The 2022-2023 season was another great season for rookies joining the World Cup level. The women especially had a ton of athletes come up and have success immediately. I had to keep double checking to make sure these women fit my qualifications for “rookie” because there were so many. I even moved Lou Jeanmonnot and Hanna Kebinger to my break out athlete piece because I had so many here!
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.
|Key Statistic||Overall Ski Rank: 10th|
What a season for the French women! Julia Simon wins the Overall Crystal Globe. They took the Nation’s Cup. Simon and Lou Jeanmonnot were my top 2 breakthrough athletes of the season. And now Sophie Chauveau wins the coveted penaltyloop.com Rookie of the Year award.
Chauveau had a relatively quiet start to the season in Kontiolahti and Hochfilzen. She had a couple of top 40’s in Konthiolahti followed by a 19th in the Pursuit. Then in Hochflizen she truly looked like a rookie finishing in 71st with a 6/10 shooting. That’s when everything changed.
Apparently all Chauveau needed was a little home cooking. She went home to Annecy-le Grand Bornand (literally home) and had her best race of her season and career. She ended up 4th in the Sprint and was literally carried off on her teammates shoulders. It was one of the most shocking finishes of the season. Obviously her prior finishes hadn’t shown much. Then she comes from bib 86th and nearly made the podium. This race, remember, was full of surprises as Anna Magnusson took her first victory, Linn Persson finished 2nd, just missing her first win, and Mari Eder finished 5th.
It didn’t end there though. Chauveau took off that weekend finishing 8th in the Pursuit and 5th in the Mass Start. She also showed off what has become her premier skill: speed. She was fast all weekend peaking with being the fastest woman on the course in the Mass Start. By the end of the season she ended up 10th overall in skiing. She clearly has arrived as part of the “A” class of skiers on the World Cup.
While she never had another weekend quite as good as that magical weekend in Annecy she did end up 21st overall. She scored five top 10’s and finished top 20 in nearly half of her races.
With that ski speed you might have expected more. However her shooting did let her down a bit, particularly her 74.1% standing shooting. To be fair she was 87.1% prone. So if she can get that up to say 82% standing she’s going to be able to compete for a top 10 Overall finish as that would profile very closely to Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet or even Hanna Öberg. She hasn’t ever shot anywhere close to 82% standing. Fortunately for her she’s got a teammate who figured this problem out very well and it took her all the way to the Overall Globe.
|Key Statistic||Overall Ski Rank: 16th|
2022-2023 was the season of the Sophie/Sophia’s. Germany’s Sophia Schneider was well on her way to winning Rookie of the Year honors right up until she had to bow out of the season in Nove Mesto. Unfortunately her season was cut short first due to a neck injury in Nove Mesto and then illness that kept her out of Östersund and Oslo. Up until that point she was actually running ahead of Sophie Chauveau.
While not quite as celebrated as the French women, the German women quietly had some good success with young athletes coming up and finding success. While Kebinger joined the team mid season, Sophia Schneider’s success began right away. She kicked off the season in style with an 11th in the season opening Individual, followed by an 8th in the Kontiolahti Sprint. She then spent the Hochfilzen through Antholz with some of the most consistent biathlon finishes I have ever seen. Check this out:
Check that out. From the Kontiolahti Pursuit through the Antholz Pursuit she finished from 33rd to 21st every race except for one. From Kontiolahti Pursuit through the Annecy-le Grand Bornand Mass Start she was between 23rd and 28th every race. Unreal consistency!
She finally ended that run with the best racing of her season and on the biggest stage of all. At the 2023 World Championships in Oberhof, in front of her home German fans, she finished 7th in the Sprint. Then she got her first flowers with a 5th in the Pursuit! Her Worlds finished up with a 13th in the Individual and 27th in the Mass Start.
By the end of her run she actually had a better average finish than Sophie Chauveau. Chauveau though ended up ranked higher and she had the best solo finish with that 4th so she does win the Rookie of the Year award.
Interestingly enough her stats compare favorably to Chauveau as well. As noted above the strength in her season was her ski performance where she ended up 16th overall. She was held back from more regularly high finishes by the shooting though. Her shooting splits were pretty consistent with an 79% overall, 80.7% prone, and 77.2% standing. Hopefully that means though, that she has only one direction to go: up! Here’s hoping for a top 20 overall season next year!
|Key Statistic||Prone Shooting: 91.2%|
Coming into the season Anna Gandler was one of the athletes that I was the most excited for. She had seen plenty of success on the IBU Cup and Juniors level. She was already a solid if not elite shooter and there was reason for optimism with her skiing. Gandler did not disappoint.
In her rookie season on the World Cup she competed in 17 races and showed the ability to compete with the best. While her finishes weren’t always consistent, with some highs and lows scattered throughout the season, she proved that the potential is there and there is plenty to be excited about. When we interviewed her in February on the Penalty Loop podcast she told myself and RJ that her two goals, at that point, were to grab her first top 10 and to finish in the top 40 of the overall. By doing that she would guarantee herself a spot on the National Team for the next season.
