their career form later in their careers? I certainly won’t say it is impossible considering the recent history. Let’s watch those shooting percentages very closely. Improved shooting is a good sign for a career year.

David Zobel (26)

Last year, after a very very good start to the year on the IBU Cup, David Zobel was given his first consistent look on the World Cup at the end of last season. His IBU Cup start included 7 finishes in the top 6 in just 11 races. Over the last few weeks on the World Cup he put together a decent string of racing. He had two top 10s, two 11th place finishes, and only once finished outside the top 32. It wasn’t flashy or spectacular but it did show potential for a bright future full of success. He raced against the best and proved he belonged.

Zobel is a solid all around biathlete. His current performances show him not profiling as a speed demon or a sharpshooter. On the IBU Cup his course time ranks were usually in the range of the top 10-15. His shooting last year finished at 83%. When he moved up to the World Cup he kept his course time ranks in the 25-35 range which is probably a little better than anticipated. His shooting even leapt up to 87%

There is nothing here that says he shouldn’t be really good over the next few years. However looking at the performances that he had last year he very well could be an athlete where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts themselves. I really enjoyed watching him race last season and I really want to see what he does with another shot on the World Cup level. He has no major holes in his profile so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him have a really good year this year. (**I wrote this before the racing today!!!!**)

Lucas Fratzscher (28)

Lucas Fratzscher has been the best overall performer on the IBU Cup for the last five seasons and I don’t even think it has been that close. His overall ranks the last four seasons are in order: 2nd, 1st, 14th, and 4th. You would think with a string like that he would have since moved on to a successful World Cup career. But when given the World Cup opportunities he hasn’t been able to make the most of it. In 17 World Cup races he has just two top 20 finishes. The vast majority are between the 40s and 60s.

It’s hard to tell what exactly is holding Fratzscher back from more consistent success. His skiing on the IBU Cup has consistently been top 10-20. On the World Cup though he drops all the way down to the 40s to 60s. His shooting on the IBU Cup is usually in the low 80’s overall the last few years. On the World Cup it dips into the 70s.

Over the last few years his entire performance has regressed when he makes it to the World Cup. He has the ability to be a solid performer in the mold of a Philip Horn or Nawrath. He just needs to go out and do it. Hopefully this is the year he puts it all together on the World Cup level.

Justus Strelow (25)

Justus Strelow at 25 years old feels positively young. It is remarkable how many of the German men are between 26 and 32. The mid 20s shouldn’t feel young but on this team it really does. Fortunately for Germany Strelow appears to be a biathlete on the rise. Since starting on the IBU Cup he has improved every single year. His overall finishes have risen from 37 to 14, and then 6th and 5th the last two years.

It’s been a steady climb in ski ranks every year from the mid 30s to consistently top 20s. Look at at a plot of course times ranks it is a tighter and tighter cluster at the top. He’s been able to match that with his solid shooting which has been 86.7% or better every year on the IBU Cup. As with most of the rest of the German team his prone shooting is consistently much better than his standing shooting.

Strelow definitely has potential to join Kuehn, Rees, Nawrath, and Horn as German men with top 20 overall potential on the World Cup. It might not be coming this year but the goal this year is to continue the skiing improvements. If he spends the year on the IBU Cup he wants to see his course time ranks move into the top 8-15 range. If he gets there and maintains shooting close to 87-88% he’s going to have a chance at the #1 overall spot on the IBU Cup. It also puts him in good position for a springboard to a potential top 20 on the World Cup with some relatively high finishes in the teens this year.

IBU Boys

This next group are going to by and large relegated to the IBU Cup all season. They just haven’t shown the top flight ability to get to the World Cup level regularly. Maybe this will be the year though?

Marco Gross (27)

27 year old Marco Gross has had a solid but not spectacular career on the IBU Cup. He’s only so far scored one start on the World Cup level. However he has been exceptionally solid. The last two years he has been top 20 overall on the IBU Cup. However if you’re looking for reasons for optimism just look at the last few weeks of last season. Seven races all top 10 but once including all five of his five best races and his first win. Yes there weren’t any Russians or Belarusians in those races but that’s still terrific performance.

Not surprisingly considering his name Gross’ career has been characterized by exceptional shooting, including five seasons of 89% or better. He’s been held back by just average ski speed. Last year though he finally started cracking the top 20 ski ranks on a regular basis. He combined that with the best shooting year of his career. That’s the Marco Gross potential. If Gross can make that ski speed his new normal then he can break through to the World Cup.

Darius Lodl (22)

Darius Lodl has a bit of an inconsistent racing career. He raced the 2018-2019 season, two races on the 2020-2021 season, and then again last year. That’s nearly two full years without racing. However when he came back last year he really started to show his potential again. Granted it was all Juniors racing but he finished 7th overall on the Juniors. He had a win, a third, and two more top 10s.

With fairly limited racing Lodl shows decent ski speed and shooting that is decent. Course time ranks last season on the Juniors were nearly all top 25. Shooting averaged to just 78% overall. So where does that lead Lodl? Hard to say. That doesn’t scream amazing potential. You would really want to see better skiing ranks as a 22 year old on the Juniors level and the shooting is not great. However with so little racing he might have better potential to improve. Only time will tell.

