JT Bø: Is He the Greatest Ever? Or the Best?

His name is Joahnnes Thingnes Bø. You may have heard of him. In fact you probably have heard a lot about him. And while you’ve been hearing a lot about him you’ve probably heard even more about him this season than almost ever before. For good reason though. He’s been on an insane tear, just dominating the season in historic fashion. Bø has been so amazing that the question is being asked more loudly every weekend: Is JT Bø the best male biathlete of all time?

We need to start by breaking down the different ways of determining the best. First you have “The Greatest.” The Greatest biathlete is the man who has simply the greatest overall resume. Our goal here will be to determine the pantheon of all time biathletes. Imagine if you will an Ancient Greek or Roman temple to the gods. These are the men who would populate that temple.

Then you have “The Best.” The Best biathlete is the man who would win a race or a season composed of all of the top biathletes throughout history all racing at their peak levels. In this we are going to look at the peak performance of some of the men from the pantheon noted above. We’ll see how they measure up against each other by looking at their statistical best seasons.

At the end we’ll look at how JT Bø measures up in both of these competitions. Is JT Bø the Greatest? Is he the Best?

Johannes Thingnes Bø’s Best Season?

Let’s actually start by looking at JT Bø’s current season and how it measures up with his previous peak seasons. Nearly everybody would agree that his peak season prior to this season was his peak. I personally think I would argue for the 2019-2020 season as his statistical peak but because he took a mid season paternity leave I understand leaving that one out. However, if you look at his stats, his ski performance was near career high, his shooting was at career high, and his average finishing position was at career high. Those kids…always getting in the way. (I love my son and future daughter more than life itself!!).

Total Races251723
Avg. Race Position2.82.41.7
Ski Margin-5.4%-5.4%-5.95%
Shooting %85.6%92.1%90.0%
Shooting Time29.2 sec28.3 sec26.5 sec
Shooting Time Rank293130
Avg Penalty Loop20.9 sec21.2 sec20.8 sec

Looking at the numbers above to try to determine Bø’s best season isn’t very difficult. It’s this season, hands down. Most wins, by far the most podiums, fastest by far, average finish is better than 2nd.

Who is The Greatest?

Our first project is to determine who is The Greatest male biathlete of all time. As laid out above we’re determining that by who had the overall best career of any biathlete. I used the example of an ancient Greek or Roman temple of the gods. Well get ready because we’re about to step inside the temple to see who sits in the position of honor and who else are merely gods among men. All statistics used are solo races and not including relay statistics. All medal counts include relays. Discipline globes didn’t not start to be given until as follows: Individual 1989; Sprint 1989; Pursuit 1997; Mass Start 1999. So keep all of that in mind! Let’s go build the men’s Temple of Biathlon!

Level 1: Honored Men

Lets start by mentioning men that are knocking on the door of the temple. Maybe their busts decorate the entrance or the courtyard. These men are listed in no particular order:

Sturla Holm Lægreid* – I can hear you already. He’s just in the third season of his World Cup career, how can he possibly already be in this position? Yes, he’s incredibly young. Yes he doesn’t have an Overall Crystal Globe (yet). This is partially a projection based on the rates at which he is accumulating podiums and wins. He’s one of only 21 men who have double digit wins and he’s done it at a rate which would put him at the very least in the next room by the end of his career. This current season alone may end up gaining him entrance to the next room.

Seasons/Races3 / 67
Wins10 (14.9%)
Podiums28 (41.8%)
Top 10s54 (80.6%)
Overall Crystal Globes0
Small Globes2
Olympic Medals1
World Championship Medals4

Frode Andresen – Norwegian Frode Andresen competed over a long 17 season career. While over that period he never won a big globe or a small globe he competed for long enough to pile up enough statistics to at least get a bust out in the courtyard. Only 8 men have more wins than him and he is 12th in total top 10s.