Mission Accomplished. After just missing out on Top 10’s in Annecy (11th in the Sprint) and the World Championship Individual (1 miss away from a top 10) she finally crossed it off of her “to do” list in Oslo. It looked like she might fall just short of her goal when she finished 13th in the Sprint and then didn’t race the Pursuit. Turned out though she was just saving the best for last when she finished 7th in the Mass Start (and out sprinted Dorothea Wierer to cap it off!). By doing so she also guaranteed herself a spot in the top 40 of the overall rankings and locked up her spot on the National Team for next season.
This season the absolute strong point of Gandler’s performance was her prone shooting. In a season full of some really wild prone shooting number Gandler was amongst the best, hitting 91.2% of her prone targets. She also displayed some pretty good ski speed finishing the season 1.5% faster than the average female biathlete. That was good enough to finish 34th overall in skiing putting her already on par with athletes like Anna Magnusson, Janina Hettich-Walz, and Emma Lunder. At just 22 years old it is fair to expect some improvement here.
Speaking of improvement we might also hope to see her standing shooting percentage rise a little bit over the next several years. While she was elite with her prone shooting this season, her standing shooting finished with an 82.4% hit rate. Also, she was open about her struggles to improve her shooting speed. While she was able to improve her speed in practice she said that she felt a little frozen in the race. This is born out by an average total shooting time of 30.1 seconds. In today’s World Cup that was good enough for just 56th best. That will definitely need to continue to improve.
Having said all of that she is just 22 and has shown the ability to compete with the best. There are lots of obvious ways in which she can improve her performance namely by improving that standing shooting and the shooting speed. She will also likely continue to get a little faster. I am absolutely optimistic that Gandler will continue to improve and that next season will be even better for her. Possible future like a Lisa Hauser?
|Key Statistic||Average Shooting Time: 24.1 seconds|
It’s an absolutely great time to be a fan of Italian biathlon. Tommaso Giacomel looks like a future star. Dorothea Wierer is still able to compete with the best. Lisa Vittozzi is back to her top form. Samuela Comola is showing signs that she is going to have a good career. And this season Rebecca Passler made her introduction to the World Cup with a solid rookie season.
Passler’s rookie campaign was fairly consistent from start to finish with only a little dip in form from Annecy through until she came back to life on home snow in Antholz. In the 16 races she raced in 2022-2023 she managed top 30’s in exactly half of them. This included two top 20’s: A 17th place finish in the Kontiolahti Sprint and an 18th place in the Nove Mesto Pursuit.
If there was one thing that Passler really made a name for herself for it was her ridiculous shooting. She averaged 24.1 seconds per shooting this season. I repeat, she averaged 24.1 seconds per shooting for the entire season. That was 2nd fastest of any woman who raced at least 1 trimester this season. It was a full 1.2 seconds faster than the incredibly speedy Julia Simon. Her standing shooting time average was 21.8 seconds per shooting.
Of course fast shooting doesn’t mean very much if you are wild. Passler actually wasn’t bad. She ended up with shooting splits of 82.5% prone, 85% standing, and 83.8% overall. Now look back at that those shooting times. She shot 85% standing while averaging 21.8 seconds on a total of 120 standing shots. That’s a large enough sample size to get the picture that Rebecca Passler is a solid shooter who shoots VERY fast.
The biggest area of improvement is her skiing. She finished the season 0.4% slower than the average biathlete and was ranked 62nd in overall skiing. For context this puts her in the range of Deedra Irwin, Emilie Kalkenberg, and Lotte Lie. However it should be noted that this was a HUGE improvement over her performance in the two races she ran in 2021-2022. Interestingly her skiing performance vs. the IBU Cup and Juniors field has actually been slipping the last 2-3 seasons. I’m not sure what that means overall.
For Passler to reach her potential she absolutely needs to get her skiing a little bit faster. We noted earlier that her shooting time was comparable to Julia Simon. Her overall shooting percentage isn’t that far off from what Denise Herrmann-Wick did this season. The major difference of why those women are at the top of the standings is that they are two of the fastest skiers in the women’s field. Passler is just 21 so hopefully that skiing continues to move on up. If it does, and she can improve the overall shooting percentage 3-4%, Italian women’s biathlon is going to be super strong come Milan 2026.
|Key Statistic||Total Shooting Percentage: 93.7%|
Tamara Steiner, the 2nd Austrian woman on the rookies of the year list! It was sort of under the radar great season for the Austrian women! While Steiner certainly didn’t have the high success of the women ahead of her on this list she definitely showed potential for future successes.
Steiner didn’t start the season on the World Cup level, but joined the Austrian women in Annecy-le Grand Bornand. Throughout the remainder of the season she had three top 30’s including a career best 21st in the Individual in Östersund. As we’ll discuss shortly, not surprisingly with her shooting talent, she also had her 2nd best finish in an Individual in Ruhpolding.
The major thing holding Steiner back from even great success is her skiing. She was 1.7% slower than the average woman on the World Cup and ended up ranked 71st overall. This was actually a significant improvement. The reason for optimism though is that Steiner is an absolutely elite shooter. She finished the season at 93.7% overall which ranked #1 overall for the women’s circuit. This included a wild 94/95 for prone shooting.
