Oberhof World Championships Review Part 1

It was another amazingly fun World Championships. Oberhof devlivered great racing…and classic Oberhof weather. The Championships started with cold weather. Then we got classic Oberhof fog. This was quickly followed bright bright sun and warm temperatures and sloppy snow. Then it finished up with pouring rain. Throughout it all the fans were PHENOMENAL!!! Seriously they were loud and happy no matter if Germans were performing great or not. It didn’t matter if they were soaking wet or sweating the fans couldn’t have been better!

The athletes brought some amazing performances as well. Unfortunately the nature of sport is that not every athlete can be on their A1 level at every Championships. For example Elvira got struck with another illness and wasn’t able to be at her top form. But we did see some awesome racing from so many great athletes. In this post we’ll cover some of the top performances, but this isn’t our last look at Oberhof (obviously as this is only Part 1). I think there will be one or two more posts coming soon!

With that done…let’s get into it because I have a lot to write!

Best Men’s Performance: Johannes Thingnes Bø

C’mon…did you expect somebody else? JT Bø has the record for the best performance at a World Championships. He came away with five gold medals, a silver, and a bronze. It wasn’t just the number of medals he came away with. It wasn’t just that they were all gold. He did things that were absolutely dominant on a level that is difficult to describe. In short, JT Bø solidified what we are all thinking: that so far this is the best season any biathlete has ever had.

Any attempt to list the ridiculous accomplishments of JT Bø at this World Championships is bound to be incomplete. But since a recap of every amazing race he ran would take approximately 27,000 words (don’t put it past me!) I’m going to try to list in chronological order

  • Mixed Relay: Nothing spectacular. Truthfully Lægreid had the spectacular leg of this relay. Bø took over with QFM and Giacomel right with him. He needed 4 extra shots but easily skied away from Giacomel on the last lap for the win
  • Sprint Gold medal: Shot 9/10, won by 14 seconds over his brother who went clean and +39 on Lægreid who also went 9/10. This is becoming standard for him…dusting the best in the world on the Sprints to set himself up on the Pursuit. This was the first of his wild standing shootings…21.6 seconds 5/5 and then fastest on the last lap by 11 seconds.
  • Pursuit Gold: Started out with a solid lead on Tarjei Bø and a huge lead Sturla Holm Lægreid and only expanded it. He went a perfect 20/20 and went 22.5 and 22.7 in his two standing shootings. He punctuated the performance with a raised fist after the last target went down. Ended up with 1:11 win over Lægreid. Lægreid, by the way, also went perfect and lost 32 seconds on Bø.
  • Individual Gold: This is the one we’ll remember forever. There are too many amazing feats to list for this one so I’ll be brief. He had probably the greatest ski performance of any modern biathlete. He ended up with a dominant 1:46 advantage on the course over Jeremy Finello who was the 2nd fastest man. Biggest course time advantage I could find in since 2000 (the furthest back I was able to find data). He had 2 misses to Lægreid’s 1 miss, and won by 1:10 seconds. JT Bø started with bib #11 and finished the race first. Not that he won, but he was the first to cross the line. Remember this is a race with no penalty loops, just penalties. Included in those first 10 men was Quinton Fillon Maillet who started in bib 6, 2:30 ahead of JT Bø. Based on QFM’s speed he was over 1km ahead of JT Bø on the course when JT Bø left the start. JT Bø beat him to the finish line. To clarify once again: JT Bø didn’t just have a faster time than QFM, he literally started 2:30 seconds (over 1km) behind and beat QFM to the finish line.
  • Single Mixed Relay Gold: Paired up with Marte Olsbu Røiseland in this wild chaotic battle JT Bø was on the ropes. Røiseland handed him a nearly 8 second lead which normally you would think was totally safe. JT Bø tested that by giving himself 2 penalty loops on his first shooting. He blasted away on the second to last lap and caught Giacomel and Komatz just before the final shooting. Then he went 5/5 in 17.9 seconds! He cruised away from David Komatz for the final gold medal of his Oberhof World Championships.
  • Men’s 4×7.5km Relay Silver: Raced in blustery and ever changing conditions, JT Bø was the anchor leg. Christiansen struggled to get going (he later let us know that his grandmother passed away the day before and he wasn’t mentally ready to race) and Tarjei Bø and Lægreid both had penalty loops. Bø took over nearly 50 seconds back of Quinton Fillon Maillet. That proved to be just too much. He did move up from 3rd to 2nd though and secured silver for the team!
  • Mass Start Bronze: The final day of racing in Oberhof was rainy and gross. JT Bø actually started to look a little tired for the first time all Championships. He had 3 misses on the range and even going clean he was going to have a battle with how great Samuelsson was looking. Still, he got one more medal to add to his career total.

