General Thoughts (and questions) from Hochfilzen
1)QFM: Time to Panic?
Last season was Quinton Fillon Maillet’s crowning glory. It took him a season to get used to being the leader of the French Men’s Biathlon squad but once he got comfortable with it, he really took off. I don’t say this lightly when I say that last year was one for the history books. Here are a few of his accomplishments
– 5 Olympic medals including two golds and three silvers. His one non medal event, the Mass Start, he finished 4th.
– 8 World Cup victories
– 12 World Cup podiums
– 6 straight Pursuit race victories
Quinton Fillon Maillet left his mark early in the year declaring that he could pursue both the Overall Crystal Globe as well as Olympic success. It is fair to say that he both reached and surpassed his goals. He won the Crystal Globe with minimal challenge after the first four weekends of the season. He now, along with JT Boe and Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, holds the record for most Olympic medals in a single Olympic games for a biathlete. For good measure he won the Sprint and Pursuit discipline globes as well.
This season does not appear to be covered in the same successes as last year. At first it glance it looks like his ability to defend the globe is in serious jeopardy. But is it time for him to panic? Let’s start by just doing a quick side by side of QFM’s season through five races:
|2021-2022 Season||2022-2023 Season|
|Rank||6th – 50 points back||8th – 219 points back|
Well from that perspective in some ways it doesn’t look quite so bad. QFM traditionally a slow starter even had a little bit of a slow start last year. The thing is so did everybody. No single male biathlete had any consistently great performances. Every race the yellow jersey passed off to a different athlete. Early season wearers included Laegreid, JT Boe, Christiansen, and Samuelsson. All in the first three weeks! This year is another story, JT Boe is on an absolutely insane level right now. He’s destroying the field.
Okay so that’s a bit of a mixed bag. Appears to be a slow start as per usual and maybe we’re about to see QFM take off especially now that we’re in France. However its a bit of a hole compared to last year because of JT’s Boe’s run. If you’re a QFM fan you can’t worry about that. We’ll get to the points change in just a minute.
First, how do Quinton Fillon Maillet’s numbers look this year vs. last year? For last year we’re using his end of season stats.
|Average Shooting Time||27.9||27.8|
Alright now we’re getting somewhere. The shooting looks as good as ever. Shooting percentage is better across the board and the shooting time is roughly the same. We’re not looking at race by race shooting or even when the misses occurred but overall the shooting appears to be there. The speed…not yet. Right now compared to the median skier on the World up QFM is roughly 3.07% faster. JT Boe meanwhile is 6.5% faster. It ends up that JT Boe is skiing about 1km/hr faster than QFM this year. For comparison last season QFM was 3.8% faster than average and JT Boe 4.65% faster than average.
So does QFM have a chance? Yes…but he’s going to need a little help from JT not being a world beater. We don’t need to get in to JT Boe’s stats to know that he’s just been on another planet compared to everybody else. However if he slips even a little bit QFM can make up the ground. We’ve just seen that last year he had a similarly slow start and that right now his shooting is even better than last year. Here’s what we need to see: QFM needs to get his skiing up a few points. He doesn’t need to be JT Boe. But he does need to be Sturla Laegreid and Emilien Jacquelin. He can and has done that in the past. Now he needs to do it again. Then he needs JT to lose a little of his focus on the range and open the door.
If QFM can string together a few wins in a short period of time with JT Boe being off of the podium for a few of those that big gap can close quickly. Remember there is a much greater stagger to the points system this year. The spread in points from 1st to 4th is now 40 points. That’s huge! Something like that four times and that’s 160 points made up. Boe would still be up 60 points but its a different ballgame then. Long story short, no reason to panic for QFM. A win or two this weekend and it could be a different picture going into the holidays.
2) Julia Simon: Flash in the Pan or Sustainable Success?
