Oestersund Week in Review

Best Women’s Performance of the Week: Dorothea Wierer – It’s the return of the Doro! Wierer’s weekend in Oestersund was majestic. There is really no other good word for it. Everything about her performance looked so so good. She looked light on the skis. Her shooting was spot on. And everything seemed just fun for her. There was not one single area of her performance that was lacking.

That’s how it felt…but what do the numbers say? Well they back it up entirely. She was 6th in course time in the Individual including an absolutely dominant final lap in which she beat Lampic by 1.5 seconds and Simon by 7.5 seconds. Her shooting was perfectly on point with a 40/40 in the two solo events and needing just 2 extra rounds in the relay. And if there was a metric for fun I think it would have been high too.

How about the results? Well not much. Just a 25.5 seconds win in the Individual. A terrific 2nd leg of the relay that put Italy (briefly) into the lead. And a Mass Start win that was basically a perfect race. She skied quickly but within herself and once again perfect shooting that was relatively fast.

Now she sits 2nd in the Overall Globe standings 144 points back of Simon. It’s probably too much of a mountain to climb for the Overall but the fact that it is even a conversation is a testament to how strong Wierer has been in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Here are her finishes in World Cup races since the start of the racing in Pokljuka (No World Championships here because they don’t count): 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 23rd, 1st, 7th, 4th, 15th, 1st, 1st. Basically just two subpar races in the last 2.5 months.

Before this season it was easy to assume that her days chasing the Overall Globe were over. Heck, I didn’t think that we would see her racing this well this consistently anymore. But this season now stacks up amongst the best of her non-Overall winning seasons. With one weekend to go here’s how this season compares to her career:
– 3 wins ties 2015-2016 and 2018-2019 (Globe Winner!) for 2nd most in her career. The most wins in a season for Wierer is 4 in 2019-2020
– 6 podiums is 3rd most in her career. Most ever is 10 in 2015-2016
– 9 top 5’s is 5th most in her career. Most ever is 12
– Total shooting percentage of 88.1% is just 0.2% off the best of her career.

With 1 weekend to go she has a chance to tie or beat a lot of those career marks. It is going to take an amazing weekend to do it but it is still possible. For the two time Overall Globe winner I didn’t think these numbers were possible anymore. Shame on me!

Best Men’s Performance of the Week: Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen – You take away the Bø brothers and remove Lægreid for most of the weekend and it doesn’t matter, Norway still finds a way to the top. This actually shouldn’t come as a surprise because as you look at the overall standings who has been sitting in the 3rd/4th position for most of this season? Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen.

Christiansen really should have been the story of the weekend on the men’s side. He was 3rd in the Individual race which won him his very first small globe in his career. He ended the year going 7th, 2nd, and 3rd in the Individual races that counted towards the discipline globe. It is remarkable that he will go down as the “4th best” of the Norwegian men of this era and he’s going to take home a discipline globe…or 2. Because his win in the Mass Start also set him up to take home the Mass Start globe as he carries a 22 point lead into the final Mass Start of the season. This all doesn’t even take into account his performance in the relay where he anchored the Norwegian “B” team to a victory.

In a small way I’m glad he had this weekend without the dominance of the Johannes Thingnes Bø and the almost equally strong Sturla Holm Lægreid. Christiansen is in the midst of either the best or 2nd best season of his career depending on how you want to argue it. It would have been tough for him to come out of this without a win. And while it came without some big names, Christiansen had what he deemed his “perfect race” in the Mass Start.

If you didn’t see the race it is easy to understand why he won. He was the only man to go 20/20 on the day. That alone is a tremendous race. However, it wasn’t even that perfect shooting that made it such a masterclass of a race. From the very onset Christiansen was exerting his strength.

On lap 1 Christiansen went straight to the front. About 2/3 of the way around he gapped the field by about 2-3 meters. I’m stilll not even sure if it was intentional or if he just had the strength and accidentally left them behind. If it was an accidental show of strength or an intentional flex to show the field how he was feeling, either way it was an awesome move.

