Tandrevold’s Golden Silver

On the average biathlon weekend you have two solo races and a relay. Teams are in and out within a week. As a fan you see the course for the first time usually on Thursday and by Sunday afternoon it’s over and onto the next location.

Then you get to the Championships. There are at least 1-2 weeks off before the racing starts so teams arrive to the location with plenty of time to get settled. For days before the racing starts athletes are posting pictures and videos of the course and training. Even as a fan the tension seems to mount waiting for that first race, usually a Mixed Relay. Over the course of the next 10-12 days there are 12 races all with their own stories. Each athlete could be in 7 total races over that nearly two weeks of racing.

For every athletes those races can be packed with a whole season’s worth of drama. Over those two weeks there can be lows that are as low as anything they experience. Undoubtedly you’ll see plenty of heartbroken athletes But the highs…those highs are unmatchable. It can be the absolute peak of a career. It can be the pinnacle. You can see the most amazing and heart warming celebrations, and smiles, and tears of joy.

There are dozens of these stories playing out throughout the entire two weeks, but today I wanted to focus on just one of them: The 2023 Oberhof World Championships of Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold. It wasn’t that she had the most amazing Championships or the most tragic Championships. It was because each day the emotion of the race and moment was written so clearly on her face. Throughout this season Tandrevold has been establishing herself as the “next leader” of the Norwegian women. This was a moment to cement that. And she clearly lived so many emotions throughout each of her six races.

Race 1: Mixed Relay – Disbelief and Pure Joy

Right from the start Tandrevold seemed destined to live the full range of emotions. In just a little over an hour she went from anticipation (okay I don’t know this for sure but she had to have been a little excited for everything to start right?), to disbelief, to just pure joy.

Tandrevold was the lead off leg for the Mixed Relay team that included Marte Olsbu Røiseland, pursuing the women’s record for World Championships golds, Sturla Holm Laegreid who is only having a phenomenal season, and JT Bø who was pegged as the gold in pretty much every race. There was a little pressure to make sure things got off to a good start and not wreck their chances right from the start.

Well unfortunately, that’s not how things went. A penalty loop on the 2nd shooting was pretty much the only thing she couldn’t do. That shot is from after she finished her leg and passed off to Røiseland. Right after this she takes a look back at the course. You can almost see the thought bubble of “I cannot believe that just happened…did that really happen?” The great thing about Tandrevold is that she never lets up though. She had the 2nd fastest course time of anybody on the leg behind only Julia Simon and was faster than Lisa Vittozzi by 10 seconds and Hanna Oeberg by 16 seconds. This included being the fastest on lap 3. I couldn’t get a good shot of it but the emotion there would have been “determination” which is almost how I sum up Tandrevold in my mind, the human representation of determination.

Fortunately, as mentioned before, the remainder of the Norwegian team was stacked with some of the best talent you can find. Sturla Holm Laegreid turned an absolutely banger of a relay leg and took Norway from +50 seconds to the lead. Of course JT Bø closed the door for the gold. I know this isn’t about Laegreid but look at that face! He was absolutely PUMPED!!! That entire medal ceremony and celebration Tandrevold absolutely glowed joy. She should have been! Her determination on that last lap kept things from getting completely out of control. Her teammate picked her up and she took home a medal! What a great start! If only it could have kept going that way….

Race 2: Sprint – Disappointment

The Women’s Sprint race was just not meant to be for Tandrevold. Her 14th place finish was her worst of the whole Championships. She got off to a good start with a 5/5 prone shooting. She actually had the fastest time of the entire field off the range from the prone shooting by 3.8 seconds. The standing shooting, which is quickly becoming her bugaboo, got her again. 2 standing misses and 2 penalty loops sank her chances at a medal, flower ceremony, or top 10.

Once again there were some great moments in this race. She still had the 4th fastest course time of everybody, once again showing that she came into the Championships with some of the best form of the entire field. That included having the fastest 2nd lap of everybody. She clearly could feel that medal right there for the taking. Which explains why she was so disappointed in that finish. A low finish in the Sprint also carries with it a more difficult journey for a Pursuit medal too…

Race 3: Pursuit – Dejected and Empty

As Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold crossed the line at the end of the Pursuit race she looked more empty and dejected than I think any biathlete I have ever seen. She looked completely drained of emotion. Just making her way across the line (in 4th place mind you) with no energy at all. Poles almost dragging behind her. Shoulders completely slumped. Face blank. There was nothing left.

It was so heartbreaking that I think I’ve watched it at least six or seven times in the two weeks since the race happened. From several thousand miles away I can feel exactly what she is feeling so clearly.

There is the obvious physical fatigue of another huge effort. She moved up from bib 14 to 4th, had the 4th best Isolated Pursuit time, and the 2nd best course time. She shot 17/20 with 1 miss on each of the last three shootings. At the end of the day she was 23 seconds away from Marte Olsbu Røiseland in bronze.

Part of Tandrevold’s lovability is that her with her emotions so clearly written on her face that sometimes you can project your own feelings inside of her. So this is my projection based partly on my own experiences, but there is a little bit of “Is this really happening?” there. “This is not what I hoped for/wanted/expected. How is this happening?” When you see somebody with a face like this you just want to run up to them and give them a hug. Tandrevold doesn’t quit though…

Race 4: Individual – UGH! and Determination

The Individual was a new chance. There had been a full two days away from racing before the second half of the Championships. It’s a new opportunity to go find what maybe you missed on the first week. Symbolically the weather completely changed as well. Gone was the dreary fog and out was the sun and the warmth! Surely that was a good sign right!

