How can it be? How is it that we’ve seen the last of the IBU Biathlon for this season? I feel like it was just last weekend I was at my in-laws’ house furiously typing out the season preview posts. And it was just a handful of days ago that we were watching with disbelief the great Fischer ski catastrophe in Annecy. It was just two days ago that we were watching the World Championships. I say this every year but this season went by faster than any season I remember.
But…before we get into the recap of the season let’s take a look back at a fun week in Oslo!
Best Men’s Performance of the Week: Johannes Thingnes Bø
In what has been the greatest season in the history of biathlon it only makes sense that JT Bø is the Man of the Week for one more week this season. In all seriousness how could you possibly choose anybody else? This weekend all JT Bø did was come back from COVID and win the Sprint, follow up with the Pursuit, and then crush the Mass Start. It wasn’t even a surprise because that’s what he’s been doing almost every single weekend this season. But we have plenty of time to recap his performance this season and this will focus on Oslo in particular.
Bø started off the weekend with a very solid Sprint win. It wasn’t his biggest Sprint win as he won by “only” 23.9 seconds. He went 9/10 and still won by about a penalty loop of time over Ponsiluoma and Doll who both were perfect on the range. It sounds crazy but that’s just what he’s been doing every single week. Only 4 men were within 1 minute of JT Bø on the course. There were 0 men within 48 seconds of JT Bø with Benedikt Doll finishing 48.8 seconds slower on the course. There were 24 men within 48 seconds of Doll.
Trying to catch JT Bø starting with a 23.9 second lead in a Pursuit race is a tough ask for anybody. As it turns out this weekend it was an impossible ask. JT Bø lost just 1 time in a Pursuit this season and in order for it to happen he had to have historically bad skis on an icy track in Annecy. In Oslo he had good skis on a slightly sloppy track, shot 19/20, and left everybody in his dust.
He had enough time to have one of the “moments” of the season captured below. That picture was him playfully shushing the crowd between shot 4 and 5 of the last shooting of the race. Of course he refocused and calmly knocked down the last target. Even if he hadn’t he was still going to win by a kilometer. While he didn’t win by a kilometer, just 32 seconds, he also went on a bit of a sightseeing cruise on the last lap finishing with almost the slowest last lap of the entire field.
The details of the race are laid out below. JT Bø was splendid though. He wasn’t perfect, going just 18/20, but he was without a doubt the strongest man on the course. Repeatedly he pulled away from the field, constantly flexing his muscles and proving his win to be inevitable. It was a dominant way to close out the most dominant season in biathlon history.
Best Women’s Performance of the Week: Hanna Öberg
Hanna Öberg certainly didn’t have the season that she likely expected or desired when the season kicked off in Kontiolahti. However, she certainly has closed on a high level especially this weekend in Oslo.
With the stakes for her far different than either JT Bø (racing for history) or Niklas Hartweg (the blue bib comeback) we won’t rehash ever moment of her weekend but I do want to hit the highlights. She finished 2nd in the Sprint and won the season closing Mass Start. Over the last 10 races of the season, starting with the Sprint in Oberhof, she had three wins and two 2nd place finishes making it one of the most successful stretches of the season for any woman this year.
This weekend she showed once again, just as she did in Oberhof, why so many people love her and peg her as a potential contender for the Overall Globe. Her 2nd place in the Sprint was built on 10/10 shooting and the 3rd fastest course time behind just Lampic and Sprint globe winner Denise Herrmann-Wick. The only reason she didn’t win was because Herrmann-Wick was brilliant once again, winning her 4th race of the season, the most she had in a season in her career. Yet even with Herrmann-Wick on top of her game it still looked like Hanna Öberg was the only one who could contend with her that day.
Without a Pursuit race this weekend Öberg’s only other opportunity was the Mass Start. She was once again brilliant. She was 19/20 on the range with her only miss coming on the last shooting. Of course it didn’t end up hurting her because the 4th shooting was an absolute horror show with several women missing 3-4 shots. In the end it was a relatively easy victor for Öberg.
We may recap her entire season at some point but I want to point out that there are some indicators for her in the 2nd and 3rd trimester that are similar to Julia Simon’s last season. In the last 2/3 or last season Simon became a much more consistent shooter. While the race results weren’t as good as they became this season, at least on the range she cleaned up the really bad days and added a few more really good days. You can see the same thing happening with Hanna Öberg this year.