Johannes Thingnes Bø was absolutely dominant. He enters trimester 3 with 14 wins in 18 races this year. Since the season opening Individual when he finished 12th he has either finished in 1st or 3rd. He’s set the record for most consecutive wins in a season. He’s in all likelihood going to set the record for most wins in a season. What else can you say? We’re watching one of the greatest of all time at his apex! Don’t take it for granted.

Best Women’s Performance: Hanna Öberg

What a return to the top! For the last two seasons Hanna Öberg has been living in the shadow of her younger sister. At times it almost felt like that was creating a little mental break. Underneath it all though she was still performing fairly well. Starting in early 2023, after a battle with illness during the holiday break, she came back and started to look like near peak Hanna Öberg again.

The big thing was the shooting. The shooting times remained fast as ever. However, the shooting percentages were way up. In the first trimester she struggled to get break 80%, getting above that level in hit rate just twice. In the four races she ran in the 2nd trimester she went 95, 85, 90, 85. Her course time rank took a minor hit, but again she had been sick. That’s what she was doing heading into Worlds…

When Worlds started she didn’t immediately look better. She was 5th fastest leg to lead off the Mixed Relay. However it ramped up when she hit the course for the Sprint. 3rd fastest course time, 10/10 shooting, Silver medal, thank you very much! She looked so good in that race. Crisp skiing and seeing that 100% shooting was tremendous! While the Pursuit didn’t work out well with five misses leading to a 12th, that was just the start.

There were two last relays in which she took part and she finished 4th and 3rd. She was solid if not amazing in both. But you can’t argue with another bronze medal.

The Individual and the Mass Start were her crowning glory. She had one miss (19/20) in the Individual and still beat Linn Persson, who was perfect, by 10 seconds. 3rd fastest course time. It was *almost* a perfect race. Just that one stinkin miss on her very first shooting. She closed out her Championships with a second gold in sloppy conditions. She came to the 3rd shooting 8/10 on the day and in the 9th position. From that point on she was nearly the fastest woman the last two laps and went 10/10 with shooting times of 20.8 and 21.5 seconds. You just aren’t going to beat that!

Coming into the World Championships Hanna Öberg was a bit of an afterthought. She came in ranked 10th in the overall with just the season opening win and no other podium finishes. Nobody was talking about her as a winner much less a dominant force. She left Oberhof with 4 more medals: 2 golds, a silver, and a bronze and the class of the women’s field.

Best Young(ish) Men’s Performance: Sebastian Samuelsson

Okay by strict definition Sebastian Samuelsson no longer qualifies for this award. But this is just a personal blog that I run so I make up the rules and I’m putting Samuelsson in here because he deserves celebration!

Just like with Hanna Öberg, Samuelsson couldn’t have been on anybody’s short list for gold medals. Off the top of your head to you remember how many podium finishes Samuelsson had before the World Championships? If you don’t remember it is for good reason, because there were absolutely 0. Through the first 14 races of the season he had no podium finishes and just six top 10’s in the entire year.