Dominic Schmuck (26)

Dominic Schmuck has had quite the up and down career. Seemingly every week he has a finish in the teens and follows that up with one in the 30s. There just hasn’t been a lot of consistency to his good performances which is how he finds himself in this position. As a result he has been in the teens and 20s in the overall rankings the last four years. Last year was his best overall at 13th.

If you really squint your eyes you might be able to see that his ski performances did rise just a little bit last year. Not a lot but just a touch. He has shown the ability to get to the top 20 in course time ranks he just doesn’t do it regularly enough. His shooting has always averaged right around 85% with very little variability. He has peak potential as a top 10 IBU Cup athlete. That might bring him to top 30 on the World Cup? But with how much competition there is on this German team that might not be enough.

Simon Kaiser (23)

Simon Kaiser is a recent graduate to the IBU Cup spending really only the last season there. As a Junior he had just a total of 6 races. He did score a 4th place at Junior Worlds in the Sprint his last time out. But usually he was in the 20s and 30s. In 10 races on the IBU Cup last year he did actually show some decent potential. He had six top 22 finishes which was better than his Juniors racing.

If you break down the stats there was actually room for improvement too. His skiing actually translated very well. He was already attaining top 15 course time ranks including 5 of his last 6 races. His shooting though was well down from his Juniors performances. He went from shooting around 80% as a Junior to shooting less than 70% on the IBU Cup. There is his obvious place to improve. If he improves there and maintains the ski form then he actually does have a high ceiling and may end up on the World Cup in the next couple of years and actually has a chance to be good.

Danilo Riethmuller (23)

Just being 23 years old Riethmuller already has 35 career solo races on the IBU Cup. It’s a significant amount of racing. Unfortunately not a significant amount of success yet. His best overall year end ranking is 43rd.

His ski ranks have actually been sliding backwards over the last four seasons. He shows potential with the occasional top 10-15 course time. However he has more than an equal number of course times in the 30s or higher. The optimistic view for Riethmuller is that he has had a dramatic improvement in shooting. While the previous two seasons he was shooting in the upper 70s, last year he shot just over 86% overall. If Riethmuller can tap into that shooting and be more consistent with the top 10-15 skiing then maybe we’ll see him with a top 15 overall on the IBU Cup.

Philipp Lipowitz (23)

After turning 23 this summer Lipowitz will begin his first full season on the IBU Cup this season. As a Junior he had most of his finishes between the teens and 30s. He was primarily a decent skier with course time ranks entering the top 20s his last two seasons in Juniors. His shooting was in the low 80s. Nothing about that screams high potential. But he is in his early 20s and he there is always time to improve.

Juniors:

And finally we take a look at the Junior men from Germany. While not nearly as highly ranked as the Germany women, they are still very solid and worth a look.

Albert Engelmann (17)

My favorite of the young German men, he did quite well in his first year of Juniors racing. He had all of his races in the top 32, 5 of his last 6 12th or better, and at Youth Worlds won two bronze medals and a silver. He’s got very high potential. He had all top 10 ski ranks and shooting was solid in the low 80’s. At just 17 he should easily continue to improve. Enelmann has very high potential and is worth keep tabs on.

Fabian Kaskell (18)

Fabian Kaskell is another young German who flashed some potential last season. It was actually his second season of Juniors racing after a year off in 2020-2021. He ended the year with four straight top 15 finishes. His skiing course time ranks increased to consistent performances in the top 25 and shooting was solid in the low 80% range. He’s a young man still. Let’s see how he develops over this season. I think we’ll see improvements in both skiing and shooting.

Benjamin Menz (20)

Benjamin Menz is yet another young German man with just two seasons of racing. He has been a solid competitor with consistent finishes in the top 25. In fact only one race outside of the top 25. His ski ranks took a bit of a hit from top 15 to 30-40s after he moved from Youth to Junior level. His shooting bumped up just a touch from 80 to 83% though. I will be curious to see what he can do with another season on the Junior level.

Hans Koellner (21)

21 year old Hans Koellner is coming off a season where he ranked 9th overall on the Junior level. He has one more season of eligibility left for the Juniors level but he likely will start to see some time on the IBU Cup this season. Last year he had a great start to the year with 4 out of 5 races in the top 10 except for the one race where he finished 11th. The rest of the year wasn’t as good with finishes in the 20’s.

During that winning stretch Koellner showed his peak potential. He had course time ranks in the top 10. His shooting has always been solid averaging above 85% each of the last three seasons. Let’s see what he can do when he starts to get time on the IBU Cup. My guess is he might have a few growing pains but with solid shooting to rely on he has a high floor. Hopefully that top 10 ski time becomes a more consistent reality.

Oscar Barchweitz (20)

With just 6 races over two seasons there is not a lot to go off of here. He did have a 3rd place finish in a sprint qualification and backed that up with an 18th place finish in the finals. He is a much better shooter than a skier. He has shot 90% or above in over half of his races. That’s a really great skill to have in his back pocket. Now time for his skiing to catch up!

Tim Nechewatal (18)

He has just three races all at Youth Worlds last year. He finished 27th, 21st, and 17th. He appears to be a solid skier with course times ranks of 11, 22, and 9. Shooting averaged out to 75%. I am hoping we see more racing from him this year!

One thought on “Germany Team Preview

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