2022-2023 Men’s Rookies of the Year

It’s that time of year where we celebrate those athletes who made the biggest impressions on us. We already celebrated JT Bø’s historic season, Julia Simon’s championship year, and the breakout men and women of the 2022-2023 campaign. Now it is time to celebrate the rookies who gave us a first look at their future potential!

For the men this season it was a bit of slim pickings. There really weren’t any great rookies that came in and made a major impact right away. In fact it was a lot of middle range performances. This isn’t to take anything away from these men as they still have bright futures ahead and they had some great races this season. Just that unlike the women no splashy rookie performances. It’s the athletes like this though that make biathlon such a great sport.

Before we get started a few things:

  • We have a relatively loose definition of “rookie.” In this instance I am usually defining this as somebody who had previously competed in just sporadic races. If they had completed in a full trimester of racing I classified that as their rookie season. Importantly it needed to be a full continuous trimester and not just 7-8 random races.
  • While the top athlete is the “Rookie of the Year” after that they are listed by their final ranking in the Overall standings so don’t try to read too much into it.
  • For the Key Statistic I kept it positive and mentioned something they did well rather than what they need to be working on.
Total Races20
Overall Rank40
Average Finish40.1
Best Finish15th
Key StatisticSkiing vs. Average: 0.1% faster

Anton Vidmar takes home Rookie of the Year honors for the men this season. It was a little bit under the radar, primarily because everybody not named JT Bø was under the radar but it was actually a pretty solid season. In all he ended up running 20 races this season including qualifying for his first Mass Start in Oslo. Oslo served as the capstone of sorts to a very solid first season with a career best 15th in the Sprint followed up by 25th in the Pursuit and 23rd in the Mass Start.

Vidmar is just 23 years old and he’s already showing some pretty good signs. His shooting percentages are already good enough to compete. This includes an 85% overall shooting percentage and an 86.9% standing percentage. There is good reason to think that he’ll at least get a little bit better at shooting in the next few seasons. He’s run races on the Juniors level in seven different seasons and in five of those he had a total shooting percentage better than 85%. Now those are generally small sample sizes but when taken together it’s a pretty good sign of what he is already capable of even without anticipating further improvement. Considering who is the Slovenian head coach (Ricco Gross) we should anticipate further improvement too.

Arguably more importantly he’s already at the average ski speed. That sounds like a ridiculous thing to be excited about. He’s just 23 years old and should continue to get a little bit faster over the next few seasons. This is definitely a projection but thinking if he can get that shooting percentage into the 88% or better range then he doesn’t need to be JT Bø to start getting a few top 10’s here and there. So this will be the number I’m really watching for him moving forward.

Otto Invenius

Total Races7
Overall Rank47
Average Finish36.9
Best Finish12th
Key StatisticOverall Skiing Rank: 32nd

Otto Invenius was a popular “One to Watch” after some really good performances over the last few seasons on the Juniors level. The 2021-2022 season saw him take home a silver medal in the Sprint at the Junior Worlds along with a 5th in the Individual. This season was primed to be a breakthrough onto a higher level. Unfortunately his summer was just loaded with injuries. There was an elbow injury, a head injury, and several sicknesses including COVID that handicapped his training all spring, summer, and fall.

When the season finally did start Invenius didn’t quite have the results that we had been hoping for. Considering how limited his training was this isn’t a terrible surprise at all. The IBU Cup results were decent in the 20-30’s primarily. Things started to come a little bit better for him and he made the World Cup squad for the last three weekends. He ended up showing his potential with a 12th place in the Oslo Sprint and qualifying for his first Mass Start that weekend.

Invenius’ profile right now is that of a good skier who can compete when he has the good shooting day. He was actually 1.3% faster than the average World Cup biathlete this season. He only raced in 7 races, but of every athlete that raced 7 races or more he ranked 32nd overall in skiing. That put him about even with Niklas Hartweg for example. Now the obvious difference between the two is that Niklas Hartweg is one of the best shooters on the World Cup whereas Invenius is average at best. However, taking the optimistic approach that means that there is ready ground for him to make up. If he is able to do that and take his overall shooting percentage from 76.7% to say 82.5% that would be a HUGE improvement. He shot just 68.3% from standing this season so there is definitely some low hanging fruit to be collected just from mild improvements there. Fingers crossed he can get it done. Of everybody on this list he may have the highest ceiling and is definitely a breakout candidate to watch next season.

Alex Cisar

Total Races17
Overall Rank51
Average Finish37.5
Best Finish17th
Key StatisticSkiing vs. Average: 1.3% slower

As promised, the 2nd Slovenian man on this list! Our biathlete/pilot had a pretty solid improvement as the season went along. It was a classic story of growth from Kontiolahti through Oslo. He started out with just three of his first seven finishes of the season being in the top 40 (and two of those were 38!). In his last five races though, he had four top 30’s. This included a career best 19th in the World Championship Individual which he surpassed just days later with a new career best 17th in the World Championship Mass Start!

For Cisar it was all about his skiing this season. In his previous races on the World Cup before this season he averaged about 5% slower than the average biathlete. This season he was all the way up to just 1.3% slower than average. Yes, he’s still slower than average but that’s a gigantic jump up. He went from 159th in overall skiing for the three races he ran in 2021-2022 to 74th in 2022-2023. That’s a HUGE jump up and opened the door for those higher performances. If you look at just the stretch from Ruhpolding through the World Championships he was actually right around on pace with the average World Cup male biathlete showing even further improvement during the season. This is a good indicator of where we could see him next season. Getting up to that average marker would let that average finish of 37.5 potentially move up to top 25.