Then the World Championships started. In his first appearance in the Mixed Relay Samuelsson had a disastrous start. 3 penalty loops on his prone shooting, later discovering that the rifle was loose. Took Sweden from just 14 seconds back to completely out of contention. At the time it seemed like another disappointing race in a season full of disappointing races. Maybe though it was the spark?

He started out the Sprint and had his “worst” solo race of these Championships. He finished with 2 misses but was the fastest with 2 misses. He was also the fastest non-Norwegian on the course. All good signs if he could just get the shooting straightened out…and boy did he ever.

The rest of the Championships was some of the best shooting Samuelsson has done in his entire career. In the Pursuit, Individual, and Mass Start he went a combined 57 for 60 for a 95% shooting over three races. Combine that with obviously being on his top ski form for the season and you see him take home two solo bronze medals and a massive Mass Start gold, becoming the first man to take down JT Bø in 2023.

The Mass Start was definitely the most impressive of those races. Any time this season you go head to head with JT Bø and come out on top is a HUGE win. Samuelsson has never shown any fear of going head to head with Bø starting with a couple of big head to heads 2 seasons ago. He seems to relish those moments. He’s poked at Bø and the Norwegians a bit this season and he lived up to it conquering the machine in the race of kings.

That’s not to say anything against the Individual or the Pursuit. In the Individual he missed silver by just 0.4 seconds in trying conditions. In the Pursuit he came from bib 11 all the way to secure the bronze medal. Then he gets a bronze medal in the Men’s relay and just misses one in the Single Mixed.

From no expectations before the Championships to walking away with 4: A gold and three bronze medals. It’s a remarkable comeback for a man who is still quite young. Hopefully this can lead to a 3rd trimester surge. Samuelsson has all the talent in the world. If he can get back onto his A game we can still see some amazing seasons from him in the future. Can you imagine him going up against QFM, Lægreid, and of course JT Bø for the overall crystal globe? I can dream anyway!

Best Young Women’s Performance: Samuela Comola

It was late in the 2021-2022 season when I first started to get excited about Samuela Comola’s future. You could see the pieces stating to come together culminating with a quiet 38th in the Oslo Sprint and a 26th in the Pursuit. It didn’t look like much at the time but for the 23 year old it was a very good close and something to build on.

This whole season has been solid if not spectacular. Consistently in the top 50 with six top 30’s. Nothing mind blowing but a definite step up. The most encouraging things for her fans and Italian fans were that her ski speed was definitely better and that her shooting had made a solid step up with some of the best prone shooting on the World Cup.

The opening week of the World Championships didn’t show any major signs that a career peak was going to come. She went 46 in the Sprint and 42 in the Pursuit. Then she quite nearly “stole” a medal.

In the Individual race Samuela Comola had easily the greatest race of her life. She was 20/20 which is key for having a breakthrough in the Individual race. Almost more importantly her course time rank of 23rd was the 2nd best of her career. She finishes in 4th and only missed a medal because Lisa Vittozzi was just too much. She followed that up with a seriously strong 1st leg putting Italy in the leading group in a minor surprise gold medal winning relay. She closes out the Championships with a 10th place in the Mass Start to back up her 4th place Individual.

As we enter the 3rd trimester Comola is thrown her hat into the ring as one of the young women to watch. Italian fans have to be absolutely scintilated to be able to watch Comola, Passler, and Auchentaller in addition to Lisa Vittozzi over the next several years. This is a great generation coming up just in time for the 2026 Olympics in Milan!

Best Men’s Race: Mass Start

Not wanting to go too long on this, but any time JT Bø loses a race it is worth mentioning! I actually think that for me the most memorable race will be Individual race with Bø’s phenomenal performance. I also ready laid out almost all of the amazing things that he did then. The Mass Start was itself a really interesting race too.