- Starting in Ruhpolding (she missed Pokljuka due to COVID) she finished out the year hitting 212 of 240 targets = 88.3%
- The first trimester of this season was 83.8%
- 2021-2022 season she shot just 80% overall
- Her career best season was her breakthrough 2018-2019 season where she shot 88.5% for the full season and finished 5th in the overall
What I’m trying to say is, if Hanna Öberg really did figure out her shooting, and a full 2 trimesters of 88.3% shooting is a pretty good sample size, then look out. She finished the season as the 5th fastest woman in biathlon. Julia Simon this season: 3rd fastest with an overall shooting percentage of 88.25%
Best Young Men’s Performance of the Week: Niklas Hartweg
If you had asked me on Friday who would be in this spot it would have been Tommaso Giacomel for what appeared to be his u25 Globe. At that point Giacomel had just finished a decent 14th in the Sprint while Hartweg was well back in 32nd. Hartweg hadn’t looked like himself in weeks while Giacomel was, while not at peak, still performing at a high enough level to grab the blue bib away from Hartweg. Hartweg even publically admitted that he was feeling completely drained saying on Instagram that his batteries were empty. What Niklas Hartweg did over the weekend was absolutely remarkable.
In short Hartweg went 40/40 over the next two races while having the 2nd best course time ranks of his career (he was 11th in course time rank both races). It absolutely came out of nowhere. The previously 2 weeks Hartweg visibly looked drained. He admitted to feeling no energy and the results backed that up.
Coming into the Pursuit race he was 49 points back. After wearing the blue bib for most of the season this was biggest deficit he had seen all season long. As mentioned before Giacomel was looking solid and Hartweg was struggling. Meanwhile, being a Pursuit race, Giacomel was starting the race with a 34 second and 18 place advantage on Harwteg. It seemed to be over. But then the Pursuit race actually happened. Hartweg went a remarkable 20/20 and showed a renewed energy. He leapt all the way up from 32nd place to 6th place and the Flower Ceremony. It wasn’t like Giacomel was bad by any means. He climbed from 14th to 11th but Hartweg still cut it down to a 39 point deficit.
The Mass Start saw a Hartweg that just refused to lose. In order to make up that 39 point deficit he really needed to finish on the podium or count on Giacomel to finish at the very bottom. He came to play right from the start, joining the non-JT Bø leaders from the opening moments and never dropping back. He once again went 20/20 but it was his work on the skis that was most impressive. On lap 4 he left the range with a 5 second deficit on Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen and immediately made up the gap before leading the rest of the lap. On lap 5 he and Christiansen were neck and neck to start…but only to start. Hartweg absolutely crushed the last lap. He raced away to win the u25 Globe. It was an incredible end to the weekend.
In the end he finished up with a 32nd in the Sprint followed by 6th in the Pursuit and 2nd in the Mass Start. The 2nd place matched his career best which he had set in the very first race of the season. We’ll discuss this more later but he finished with 2 podiums, 3 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s. A very good breakthrough season!
Best Young Women’s Performance of the Week: Lou Jeanmonnot + Anna Gandler
Both of these young women are worth of the award. Lou Jeanmonnot 15th and 18th. Anna Gandler finished 13th and 7th.
While Gandler had clearly the better finishes I include Jeanmonnot because she had a shot to win the Mass Start. Yes she went 1/5 on that last shooting but she put herself in position to take the win. It was so so close to being an incredible capstone to her breakthrough year. A win would have been an amazing way to close it out. I am so proud of her for putting herself into position to take the win.
Gandler though truly was the Best Young Woman of the week. The 22 year old Austrian, and recent guest of the Penalty Loop Podcast!, mentioned to us that her big goal for the remainder of the year was a top 10. She came close several times and when she got 13th in the Pursuit I was at first gutted for her. She was just 3 spots away from her top 10! She finished with the 21st best course time which was the 3rd best of her season. No surprise there as it was the 2nd best finish of her season and career. But without a Pursuit this weekend it felt like a prime chance at a top 10 was gone.
Anna Gandler, with just 1 race left to complete a dream 1st season, stepped up and had absolutely no fear. I don’t know if she got a little excited or if the numbers are wrong but she did her first shooting in 20.7 seconds. She was 4/5 though and sent herself to the penalty loop. It was great to see her firing freely which is something she has said has been a problem for her. However, it set her back a little bit.