The Individual got off to a brilliant start for Tandrevold. 5th fastest course time on lap 1. 4/5 prone shooting but that’s fine, she’s fast enough to overcome a miss in an Individual. 2nd fastest course time on lap 2. This is going to be it right? Right…? Yep you know what is coming next, the standing shooting. Tandrevold’s old nemesis back again. 3 misses on the Individual. A 3 minute penalty.

I played with it for a long time but I couldn’t quite get the right screengrab for her emotion. But you can just see it hit her once again. Another standing shooting. Another dagger to her solo medal chances.

While finding all of the screenshots for this I accidentally saw Simon’s final shooting in the Individual. I wasn’t looking for it at all, but another perfect representation of “UGH!” Simon would finish :53 off of the podium. That face says it all.

Ingrid Tandrevold would end up in 11th place at the end of the Individual race, but it was actually my 2nd favorite race that she ran the entire Championships? Why? Because of what she did after those 3 misses. We didn’t see much of her on the broadcast again until her last lap but I imagine the entire rest of the race looked like that shot above. An “I will not give up, I will not give up, I will not give up” determination to keep pushing. She went 10/10 in her last two shootings. She left the range with the 60th best time through 2 shootings. She ended up in 11th. That was a hell of a comeback.

Race 5: Women’s Relay – Drained

Going into the Women’s Relay the Norwegian women were certainly not the favorites. Most people had at least France and Sweden slotted in above them. The Italian women had been competing well in Oberhof as well. After the win in Ruhpolding though, there was certainly the chance of an upset win and a medal was absolutely in play. Karoline Knotten got the team off to a solid start just 5 seconds off of the lead when she tapped off the relay to Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold.

Tandrevold maintained her spot right up near the front on lap 1. The prone shooting required just 1 extra round and she left the range just 9.8 seconds back behind a blazing fast shooting from Anais Chevalier-Bouchet. The 2nd fastest lap 2 had her in 2nd place entering the range for the standing shooting. Yep…the standing shooting. Disaster. 3 penalty loops. Only 1 other nation had more penalty loops for the entire race than Tandrevold had on that one shooting.

What happened next wasn’t intended but it was perfect. After another absolutely phenomenal lap on the skis, in which she was the fastest by over 8 seconds, Tandrevold came in and passed the relay off to Ida Lien. Then she skied to a stop right in front of the cameras. The cameras were trying to watch the 2nd exchange and inadvertantly there was Tandrevold right in the way. She just had her head down looking completely drained. Of course she was tired from that incredible effort trying to keep the team in the race on lap 3. But it was more than that. It seemed like an entire 2 weeks of standing shooting mishaps had finally gotten to her.

Later there was a great shot of her sitting down just looking sad. I couldn’t get even a half good screenshot of it but it is out there. She just looks dejected and sad. You know why. At that moment it is hard to believe what is coming next…

Race 6: Mass Start – Anticipation + Joyous Explosion + Overwhelmed

One of the best things about sport is that the next day you start over again and get another chance. Literally the very next day after looking completely dejected Tandrevold got another chance to go out and race in the Mass Start. The weather really couldn’t have been worse. Rainy and sloppy. But she got off to a solid start. Halfway through the race she was 9/10 and in a large chase pack sitting about 14 second back of the leaders. Absolutely still in the race but with her big nemesis, the standing shootings, still to come.

Tandrevold was magical. Standing shootings weren’t scary at all on this day. 5/5 the first time through followed by the 3rd fastest course time on lap 4. Then an incredibly clutch 22.4 second 5/5 shooting on her last trip to the range in Oberhof. She left in 2nd place and in hot pursuit of Hanna Oeberg with a slim lead on Julia Simon and Anais Chevalier Bouchet. Very early on in lap 5 Simon came cruising by Tandrevold like she was moving on an conveyor belt. At that moment my heart dropped. I really couldn’t stand to see her disappointed again. There were 4 women fighting for 3 spots and right then it felt like Tandrevold was destined to be the odd woman out.

But not today!!! She quickly gathered herself together and limited the time loss. Just a few second back of Simon. About halfway through lap 5 she started to claw back to and got onto Simon skis. There was a short downhill where Tandrevold was able to steal a quick look over her shoulder, and what did she see? Open snow and then falling back Chevalier-Bouchet. Right then you knew she was about to fly. She had a medal secured. Time to go for it all.

Tandrevold certainly went for it all. I almost thought she was going to catch Hanna Oeberg for gold but the deficit was just too much. Watching Tandrevold come across the line you would think she just won a gold though. It was an explosion of utter joy. Watching from thousands of miles away you could feel two weeks’ worth of disappointment (and maybe a little more) coming exploding out. It was her 4th career solo World Championships medal, three of which are now silver medals.

Moments later she was collapsed at the finish line and just a puddle of tears, but these were happy tears. First Julia Simon and then Hanna Oeberg came over to celebrate with her. Hanna Oeberg just sat with her and rubbed her back. It was so touching. It seemed like everybody who saw her knew what she was experiencing.

It was two weeks on the calendar and 6 months’ worth of emotions. It was almost a script except in a script she wins the Mass Start gold. That silver medal came after missing out on potentially as many as three other medals because of standing shooting problems (Sprint, Individual, and Relay). Throughout it all though she kept fighting and fighting. Just go back and look at each of those races. Right after a disaster on the standing shooting she came back and raced hard. Not once did she let up. Look at that Individual race. From 60th back to 11th. Look at the Relay race turning herself inside out to keep the team in contention.

She had one last chance to win a medal on her own two legs. It came down to shooting perfectly clean on the last two standing shootings and she did it…and she did it fast. Don’t tell Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold that she came in 2nd because to her that Mass Start medal tasted like gold.

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