The race got underway in earnest with a rather intense first lap pushed by Bø and the Norwegians. Bø had a miss on the first shooting and that’s when things got interesting. Lægreid, Ponsiluoma, and Fabien Claude were leading on lap 2 with Lægreid doing most of the work. Lægreid clearly got frustrated with this and he actually sat up and waited for Ponsi to take over pacing. Ponsi politely declined and they had a bit of a discussion. At that point I was sure they had made a crucial error. My thinking was you don’t want to let JT Bø back into the race and by the time they go to the 2nd shooting there was JT Bø.

After the 2nd shooting Bø had another miss and now the lead was Jacquelin, Samuelsson, and Claude. Right then I was sure Bø was in trouble. Not necessarily because he couldn’t still win but because guys like Samuelsson and Jacquelin have the kind of personality that meant they weren’t going to make it easy. Nobody was going to stand up on lap 3 and let Bø back in here. And that was the case, Bø had to really burn it up on lap 3 to get back into the race.

Shooting 3 left Samuelsson alone in 1st with JT Bø desperately trying to chase him down…but he couldn’t. He could never cut down a the 7-10 second lead. It was a combination of Samuelsson being strong and a 10 days of hard racing finally catching up to Bø. That was the telling moment that Bø just didn’t have his whole bag of tricks.

Try as he might, including a 23.9 second final shooting, Bø had a miss and that was it. Ponsiluoma who had become a little forgotten in the battle of the top 2 went clean and got off the range before Bø. Neither Samuelsson or Ponsiluoma was going to give anything back to Bø. Sweden finished with a shocking gold and silver combo while the coaches went absolutely wild. JT Bø finished up his amazing Worlds with another medal.

Not figuring in the medals but Andrejs Rastorgujevs finished 5th for his best Worlds finish ever. Sebastian Stalder’s 7th place finish was the best of his career and he became just the 6th Swiss man to finish a Worlds race in the top 10. Tomas Mikyska finished up his amazing Worlds with a career best 14th. Alexa Cisar had another career best in his first Mass Start finishing 17th.

Best Women’s Race: Individual

Nothing too crazy happened in this race. But it was a wild finish with Hanna Öberg and Linn Persson had a wild race to the finish. Even though they weren’t racing head to head against each other it almost felt like they were. Vittozzi, who would have been a very popular gold medal winner, was across the finish line with the best time of the day so far.

Linn Persson who had gone a perfect 20/20 on the day left the range and absolutely drained the tank to get to the finish with the lead. She was coming off of a very rough 4th lap where she appeared to have nothing left she got herself to the line with an 18 second advantage on Vittozzi. She had left the range with a 41 second advantage on Vittozzi so by the end she was hanging on by her fingernails.

Then along came Hanna Öberg, who was 14/15 on the day. She goes perfect on the last shooting and started lap 5 +14.8 seconds on Linn Persson. Hanna Öberg was gaining steam on the course late in the race. She ended up with the 3rd fastest laps on laps 4 and 5 and was 3rd fastest overall. While watching at home it felt like a really tense moment. Was Hanna Öberg going to be able to pass her teammate and take home gold? In the end it wasn’t a race. Hanna Öberg cruised by Linn Persson’s virtual time early in lap 5 and won with 10 second advantage.

We already discussed Comola’s amazing 4th place finish but there were several other career bests or just flat out good performances:

  • Tuuli Tomingas 6th place. Career best finish and possibly the best finish in the history of Estonia at the World Championships
  • Suvi Minkinnen 8th place. Career best finish by far! Crushed it!
  • Lena Haecki-Gross 9th place. 3rd best finish at a Championships.
  • Hanna Auchentaller 22nd. Career best finish at a breakthrough World Championships!

More coming soon…

One thought on “Oberhof World Championships Review Part 1

  1. Great summary, it was a very enjoyable read!

    One thing I don’t understand – you went into a lot of detail on JT’s standing shooting, and you didn’t include his 15.9 standing bout? How is it possible? 🙂
    Also, my theory is that in the mass start, he missed on the last standing because he shot -too slow-.


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