Fortunately with her 10/10 on the next two shootings, combined with very solid skiing, she was able to climb into a HUGE group of contenders fighting for the podium. Then total chaos struck, not just Gandler, but basically the entire field, with one of the most chaotic last shootings I can remember. Gandler came out with just two misses which was relatively good. She then threw absolutely everything she had into the last lap. At the end of the day she had the 9th best course time which is incredible and by far the best of her career. She ended up finishing 7th, the first top 10 of her career. In what is a very cool moment she out lunged Dorothea Wierer at the line to set her new career best at 7th.
In an interesting note she needed to finish in the top 40 to claim her spot on the top National Team for next season. She entered the day 38th in the Overall. Obviously qualifying for the Mass Start gave her the opportunity to get some points. But finishing 7th bumped her all the way to 32nd and secured her spot for next season. Congratulations to Anna Gandler!
Best Men’s Race of the Week: Mass Start
The Mass Start was the true flexing of JT Bø’s muscles. From the starting line he went straight to the front and pushed the pace. The only man who could hold his speed was Martin Ponsiluoma. They both missed in the first shooting though and suddenly it looked like there might be a surprise. There was a whole group of powerful men that took advantage and went to the lead including Laegreid, Christiansen, Quinton Fillon Maillet, and Hartweg.
Lap 2 went about how you might expect it to. Those men in the front, powerful as they might be, were nowhere close enough to hold off JT Bø. He left the range with an 11 second deficit and caught up to the leaders well before the range. Shooting from lane 8 Bø took his time a bit, taking a full 31.1 seconds to go 5/5. Compare that to Hartweg’s 24.2 second 5/5 shooting.
Niklas Hartweg used that very fast prone shooting to leap out to a slim 2 second advantage on Christiansen and 5.5 seconds on JT Bø. This turned out to be the key moment of the race. JT Bø exerted his will here by pushing away from the field. By the first split on lap 3 he had turned that 5.5 second deficit into a 7.2 second advantage. Not that anybody was going slowly, he just pushed away from the field. As he entered the range that lead was up to 15.8 seconds. This was the moment of the race…if JT Bø goes perfect it’s basically over. If he has a miss it’s going to be wild to the finish.
Of course he went perfect! It was that kind of season for Johannes Thingnes Bø. Once he went 5/5 on that 3rd shooting the battle for the win for the race was over. Who was going to be able to catch him? He took that 14.5 second lead he left the range with and absolutely sprinted away with it. By the first checkpoint on lap 4 it was a 34.5 second lead. By the time he got to the range it was 40.3 seconds. He had to go 3/5 for anybody else to have a chance and he only gave the chasers 1 miss. With that he ran away for the win.
While Bø was doing that though the race was only getting more exciting. Of course the races within the race was, as mentioned earlier, were Hartweg racing for the u25 title and Christiansen for the discipline globe. It was perfect then, that the two of them were right next to each other on the range for shooting #3. With Christiansen in lane 3 and Hartweg in lane 4 they each went 5/5. Christiansen left with a 5 second lead on Hartweg and Hartweg 19 seconds up on Tarjei Bø. At that moment the race for the podium spots was down to them.
Hartweg started to show his superior strength on that 4th lap. He caught Christiansen almost immediately and proceeded to lead Christiansen around the entire lap. As they entered the range it was the moment for each of them. Hartweg had a solid lead on Giacomel for the blue bib. Starting with a 39 point deficit though he couldn’t shed a spot. Christiansen had a solid lead on Dale/Laegreid but still you don’t want to chance it. And as we later saw in the women’s Mass Start nothing is safe on the last shot.
They both of course went 5/5 in those high pressure situations. It was amazing to see them both stand tall then but especially so when they shot in 21 and 23 seconds respectively. Lap 5 was all Hartweg. He sprinted away from Christiansen. It was all desire and competitive fire on that last lap. There was no way he wasn’t going to give every last ounce of effort to secure the u25 title. No harm done for Christiansen as he had the discipline globe wrapped up.
All three men, the key players of the race, came away with the prizes. JT Bø with his 19th win of the year. Christiansen with his 2nd discipline globe of the year. And Hartweg wraps up an enormous comeback in the u25 race!