Seasons/Races17 / 318
Wins15 (4.7%)
Podiums47 (14.8%)
Top 10s177 (36.8%)
Overall Crystal Globes0
Small Globes0
Olympic Medals3
World Championship Medals9
Photo Credit: Ken Liu

Frank Luck – Frank Luck was another iron man of biathlon, competing on the German team for 17 seasons from the East Germany days right on through to 2004. I was hesitant to add him to this list because he did admit to “unknowingly being given steroids” by his trainer. I ultimately decided to include him because the majority of his success was after the unification of Germany in 1991 and presumably when he was “clean.”

Seasons/Races17 / 256
Wins12 (4.7%)
Podiums39 (15.2%)
Top 10s119 (46.5%)
Overall Crystal Globes0
Small Globes2
Olympic Medals5
World Championship Medals20
IBU Profile Photo

Arnd Peiffer – There may be a little recency bias with the inclusion of Arnd Pieffer on this list. I can’t get over how solid he was for such a long time. Over 13 seasons the German had double digit wins, piled up top 10s. However he lacks severely in the crystal globes and the individual medals. In the future his bust may be removed from the courtyard but for now he’s just outside the temple.

Seasons/Races13 / 290
Wins11 (3.8%)
Podiums40 (13.8%)
Top 10s127 (43.8%)
Overall Crystal Globes0
Small Globes0
Olympic Medals3
World Championship Medals17

Erik Kvalfoss – Kvalfoss competed in the early years of the World Cup before the creation of the IBU. As a result even though he competed over 14 seasons he ran in well over 100 races fewer than athletes that would compete over a similar number of seasons today. He was not only one of the first great Norwegian biathletes but in the early decade of the World Cup he was one of the leaders. Even though his numbers aren’t as impressive today he belongs here and I could argue he actually belongs in the next group.

Seasons/Races14 / 131
Wins14 (10.7%)
Podiums37 (28.2%)
Top 10s84 (64.1%)
Overall Crystal Globes1
Small Globes0
Olympic Medals3
World Championship Medals13

Tarjei Bø* – Tarjei Bø probably represents, along with QFM, the borderline between level 1 and level 2 of the temple. Tarjei Bø ends up outside the temple because of his small globes, olympic medals, and his relatively low win/podium/top 10 percentages. His numbers are somewhat comparable to those in Level 2 he just had more races in which to accumulate those numbers. Same again with QFM. You could also argue that for Tarjei Bø he’s been up against Fourcade and JT Bø at their absolute apexes. He’s right on the border for me. Here are his stats…you decide I’m happy to have the discussion.

Seasons/Races14 / 271
Wins12 (4.4%)
Podiums55 (20.3%)
Top 10s141 (50.2%)
Overall Crystal Globes1
Small Globes4
Olympic Medals6
World Championship Medals21

Quinton Fillon Maillet* – Same argument as above for Quinton Fillon Maillet. He has lower numbers and percentages than the men in level 2. However he’s gone against JT Bø and Fourcade at their peak of peaks. QFM is a few years younger than Tarjei Bø though and has a definite opportunity to make the leap up. QFM is probably actually a little closer to Level 2 than Tarjei Bø as he already has several more top 3 Overall finishes and an all time Olympic Games performance last year in Beijing. That Beijing Games performance was one for the ages when he, JT Bø, and Røiseland all set the record with five medals in a single Games. This is how good it was: it got biathlon onto primetime NBC Olympics coverage which in my lifetime has been exceedingly rare. QFM is the absolute borderline man and I can go either way with him. Probably by the end of his career he makes the next level.

Seasons/Races10 / 271
Wins16 (7.2%)
Podiums51 (22.9%)
Top 10s107 (48%)
Overall Crystal Globes1
Small Globes2
Olympic Medals5
World Championship Medals10
Level 2: Legends Club

Next we enter the main halls of the temple. Listed in no particular order we find:

Photo Credit: Götz A. Primke

Raphael Poiree – The first true great French biathlete, Poiree was dominant in the early part of the 21st Century. In fact in the Ole Einar Bjørndalen era, Poiree was one of the few men who could consistently stand in his way. Bjørndalen absolutely won the battle in the long term but from 1999-2004 Poiree had the upper hand. For that period Poiree won four of five crystal globes, pushing Bjørndalen down to 2nd the three of those globe winning years. Poiree had three other top 3 overall finishes and was never lower than 5th from 1997 through 2007. On top of that he won 10 discipline globes. Definitely one of the greats!