Continuing with the French for another big question…can Julia Simon keep up the success that she’s shown already this year? We’ve all known that Simon has the talent to be a top contender. We’ve seen it as she’s has won a handful of times coming into the season. However it seems like she’s struggled to string together successes. She punctuates moments of glory like winning back to back Mass Start races two seasons ago with shootings in the 60% range.
This season appears to be a new story. After two weeks Julia Simon has two victories and a podium and is wearing the Yellow Jersey. She’s not just wearing it because nobody else is racing well either. Simon legitimately looks like someone who can win the Overall Crystal Globe come March. So the question is can she keep this up? Or is this just a flash in the pan?
Before we answer that lets just do a quick history lesson on Julia Simon.
|Prone %||Standing %||Total %||Shooting Time|
That pretty much bears out exactly what you would imagine. If you watched Julia Simon at all over the last few years you saw a young woman who shows very good ski potential, who shoots very fast, and who shoots very inconsistently. When Simon hits her shots she competes for wins and podiums. As you can see above though the hits have just been hard to come by. So what do we see this season. Any clues as to what could be going better?
|Julia Simon||2022-2023 Season To Date|
|Shooting Time Rank||15|
|Average Shooting Time||27.4|
Wait, what? Yes you read those numbers correctly. Julia Simon currently has the highest shooting percentage of any woman on the World Cup. To be fair she’s tied for that honor with Vanessa Voigt (which should surprise nobody). I mean the skiing and shooting time look reasonable. In fact they are both a little down from where she has been recently. The shooting though looks completely outrageous. Look at those shooting ranks in the graph above and the percentages in the table. Her best end of season ranking was 85th and her best end of season hit rate was 81.5%. So yeah, this is a MAJOR jump up.
Diving deeper into the numbers though you could actually see this coming as early as the the first trimester of last season. Throughout her career Simon has actually had a decent number of shooting days in the 80-90% range. What has held her back is very few days above 90%, just one time ever prior to last season. She also has many many more really bad days than any of the other top contenders. Those really bad days put a major drag on her numbers. It has also meant that in the past when she had a bad day she was finishing well down or even out of the points. To be a top 10 athlete and contender in the overall you really need to be scoring well every single race. There can’t be major holes.
Starting last year in Annecy-le Grand-Bornand, though, she both eliminated the really bad days AND started to have more really good days. It’s the perfect combination. She’s had just 5 races with a shooting percentage less than 80% since Hochfilzen 2021, a span of 25 races. Also in that period she has had 6 days with a hit rate over 95%. Here is the key stat: Since Hochfilzen 2021, so including the races of Annecy-le Grand-Bornand 2021 through last weekend, Julia Simon is shooting 86.1%. That is a full season of races.
Okay final answer, can Julia Simon keep this up? Yes. Absolutely. She is skiing maybe a little bit better than usual but she consistently a very fast skier so this is not shocking. Her shooting speed is down just a little bit from last year. Over the last 25 races she is shooting 86.1% total. Maybe 86.1% isn’t enough to win a Crystal Globe but it tells me that while this shooting is really good, it isn’t a total fluke. She’s figured something out and she can win this Globe.
3) Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold: The New Queen of Norwegian Biathlon?
Okay that was two long ones so here’s a short one. Is Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold the new Queen of Norwegian biathlon? Well yeah. It started out by default. While Tiril Eckhoff and Marte Olsbu Roeiseland didn’t officially retire, we are finishing the last race before the holiday break and they still aren’t racing yet. Roeiseland may rejoin the World Cup after the holidays but there is no indication that Eckhoff is any closer to racing. So that pushed Tandrevold right to the front of the pack.
I will be honest I was nervous about her ability to step up to the high standards and expectations of the Norwegian fans. But after two weeks it looks like she is more than ready for this.
Let’s start with the numbers. We know that Tandrevold is traditionally a fast relatively fast skier that has been held back by the rifle and the shooting times.