Best Women’s Race of the Week: Mass Start
The Women’s Mass Start will be memorable to me for 3 reasons in particular:
1.The Final Shooting Chaos: Heading to the final shooting of the Oslo Mass Start Hanna Öberg held a 19 second advantage on Lou Jeanmonnot. Then there was a HUGE group of eight women including Simon, Davidova, Tandrevold, Røiseland, Kebinger, Chevalier-Bouchet, Gandler, and Wierer spread from 41 to 51 seconds back, all with a shot at the podium. That’s when things fell apart.
- Hanna Öberg came in first and went 4/5 opening the door for Lou Jeanmonnot to shoot for the lead.
- Lou Jeanmonnot got caught in the moment and missed her first two and ultimately going just 1/5. At this point Hanna Öberg had basically secured the win but the 2nd and 3rd spots were wide open.
- Julia Simon went 3/5. She somehow still ended up in 5th.
- Marketa Davidova went 1/5 and fell all the way to 16th.
- Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold went 1/5 and tumbled down to 19th.
- Hanna Kebinger was 4/5 and was able to sprint away for 4th and a new career best.
- Marte Olsbu Røiseland a perfect 5/5 and finished in 2nd
- Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet 4/5 in a slow and steady 32 seconds and came in 3rd.
- Anna Gandler 3/5 but held on for her top 10!
- Dorothea Wierer 4/5 and finished in 8th.
- Denise Herrmann-Wick came onto the range in 16th, went 5/5, and finished 6th
2. I will always remember that on their final weekends of competition, in the midst of that insane shooting, three of the athletes who held it together were the three women about to retire. Marte Olsbu Røiseland leaving that chaotic mess and avoiding the penalty loop was classic. Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet, once again, did just enough to get 3rd in the Mass Start, her 3rd bronze in 5 Mass Starts this season. And Denise Herrmann-Wick, from waaaaay back in the pack goes 5/5 and reaches the flower ceremony.
3. The Retirement Celebrations. They were beautiful. They made me cry. I never want to say goodbye to anybody. But if we have to have retirements I want them to look like this. Enormous beautiful celebrations of a career. And Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet’s adorable kid picking up confetti and sharing a doughnut with her mom. Denise Herrmann-Wick in a super man cape. Marte Oslbu Røiseland surrounded by her enormous group of family, friends and teammates. Tiril Eckhoff flashing her thousand mega watt smile with long time friend Ingrid Tandrevold. Mari Eder’s family, friends, and teammates waiting with a HUGE banner to spray her with champagne. It was beautiful and I loved every minute of it.
Flower Ceremony: Just some quick notes on some athletes who had career bests or very good results this last week!
Anna Magnusson – 3rd in the Sprint. Of course not a career best as she won the Sprint in Annecy-le Grand Bornand, but this was just her 2nd career podium!
Chloe Chevalier – 4th in the Sprint. Her 2nd best ever finish and was so close to her 2nd ever podium.
Tereza Vobornikova – 6th in the Sprint. This was a new career best just beating out the 7th place she earned in the World Championship Pursuit from this season.
Anna Gandler – 7th in the Mass Start. First career top 10!!!
Janina Hettich-Walz – 8th in the Sprint for the 3rd best finish in her career. Her career best is 5th and she previously this season had a 7th in Antholz Sprint. Definitely not her best ever season but it was a solid year.
Suvi Minkkinen – 11th in the Sprint. She was just 1.3 seconds away from her 2nd career top 10. I’m very excited for her future!
Otto Invenius – 12th in the Sprint! What a weekend for Otto! The young man, one of the great hopes for the Finnish team, had his great breakthrough this weekend. 12th in the Sprint, 22nd in the Pursuit, and qualifies for the Mass Start. Prior to this weekend his career best was 23rd. Great weekend!
Anton Vidmar – 15th in the Sprint! Prior to this weekend 23 year old Slovenian Anton Vidmar had a career best of 22nd, had a career best 15th in the Sprint race. He followed with a 25th in the Pursuit and 23rd in the Mass Start. Great finish to the weekend!
Paula Botet – 21st in the Sprint race. At just 22 years old she already has 12 races in her career and this is a really nice new career best.
Vobjoern Soerum – 23rd in the Sprint. Taking advantage of some late season starts and Soerum scores a new career best (in 3 total races) 23rd place.
Einar Hedegart – 28th in the Sprint. The “winner” of the Junior World Championships, Hedegart comes in with 0 prior IBU Cup and World Cup starts and finishes 28th. The Norwegians…so much depth!