Seasons/Races12 / 260
Wins44 (16.9%)
Podiums103 (39.6%)
Top 10s170 (65.4%)
Overall Crystal Globes4
Small Globes10
Olympic Medals3
World Championship Medals18
Photo Credit: Jarle Vines Jarvin

Emil Hegle Svendsen – Svendsen is one of a few men in this category that sneak in with only one Overall crystal globe. I still think he’s worthy, and even more so than the rest who only have one big globe. First of all this is a voting body of one and I voted him in. My reasoning for this is that he isn’t going to be penalized for having his peak line up almost exactly with that of the top 3 greatest of all time. Also, I think that his numbers justify his inclusion here. 5th most wins of all time behind only Poiree and the Holy Trinity of biathlon. He also have four 2nd place overall finishes all of them just behind Fourcade.

Seasons/Races13 / 260
Wins38 (14.6%)
Podiums88 (33.8%)
Top 10s166 (63.8%)
Overall Crystal Globes1
Small Globes4
Olympic Medals8
World Championship Medals21
Photo Credit: Matthias, CC

Sven Fischer – Poiree was one of the men who was able to stop the Bjørndalen train. The other Sven Fischer. Fischer was one of the last German greats. Although he wasn’t the last to win an Overall Crystal Globe he was the last to win multiple. In addition to that though he finished in the top 3 of the Overall eight times and had eight discipline globes. He’s 6th overall in wins, 5th overall in podiums, and 3rd overall in top 10’s. He was always in the mix and he belongs in this mix.

Seasons/Races15 / 294
Wins33 (11.2%)
Podiums90 (30.6%)
Top 10s175 (59.5%)
Overall Crystal Globes2
Small Globes8
Olympic Medals8
World Championship Medals20
Photo By Bild Bundesarchiv

Frank Peter Roetsch – Frank Peter Roetsch was one of the dominant men in biathlon in the 1980’s. He, like Frank Luck, was from East Germany. I was not able to find any noting of Roetsch and doping but it was rampant with the East German athletes of the time so I do want to note that there. However with no evidence that he doped we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Roetsch was one of the last dominant Germans during their run of absolute domination in the early decades of the modern era. German men won the first 11 Overall globes and Roetsch won three of those between 1983-1984 and 1986-1987. His overall numbers look pretty low but remember that there were just so many fewer races in those days. In 10 seasons he had just 77 races! His percentages are right in line with the other men of this level.

Seasons/Races10 / 77
Wins15 (19.5%)
Podiums37 (48.1%)
Top 10s63 (81.8%)
Overall Crystal Globes3
Small Globes0
Olympic Medals3
World Championship Medals10
Photo By Bild Bundesarchiv

Frank Ullrich – Frank Ullrich is the father of modern biathlon. Another East German, he owned the sport for the first years of its organization winning four of the first five seasons. In the years he didn’t win he finished top 3. And then he was gone. Ullrich competed for just six seasons and retired when he was just 26. (He competed just 2 races in his 7th season so I didn’t count it). In that time period he won 17 of the 49 races he competed in. To this day only six men ever have surpassed 17 wins in a career. In the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics he medaled in every event with two silvers and a gold. Truly one of the greats.

Seasons/Races15 / 294
Wins17 (34.7%)
Podiums30 (61.2%)
Top 10s48 (98%)
Overall Crystal Globes4
Small Globes0
Olympic Medals4
World Championship Medals20
Level 3: The Holy Trinity of Men’s Biathlon

Finally in the main place of honor we find the three greatest of the gods of biathlon. This is where we try to determine…is JT Bø the Greatest Men’s Biathlete of All Time? These three are undoubtedly the greatest three of all time. They together form the Holy Trinity of Men’s Biathlon. But is one of them, possibly JT Bø, the Greatest? Let’s take a look.