On lap 2 he came out off the range perfect along with 20 other men. It was a pretty enormous bunch. This time there is no question about it, Christiansen absolutely flexed on the bunch. It wasn’t a massive gap like you might have seen with JT Bø, but it was real. By about the halfway mark on the 2nd lap he had built an 8 second advantage over the field. It was a really remarkable image seeing Christiansen with that gap and a HUGE group trying to chase him down. It was made even more start with the aperture they were using on the cameras. It looked like something out of a thriller or a horror movie where the hero is being chased down by the angry mob.

The next 2 laps were basically the same. He was clinging to this 8-10 second lead for the entire 3rd and 4th laps. It felt both so tenuous and yet also so inevitable that he would win. He had grabbed a lead and never looked stress while he was out front. In fact I thought to myself at one point that he was relaxing and giving up his lead but it was just that he was looking that comfortable.

Finally he comes to the last shooting and goes clean once again. He allowed himself just a momentary celebration as he already knew that Lægreid had a miss. The win was his. He didn’t have to sprint around the rest of the race. He certainly enjoyed himself coming down the finishing stretch. It was a perfect race and a perfectly deserved win. Whether or not he wins again in Oslo he has this one to cap off another very good year.

Best Young Women’s Performance of the Week: Vanessa Voigt – Hey! It’s good to see Vanessa Voigt again! After her incredible close to last season including her career best 2nd place finish in Otepaa the hopes were high for Voigt heading into this season. So high that some, myself included, thought she might be able to make a push for the top 5 in the overall. Well she’ll fall short of that, but there are some really good signs that things are straightening out for next season.

This past weekend Vanessa Voigt really looked more like herself. She finished 6th in the Individual and 7th in the Mass Start. That pairs nicely with her 5th place Sprint and 12th in the Pursuit from Nove Mesto. Not a surprise that over that period we’ve seen some of her best shooting of the year going 10/10, 18/20, 19/20, and 20/20 for a nice 95.7% over the last two weeks. She’s also seen greatly improved consistency in her skiing as well. While she had periodic spikes in ski form in the first two trimesters most of her races saw her course time ranks in the 30’s or high 20’s at best. However the last two weeks her ski ranks are 21, 22, 16, and 13. That’s the best run of her season.

There are a lot of possible causes of why Voigt struggled. It could be a cascade effect of focusing on improved shooting speed. It could be that a new training schedule/regimen with the new women’s coaching staff just threw her off a little bit. Or any number of other causes. Whatever the cause we’re seeing a much improved Vanessa Voigt to close the season.

Here’s one interesting way to put it in perspective. I think we would all agree Linn Persson has had a great season. I think most would say Vanessa Voigt has been a little disappointing. Heading into Oslo Persson ranks 12th in the overall with 524 and Voigt ranks 13th with 501 points. I still think Persson has been very good this season it’s just all about where our expectations were heading into the season.

Best Young Men’s Performance of the Week: Eric Perrot – Breakthrough alert!!! Okay let me get this out of the way first. Yes, there were a lot of big names not racing this weekend. No Johannes Thingnes Bø, Tarjei Bø, Quinton Fillon Maillet, Sebastian Samuelsson, or Emilien Jacquelin. And Sturla Holm Lægreid was coming back from COVID in the Mass Start. Having said all of that, Eric Perrot had a terrific weekend of racing!

Perrot’s came into the weekend with 1 career top 10, which was in 8th place in a Sprint in Ruhpolding last year. This year he hadn’t quite reached that high again, but he was consistently having finishes in the 20’s to 30’s. Even in Nove Mesto you could see the signs that he was primed for a breakthrough when he finished 21st in the Sprint and 22nd in the Pursuit. Those were his 2nd and 4th best finishes of all time. Also the improved consistency in mid range 20-30’s finishes seemed to show a new floor to his performance.

This weekend though was brighter than I think any of us could have hoped for. He started out with his first trip to a World Cup flower ceremony. He shot 19/20 and skied pretty well finishing 17th in course time which was at that point the best of his career. At the time that was a new career best and it was already a great weekend for him.

The relay was another amazing step forward as Perrot brought France right back into the battle. When he took over the French team was +34 seconds behind Norway. The Norwegians had seemingly survived their two “weakest” legs and still had the lead. Perrot was basically perfect on leg 3. He was certainly not the fastest but he was clean. Ponsiluoma was the best on leg 3 but Perrot was pretty darn good. When he passed off to Fabien Claude France was just 14 seconds back and solidly in the race. You can’t ask for anything else from him.