This season though we’re seeing improvements pretty much everywhere. The skiing has rebounded just a touch after a bit of a dip last season and is back to the top 10. Her shooting is much faster, averaging almost a full second faster than her previous fastest shooting season.
|Ingrid Landmark Tandrevols||2022-2023 Season To Date|
|Shooting Time Rank||44|
|Average Shooting Time||30.7|
As with Julia Simon above, the biggest improvement right now is in her shooting. While Tandrevold’s shooting improvement hasn’t been as dramatic and as quick as Simon’s it is just as real. If you look at her shooting over the last year, just like we did with Simon going back to Annecy last season, you see the same sort of improvement. The poorer shooting days have been eliminated and there are more frequent really good shooting days. Over that period she has just 2 days shooting under 70%. She also has seven days of shooting over 90%. Those are both dramatic improvements over the prior years. That’s a long way of saying yes, like with Simon, I believe that Tandrevold’s shooting improvement is real and not just a blip. Maybe she won’t stay at 92.5% all season, but considering she’s been shooting 90% over the last full season worth of races so I wouldn’t expect a huge drop off.
Now for something completely subjective. Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold has become the center of this group of Norwegian women. You can see it in how they interact with each other. You might expect them to feel immense pressure trying to make up for the lack of the two most recent Crystal Globe winners. Instead they are loose and having fun. And most importantly for Tandrevold she herself is having fun.
Is Ingrid Tandrevold the new Queen of Norwegian Biathlon? It started out as a default yes. As of today though, she’s earning the title. She currently sits #2 in the overall standings and I can find no reason why she can’t continue to compete at this level. She’s good and early on she’s one of the top contenders for the Overall Crystal Globe. I can’t tell you how much I’m impressed by Tandrevold this year and what a fan I am of her performances.
Weekly Personal Bests:
Anamarija Lampic – Finished 5th in her very first race. It’s a personal best by default but it’s worth mentioning just because it was so remarkable. We covered it at length previously in Part 1.
Tommaso Giacommel – Giacommel ended last season on a high note scoring several of the top finishes of his career in the last weeks of the season. So far this year he has added a few more including a 20th in the Sprint good for his 4th best all time finish and a 6th in the Pursuit his new career best!
Jakub Stvrtecky – Stvrtecky now has 64 total solo races on the World Cup. He set a very solid career best of 8th place in this week’s Sprint a total of 8 places better than his prior best.
Justus Strelow – Strelow has just 10 solo races but he also has set a new career best of 9th place. The “S” boys had a very good day in the Sprint!
Anna Magnusson – Magnusson finished 9th in the Sprint which was her 3rd best ever finish behind two prior 7th place finishes. She has also had 16th and 18th place finishes this season. It’s the start of a pretty good year for her!
Chloe Chevalier – Her 11th place finish in the Sprint was her 4th best ever finish. She has 3 times before finished 8th and has another 10th. I’m feeling another top 10 this weekend for her.
Tuomas Harjula – What a race Harjula had in the Pursuit. The best overall isolated pursuit, he moved up from the 41 bib all the way to 14th to tie his career best!
Lotte Lie – This was Lie’s best ever Sprint finish at 15th place. She likes Annecy-le Grand-Bornand after a career year last year going 16th, 13th, 13th. She could be primed for another big weekend!
Polona Klemencic – Another woman having an amazing early season, she finished 19th in the Sprint good for her 2nd best career finish. Before last weekend though it would have been her best ever!
Suvi Minkinnen – Minkinnen is also having something of a breakout season. She finished 19th in the Pursuit which is behind only an 18th place from last year and 15th place from this year. This has been a really early season reminiscent a little of someone like Lotte Lie last season.
Nadia Moser – Moser had an amazing weekend. She started out with a 32nd, good for her 3rd best career finish. Then she outdid herself with a 23rd place in the Pursuit and set a new career best!
Samuela Comola – She continued a very solid start to the season. While she didn’t break her career best of 20th which she set last weekend she did finish 27th and 25th which are her 2nd and 4th best all time finishes.
Lovro Planko – The 21 year old from Slovakia is gaining valuable experience this year and starting to have some success. He gained a new career best of 31st in the Sprint race.