Photo by Vow

Ole Einar Bjørndalen – Bjørndalen is the iron man of biathlon. He competed for an insane 25 years. He competed so long that it actually warps his win/podium/top 10 percentages. If you cut off the “extra” years and have him retire at 34 (2 years older than Fourcade’s retirement age) and his percentages are right in line with Fourcade and Bø. However that longevity is part of his argument for the greatest of all time as well. He competed well into his 40’s unlike almost any other biathlete ever. In the process he set totals in wins, podiums, and top 10’s that may never be touched. The only man who has a chance right now is Bø and he’s still got a heck of a way to go.

The only “hole” in his argument is that he “only” has 6 Overall Globes. When Fourcade became dominant nobody broke through. Since JT Bø took over as top god…err dog…only QFM was able to break his streak and he immediately is back on top. Fourcade also with six more discipline globes as well.

Looking at Olympic and World Championship success he’s got that too. In the 2002 Salt Lake City Games he won 4 gold medals. Yes, they only competed 4 events so he won gold every single event. I present to you the eye popping stats of Ole Einar Bjørndalen

Seasons/Races25 / 478
Wins95 (19.9%) – most ever
Podiums179 (37.4%) – most ever
Top 10s306 (64%) – most ever
Overall Crystal Globes6 – 2nd most ever
Small Globes20
Olympic Medals13 – most ever
World Championship Medals45 – most ever

Martin Fourcade – Martin Fourcade is a man who retired who surely had more in the tank. Over his last 10 seasons he collected 7 Overall Globes and two more top three Overall finishes including 2nd place in his final season. That 2nd place was two total points back of JT Bø (due to dropped races). He won his last career race and then disappeared. At the time he was just 32 years old. Quinton Fillon Maillet *right now* is 30 years old. Can you imagine him being gone in two seasons? I can’t.

In those 12 years he made a real run at Bjørndalen’s 95 total wins. Considering Fourcade won 7 races in his last season if he had competed just two to three more seasons he could have set the record. As it is he has the highest winning percentage of any man who has completed his career. He has the 2nd highest total podiums and Top 10’s and it isn’t even that close from him to 3rd (JT Bø).

Fourcade obviously has the most Overall Crystal Globes of all time. He also has a clear lead in discipline globes. Something that may never be matched again: he collected at least 5 discipline globes in every single discipline. For four separate seasons he swept the discipline globes. That’s absolutely wild when you think about it.

As far the championships he has the 6th most medals of all time behind both Bjørndalen and Bø. He has the 2nd most World Championship medals well behind Bjørndalen and very well could be behind Bø after this upcoming competition. If he had one Olympic Games that he was the marquee man at it was in Sochi where he won Gold in Individual and Pursuit, Silver in Mass Start, and 6th in Sprint. While this is his “weakest” argument it is one that nearly every other biathlete would love to have. The Martin Fourcade resume:

Seasons/Races12 / 283
Wins83 (29.3) – 2nd most ever
Podiums150 (53%) – 2nd most ever
Top 10s224 (79.2%) – 2nd most ever
Overall Crystal Globes7 – most ever
Small Globes26 – most ever
Olympic Medals7 – 6th most ever
World Championship Medals28 – 2nd most ever

Johannes Thinges Bø* – The man that sparked the discussion, Johannes Thingnes Bø, the only active man in the Holy Trinity, and with two fewer seasons than Fourcade, already has a palmarès that compares favorably with his elders. As of today he has the 3rd most wins, podiums, and top 10s. However he currently has a higher winning percentage than Martin Fourcade and he has a very good chance to surpass Fourcade if not Bjørndalen in his career. However all that is in the future and we can’t count on it quite yet.