Now why is this all possible? Because Alex Cisar is a sharpshooter. This is his split line for this season: 91.1% prone, 91.9% standing, and 91.5% overall. That is phenomenal and puts him in the top 10 of all men who competed last year. If you limit it to just men who competed in at least one trimester he’s ranked 4th overall in shooting. This is no new skill either. He’s always been a good shooter.

He doesn’t have to be blazing fast, just a little further improvement from his 2nd trimester/Worlds performances and he can be like Niklas Hartweg. Hartweg for example, ranked 28th in skiing and was 1.56% faster than average biathlete. That’s the goal for Cisar.

Tomas Mikyska

Total Races17
Overall Rank52
Average Finish38.9
Best Finish14th
Key StatisticOverall Shooting Rank: 30th

While Tomas Mikyska may have ended the season with the fourth best overall ranking, the young Czech athlete actually had two of the best finishes of any of the rookies this season. His back to back 14th place finishes in the Individual and the Mass Start (his first ever Mass Start!) at the World Championships this season combined for the two of the three best finishes by any of these rookies this season. He also became a key member of the Czech men’s relay, one of a number of young men including Jakub Stvrtecky and Jonas Marecek who helped the Czech team to a handful of good finishes this season.

For Mikyska, he relied mostly on his shooting for his high finishes this season. He finished ranked 30th overall of men on the World Cup with an overall shooting percentage of 86.7%. This actually made him the best shooting Czech man this season, finishing two spots higher than Michal Krcmar, the 32 year old who had a career season!

Going forward though it may be the ski speed that he flashed in Oberhof that will propel Mikyska to his greatest successes. Over those few races that included his career best finishes he was finishing with course time rankings of 43, 22, 22, and 21. Those were the best of his season and career. They were more in line with what he was doing at the end of last season on the IBU Cup. Hopefully that was just a brief glimpse of what is to come. At least we know that the potential is there!

Patrick Braunhofer

Total Races12
Overall Rank54
Average Finish51
Best Finish19th
Key StatisticTotal Shooting Percentage: 88.3%

The oldest of the young Italians, Patrick Braunhofer took advantage of Lukas Hofer’s absence to accumulate a season worth of experience. While most of the season was a bit of a struggle there were a few bright points for Braunhofer. He scored a career best 19th place in the Individual in Östersund. He also had a handful of top 40’s throughout the season.

Braunhofer’s stats this season look a little like Cisar from last year. He is a pretty good shooter with an overall shooting percentage of 88.3% but as you can imagine with the limited success he had he isn’t the fastest man on skis. He ended the season ranked 85th overall skiing.

Braunhofer is going to have to work hard to keep his spot next season. There is top end young talent in the form of ‘Nicolo Betemps who will be coming up soon. And we know as with Bionaz and Giacomel that the Italians are not afraid to throw their young men onto the World Cup at a young age. Also Elia Zenni and possible Christoph Pircher as well

Not Quite Rookies…But Coming Soon

These athletes didn’t qualify as “rookies” because they didn’t get the full trimester of racing. But we got a little taste of what might be coming our way.

Vebjoern Sørum

Total Races3
Overall Rank71
Average Finish33.7
Best Finish23
Key Statistic

Due to the backlog of incredible talent on the Norwegian men’s team Vebjoern Sørum only raced three times on the World Cup, once in Östersund and twice in Oslo. In those three races he still managed to score enough points to finish 71st overall. No, he didn’t blow us away but it was enough to show that he’s got the skills to compete on the World Cup.

Not surprisingly, he is Norwegian after all, Sørum came in and was fast right away. He was 2.7% faster than the average biathlete. For more concrete perspective he was about 2.7% faster than Tomas Mikyska or Anton Vidmar. This put Sørum on par with athletes like Johannes Kühn and a little faster than Tero Seppälä. Clearly he has the skis to compete for top 20’s and top 10’s.

With so much internal pressure on the Norwegian men’s team, that means he’s going to need to be able to shoot consistently. In his career he actually has been a decent shooter. His last two seasons of competition on Juniors level he hit 84% of his shots. And this season on the IBU Cup he had a career best 85% total shooting percentage. On the World Cup though in his three races, he went 80%, 90%, and 70%. Of course when he hit 90% he also had his “slowest” day of the season and managed a career best 23rd. The talent is definitely there. Now Sørum needs to put it together. The real question is if he’ll get the opportunities to do it on the World Cup on a regular basis.

2 thoughts on “2022-2023 Men’s Rookies of the Year

  1. Invenius has such a bright future ahead of him. It was announced just today that Kulstad is continuing at the helm for the next 3 years, so his shooting should improve as that’s a big focus for Kulstads training strategy. I would assume he gets to train with the world cup team this summer and start in world cup next season if he is healthy. The finnish mens team overall looks pretty good too for the future, unfortunately the same cannot be said about the womens.


    1. That’s great news about Kulstad. I hadn’t seen it yet. I am really high on Ivenius. I said it in the piece but he’s right at the top of my list for a break out next season. Especially if he can have a full season of training this summer!


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