Then the Mass Start was the crowning glory of the weekend for Perrot. No, he didn’t win, but you wouldn’t know it looking at his face as he came across the line in 3rd. It was pure joy and happiness. I think we even saw some tears coming down too. And who can blame him? He’s a 21 year old man and he went toe to toe with some big names. Yeah sure the Bøs weren’t there and QFM wasn’t there, but he beat out World Championships silver medalist Martin Ponsiluoma! Coming onto the range for the last shooting he was in 5th place and was 12 seconds back of 2nd place Sturla Holm Lægreid. Perrot went perfect while Lægreid, Krcmar, and Kühn all had misses. Perrot skied away for his medal, the first of his career and definitely not the last!

Best Women’s Race of the Week: Mass Start – While the Women’s Mass Start wasn’t quite as exciting as the Pursuit from Nove Mesto, it was still a really fun race. The fun started right from the gun. Immediately Julia Simon went to the front. She clearly wanted to put her nose in front of the race. She’s such a strong competitor. It is just classic Julia Simon thing to do. If she’s got somebody in front of her she’s going to chase until she has nothing left. If she has a chance though she tries to go right to the front. That’s how we started off today.

After shooting 1 we had an enormous number of athletes remaining clean. Once again Simon in the front with little to no change amongst the top contenders. Shooting 2 saw Simon leaving the range in the lead once again. Now with a much smaller leading pack but still including Wierer, Jeanmonnot, Røiseland, Davidova, Voigt all in pursuit. Simon, of course, kept herself in the lead.

The same story again with shooting 3. Simon was fast and clean and did I mention fast? Just 18.9 seconds on her first standing shooting. Once again she hit the course in the lead with now her biggest lead of the day. Still it was just 8 seconds over Wierer, Jeanmonnot, and Røiseland. 8 seconds isn’t a huge lead and while she pushed hard she wasn’t able to expand that lead at all during the lap. She certainly tried though.

Finally the decisive shooting 4. Simon went fast again…but she finally had a miss. She missed her very last shot. Those 8 seconds weren’t nearly enough of a cushion to hold off another clean shooting from Wierer and Jeanmonnot, who each went 20/20. Wierer, who had been lurking the entire race, never more than 10 seconds back of Simon had finally pounced. With a champion like Wierer you really have to either be perfect or make sure she’s put away to feel comfortable. Neither of those things happened and Wierer, sensing another victory, sped away from Jeanmonnot on lap 5.

Slowly but surely she pushed away from Jeanmonnot. Wierer crossed the line with her classic victory salute. Jeanmonnot came home 2nd for her 2nd silver medal on the season. Julia Simon, clearly disappointed, slid home in 3rd. Just behind Simon was Caroline Colombo with a career best 4th place finish. Emma Lunder finished in 8th for her 5th top 10 of the season! Tuuli Tomingas in 12th and Polona Klemencic in 13th for two more very good finishes!

Best Men’s Race of the Week: Mass Start – I already wrote at length about the Men’s Mass Start above when discussing Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen so I won’t rehash that here. Basically it was a brilliant race by Christiansen to continually flex his considerable muscles by giving pushing himself into the lead. Throughout the race he was holding off the chasers by pure strength alone. Yes it was a weakened field without the Bø brothers, QFM, or Jacquelin. But Lægreid was back from COVID and looking solid until the end. Johannes Dale is still a formidable opponent to try to hold off. Benedikt Doll has been solid all season. Christiansen’s win was really thrilling to watch.

It’s also worthwhile to note the really good finishes that came out of this race as well:

  • Eric Perrot’s first podium finish.
  • Michal Krcmar, in the midst of his career best year, just missed the podium and ifnished 4th.
  • Sebastian Stalder’s career best and first top 5 and yet another top 10 finish for the Swiss men.
  • Aleksander Fjeld Andersen returns to the top 10 in his return to the World Cup since last season in Oslo.
  • Simon Eder just won’t quit and grabbed another top 10, his 4th of the season and 2nd of the weekend!

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