Currently Bø has just three globes, half as many as Bjørndalen and less than have of Fourcade. And his seven small globes are way behind the greatness of Fourcade and Bjørndalen. Although right now he is the heavy favorite for another Overall Globe and he has a chance to win four more which would cut a chunk out of their leads.

It should also be noted that in order to start his run of wins he had to take on Fourcade at his apex. Nobody could touch Fourcade’s crystal globe run until JT Bø came around. After Bø won his first globe that Fourcade’s run was over. Even in the 2019-2020 season when he took two weekends off for a brief paternity leave he still won the Overall. In order to do so he had to four straight over the last two weekends of the season. It was an incredible performance.

As for championships JT Bø has a very good argument to make here. Right now he has 8 Olympic medals and has a very good chance to match or surpass Bjørndalen’s 13. While Bjørndalen has the golden sweep at Salt Lake City, JT Bø’s performance at Beijing was stunning as well. He had four gold medals including crucial legs for wins in the relays, a bronze in the Individual, and 5th in the Sprint. For World Championships Bjørndalen’s 45 total medals is way in the distance but Bø has already surpassed Fourcade with two fewer seasons.

Seasons/Races10 / 229
Wins74 (32.3%) – 3rd most ever
Podiums113 (49.3%) – 3rd most ever
Top 10s176 (76.9%) – 6th most ever
Overall Crystal Globes4 – 3rd most ever
Small Globes9 – 4th most ever
Olympic Medals8 – 2nd most ever
World Championship Medals 31 – 2nd most ever

Well now we have the numbers and their respective arguments. How do we rank them? Here’s my order:

  1. Ole Einar Bjørndalen
  2. Martin Fourcade
  3. Johannes Thingnes Bø

I’ll be honest I’m pretty easy to impress. Bjørndalen’s numbers just blow me away. Not the least of which is he competed for 25 seasons. 25! He was still winning races in his early 40’s. Yes, other athletes retire much earlier so they don’t have the opportunity to stack up such gaudy numbers. But they retire much earlier usually because they aren’t up to doing it anymore, Fourcade being the obvious counter example. Bjørndalen’s longevity also led to huge medal hauls at the Olympics and World Championships and JT Bø is going to have to work very hard to match them. Finally, his winning/podium/top 10 percentages are all in line with Fourcade and Bø if you were to have him retire at a “normal” age of 34. Simply put if you’re looking at the “Greatest” male biathlete of all time it is Bjørndalen for me.

The race between Fourcade and Bø is actually much closer than Bjørndalen and Fourcade. Bø has a very good opportunity to surpass him in just a couple more seasons, especially competing at this level. Fourcade’s edge right now is that he still has a substantial lead in the wins/podiums/top 10s, Overall Globes, and especially small globes. With how Bø is racing right now those gaps are going to close significantly over the next 2-3 years giving him a very good chance at rising to the #2 spot before the next Olympic Games. Now can Bø reach #1 in his life? He’s going to have to do this for quite a few more years.

So we have declared Bjørndalen the “Greatest” male biathlete of all time…but is he the “Best?”

Who is the Best?

With the “Greatest” question behind us we set out on the ultimate question: Who is the “Best?” For the purposes of this discussion when we think of the Best the question is: If all of the greatest biathletes of all time lined up for one ultimate season of racing of the biathlon gods, who would win that Mega Overall Globe? In this case think of the Mega Overall Globe being like Colossus of Rhodes level trophy. In fact, from now on we’ll call it the Colossal Globe.

We’ll be looking at the peak seasons from each of the greatest male biathletes. We will also examine a few biathletes who may not have made the cut for the Temple of Biathlon but who had really good peak seasons and help give a little perspective. The argument will rest primarily on the statistics from those seasons such as skiing vs. the field, shooting percentages, and shooting time. Here’s the catch, we only have really good statistics since about 2001. We’ll have to be creative I think. Once we’ve laid out these athletes with the highest peaks we’ll try to determine who would win the season of the gods and walk away with the Colossal Globe. The winner is the Best Men’s Biathlete of All Time. It’s time to meet the best of the best!

Photo By Bild Bundesarchiv

Frank Ullrich – Peak Season 1979-1980

Wins5 (50% for the season)
Podiums9 (90%)
Ski vs. Top 10?
Ski vs. Avg?
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)86.7 / 93.3 / 90
Shooting Time?
Shooting Time Rank?
Photo By Bild Bundesarchiv

Frank Peter Roetsch – Peak Season 1984-1985

Wins5 (50% for the season)
Podiums9 (90%)
Ski vs. Top 10?
Ski vs. Avg?
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)92 / 80 / 86
Shooting Time?
Shooting Time Rank?

Eirik Kvalfoss – Peak Season 1988-1989

Wins2 (15.4% for the season)
Podiums9 (53.8%)
Ski vs. Top 10?
Ski vs. Avg?
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)94.1 / 81.2 87.6
Shooting Time?
Shooting Time Rank?

Unfortunately with these three men the data that we have access to is extremely limited. We can basically see their average finishing place and their shooting percentages. We can look at their finishing place in each race, their shooting percentage for that race, and get a rough calculation of their course time. This project needs a little more tweaking and I will have to work on it at a later date to get a more precise calculation. For now we’re going to recognize these men for having amazing seasons and acknowledge that they belong in this conversation. However, for now we can’t do an appropriate analysis of their peak seasons.

Photo Credit: Götz A. Primke

Raphael Poiree – Peak Season 2003-2004

Of all of Poiree’s top level seasons there were two that stood out above the rest, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004. It was the 2nd of those two seasons that we chose but if you went with the first I wouldn’t blame you at all. The 2003-2004 season was his most successful from a results perspective. From a statistical view point he was also faster relative to the field in the 2003-2004 season while not losing much at all from his shooting. If you want more evidence of how great Poiree was this season he swept all of the Globes from the Overall through all of the disciplines.

Wins11 (44% for the season)
Podiums15 (60%)
Ski vs. Top 10-1.4%
Ski vs. Avg-6.4%
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)87.5 / 87.0 / 87.3
Shooting Time32 sec
Shooting Time Rank32
Photo Credit: Matthias, CC

Sven Fischer – Peak Season 2004-2005

Sven Fischer, winner of two Overall crystal globes, is one of the greatest men’s biathletes of all times. However, his best overall season was one in which he didn’t win the Overall. In the 2004-2005 season Fischer was really really good. Unfortunately as we’ll see in just a moment, he ran up against absolute peak Ole Einar Bjørndalen. Fischer actually had a higher average finish in 2004-2005 than one of his Overall title seasons. (If you guys want a headache go back and look at the scoring for some of the seasons in the 1990s. It’s really quite something…).

Wins5 (19.2% for the season)
Podiums10 (38.5%)
Ski vs. Top 10-0.0%
Ski vs. Avg-5.3%
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)91.4 / 89.0 / 90.2
Shooting Time32.9 sec
Shooting Time Rank62
Photo by Vow

Ole Einar Bjørndalen – Peak Season 2004-2005

Unfortunately for Sven Fischer, his peak season ran right up against the peak of Ole Einar Bjørndalen, our Greatest male biathlete of all time. What an amazing thing, to have two of the greats going head to head at their peak levels at the same time. The two of them together won 17 of the 27 races that season. Sven Fischer held the overall title heading into the final race and then Bjørndalen stole it away with a 2nd place finish behind Raphael Poiree (who himself had three wins that year). Bjørndalen was just one another level on the skis. His average course time rank was 1.7. While not the best shooting of his career it was within 1.5% of his all time best. His average finishing place was 2.1. And still Sven Fishcer was in the race until the end!

Wins12 (46.2% for the season)
Podiums15 (57.7%)
Ski vs. Top 10-2.6%
Ski vs. Avg-6.9%
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)88.5 / 81.8 / 85.2
Shooting Time28.3 sec
Shooting Time Rank5
Photo Credit: Jarle Vines Jarvin

Emil Hegle Svendsen – Peak Season 2010-2011

Emil Hegle Svendsen really feels like a forgotten man. He just came along at the wrong time. He experienced the peak of both Bjørndalen and Fourcade. When he rose up and had arguably his best season of his career (2010-2011) young Tarjei Bø in just his 2nd season was slightly better and won the globe. In fact, Bø wasn’t even *really* better he just raced two more races and won the Overall Globe by 5 total points. Svendsen got the edge in ski speed and shooting time where Bø was a little more accurate on the range. The shooting time looks good but not amazing but remember for the time this was the early days of trying to shoot faster and faster. 26.5 was blazing in 2010-2011. Don’t sleep on it, this was legitimately a terrific season.

Wins9 (30.8% for the season)
Podiums11 (42.3%)
Ski vs. Top 10-0.6%
Ski vs. Avg-4.5%
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)91.3 / 81.0 / 86.2
Shooting Time26.5 sec
Shooting Time Rank4

Tarjei Bø – Peak Season 2010-2011

Tarjei was a bit of a surprise when at such an early stage of his career he won the Overall Crystal Globe over an excellent season from Emil Svendsen. He was also the last man to beat Martin Fourcade before Fourcade’s 7 straight Overall Globe wins. I always think of Tarjei Bø’s Overall title season as one of the “weaker” champions. In reality I think 2010-2011 was a much better season than my memory tells me!

Wins5 (19.2% for the season)
Podiums12 (46.2%)
Ski vs. Top 10-0.4%
Ski vs. Avg-4.2%
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)90.0 / 83.8 / 86.9
Shooting Time27.9 sec
Shooting Time Rank18

Martin Fourcade – Peak Season 2016-2017

The peak season from the 2nd of our Holy Trinity of biathlon was really spectacular as he just piled up the wins. An 84.6% podium percentage is absolutely amazing. Looking at his stats he is the relative slowest of all of these amazing seasons but he was still the fastest on the season. He also was a more tactical racer than some of these other champions who are more full gas when given the opportunity. Fourcade shooting at 90.5% for the season was phenomenal. There is also the general feeling of that season which was that Fourcade was untouchable. It felt like every single race he was going to win. And he very nearly made it to the podium every race missing out just four times.

Wins14 (53.8% for the season)
Podiums22 (84.6%)
Ski vs. Top 10-0.8%
Ski vs. Avg-3.8%
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)93 / 87.9 / 90.5
Shooting Time28.0 sec
Shooting Time Rank36

Quinton Fillon Maillet – Peak Season 2021-2022

Our most recent Crystal Globe winner is included here a little bit for perspective. It was a bit of a weird season coming off of COVID and with more focus on the Olympics than I can ever remember before. I still thought it was worth putting QFM in here though. He came away looking very good with excellent skiing, very good shooting, and 38.5% winning percentage is very good. Overall though I can’t consider this to be in the conversation for the very best though

Wins10 (38.5% for the season)
Podiums16 (61.5%)
Ski vs. Top 10-0.3%
Ski vs. Avg-4.2%
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)86.7 / 90.5 / 88.6
Shooting Time27.9
Shooting Time Rank35

Johannes Thingnes Bø – Peak Seasons 2022-2023

JT Boe’s recently completed season is one of the most amazing things we have ever seen. Some of the best skiing relative to the field of all time. Shooting at 90% for the entire season is one of the best of all of these seasons we have looked at. And his shooting this season is the fastest of every single one of these seasons we’ve looked at. Finally he won 19 times…82.6% of the races he competed in this season. He missed the podium just once…ONCE! Spoiler alert but we’ve never seen anything like it.

Wins19 (82.6% for the season)
Podiums22 (95.7%)
Ski vs. Top 10-1.98%
Ski vs. Avg-5.95%
Shooting % (Prone/Standing/Total)92.6 / 87.4 / 90.0
Shooting Time26.5
Shooting Time Rank30

Well now we’ve seen a collection of the greatest seasons of all times. Who would be the “Best?” If we lined up every one of these guys at their peaks from Ullrich to Johannes Thingnes Bø and gave them all equal playing fields with equal skis and technology who wins a race? And at the end of a season who comes away with the Colossal Globe for All Time?

Here’s how I see them:

  1. Johannes Thingnes Bø 2022-2023 – I think it’s pretty clear that Bø is on a level that has never been matched before. 19 wins in a season may never ever be matched again. Nobody has ever won at this rate in the history of biathlon. When he wasn’t winning he was still on the podium all but once. His rivals aren’t “bad” either. Bø is skiing away from his competition in a way nobody has done since Poiree and Bjørndalen. His shooting is better than either of those men ever accomplished and is the 2nd highest on this list behind only Fourcade and Fischer. He’s also shooting at a speed that those men could only dream of. Then to cap it all off he won 7 medals at the World Championships including 5 gold medals. It’s over. This is the best.
  2. Ole Einar Bjørndalen – Right now Bjørndalen has the best completed peak season. He was faster than the rest of the field in a way that others besides Bø and Poiree could only dream of. He actually wasn’t that good of a shooter but it didn’t matter. You could also watch him speed up his shooting time throughout his career in a really noticeable way. The other thing I love about this is that in 2004-2005 Ole Einar Bjørndalen went head to head with another one of the top 5-7 biathletes of all time in Sven Fischer *who was also at his peak!* and came out on top. In that season he had the most wins and podiums by far. I think we forget a little bit with time but Bjørndalen was amazing.
  3. Martin Fourcade – The debate between Fourcade and Poiree was very close. Poiree has the advantage for ski speed and Fourcade with shooting. Ultimately Fourcade is on top because of the mental advantage. Peak Fourcade was just razor sharp. He tore up his opponents. Just look at that winning percentage and podium percentage. He could toy with his opponents before crushing them. Advantage Fourcade.
  4. Raphael Poiree – Poiree was the last of the “easy” choices here. His ski speed relative to the field was on the level of Bø and Bjørndalen and his winning percentage is higher than everybody but the top three men on this list. Poiree was really dang good.
  5. Sven Fischer – Fischer was just a step back. His shooting was unbelievable. And outside the Bjørndalen his skiing was nearly unmatched, ranking 4th overall for the season. In a full season of all of these men he would definitely get a win or two. I just think this is where he would end up.
  6. Emil Hegle Svendsen – This might look crazy considering Svendsen lost the Globe to Tarjei Bø but he was better that year. He just was. He would have had another Globe had he had two decent races as opposed to two 0’s. And his shooting time from 12 years ago would stand up today and be competitive. Svendsen was really freaking good.
  7. Quinton Fillon Maillet
  8. Tarjei Bø – I’m glad that I put these two men on my list. However just looking at the numbers they weren’t up to the top levels of the men above them.
  9. Incomplete: Frank Ullrich, Frank Peter Roetsch, Eirik Kvalfoss, Sturla Holm Lægreid
    – I just didn’t feel like I knew enough to be able to properly rate these men

There are probably men that should be slotted in between Svendsen and QFM/Tarjei Bø. When I finally go through and build the Temple of Biathlon I will do a much more thorough deep dive and figure out exactly how to rank the peaks.


Is JT Bø the Greatest Male Biathlete of All Time?

No, but he’s right in the Holy Trinity alongside Ole Einar Bjørndalen. Right now I had him ranked 3rd but with a definite chance to move to 2nd. Catching Bjørndalen? That’s going to be really difficult.

Is JT the Best Male Biathlete of All Time?

Yes. Yes. Yes. He is a world all of his own. Every freaking statistic you look at is unreal. Most wins ever. Highest win percentage ever. Most podiums ever. A podium percentage that will never be touched. Unreal skiing. 90% shooting. 7 World Championship medals with 5 Gold medals. Wild. I feel comfortable saying that we will never see anything like this again.

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