Clearly with that insane shooting she doesn’t need to be super fast to be competitive. She’s already having success with the Individual. If she could just get to average in skiing, roughly Aita Gasparin level, she could get some regular top 20’s. Add that together with Anna Gandler’s continued improvement and the Austrian team could be in a great place in a few seasons.
|Key Statistic||Overall Ski Rank: 1st|
I hesitated even writing about Anamarija Lampic because what is there to say that hasn’t already been said. For obvious reasons she was one of the most analyzed biathletes this season. Considering she finished 48th overall that might seem crazy. However it was just that her potential is so freaking high.
Lampic’s first World Cup season was pretty much exactly what you would expect. She was very fast. At times it was like she was racing a different course. Think back to what it was like seeing her skiing in Hochfilzen. It almost looked unfair. She finished 7/10 in the Sprint and still finished 5th. She pulled off another 5th in the Antholz when she managed an 8/10 shooting. Yet, plainly there was the problem…the shooting.
It wasn’t even the shooting in total that was the problem. It was the standing shooting. Lampic shot 76.7% prone. That’s actually not terrible considering this was her first season in biathlon. Her standing shooting was 46.7%. That’s a terrifying number. Here’s the good news, she’s working with Ricco Groß who has proven to be an excellent shooting coach in the past. Not surprising considering the amazing skill he brought to shooting.
Lampic is “just” 27. Her potential is Denise Herrmann-Wick. Ultra fast and if she can learn to shoot she could eventually win some races and challenge for the Sprint globe. Just to keep the comparison going Lampic’s 76.7% prone is almost exactly what Herrmann-Wick shot prone in her first season, 76.9%. Herrmann-Wick though shot 67.7% standing.
Lampic retains her unbelievable potential. I believe that this was a successful first season on the World Cup. Next season we’ll look to see some big improvements in shooting. To continue the Herrmann-Wick example in her 2nd season she shot 85.3% prone, 76.8% standing, and 81.1% overall. She finished 12th overall that season. So that’s what we’ll look for from Lampic.
Hanna Auchentaller, daughter of Team USA coach Armin Auchentaller, was yet another young Italian woman who had a solid 2022-2023 season. After making her World Cup debut in 2021-2022 she joined the Italian World Cup team this season in Annecy-le Grand Bornand. She then was back to the IBU Cup for two weeks before rejoining the team in Antholz (after Sanfilippo switched to XC skiing), and remained with the team the rest of the season.
While this likely wasn’t the way in which Auchentaller would have wanted to join the World Cup, she took advantage of her opportunity. She displayed a fairly well rounded profile including ranking 62nd overall in skiing and 60th in overall shooting percentage. Along the way she grabbed five top 30’s including a career best 17th in the Östersund Individual race and qualified for her first career Mass Start where she finished 22nd! From Ruhpolding through Östersund she finished in the top 40 all but two races.
There really is no one thing that Auchentaller does amazingly well. That also means taht there is no major hole or flaw in her performance. This means that right now her ceiling is a little limited, but it also means that her floor is very high. If she can just keep raising her skills slowly and surely she is going to be a very steady presence on the World Cup. Once again it’s worth noting that she’s just 22 years old alongside 21 year old Rebecca Passler and 24 year old Samuela Comola. The Italian team is in really good shape.
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.
Juni Anrekleiv is the case point for how difficult it is to determine a “rookie” season. You can argue either side of it and I think both sides are correct. In this case I “saved” her rookie season for next season. She was just right on the edge and I didn’t feel like the “intention” of this season was for her to be a regular. But nonetheless she did race seven times on the World Cup including the World Championships when she joined the World Cup tour.
In those seven races she has four top 25’s including a career best 12th in the World Championship Sprint. She also had only one “bad” race finishing 79th in the Individual race.
Like Hanna Auchentaller her performances were pretty steady, she was just at a slightly higher level in the races she ran finishing 57th in overall shooting percentage and 54th in skiing. She’s a steady athlete. As we saw with Auchentaller she has a high floor. As she continues to improve it looks like she is going to be a solid member of the Norwegian team. The question is can she reach a high level at any of these skills and boost herself into contention for a top 15-20 over the course of the next season?
Before the season even started we were fortunate to hear a little about this new upcoming Belgian biathlete. Lotte Lie let us all in on the secret and Maya Cloetens did not disappoint. The 21 year old made her World Cup debut in Pokljuka after six straight top 10’s and three podiums to start the Juniors season.
Cloetens proved to be solid on the World Cup level. In total she ran five races this season finishing: 43, 42, 38, 40, and 36. That’s remarkable consistency in performance! The best part to me is that there were no catastrophic races. It seemed like there was a solid base underneath her.
Just like her Belgian teammates Lie and Florent Claude she proved to be an excellent shooter right away. In her five World Cup races she shot 94.3% prone, 82.9% standing, and 88.6% overall. If you can hit like that you’re off to a good start. A little improvement in the standing shooting would be great. She doesn’t need to get that much better though. Hopefully as she gets a little bit older she gets a little stronger on the skis as well. She’s right around the average speed for the women’s World Cup this season. Lotte Lie has shown that you don’t need to be amazingly fast to get to the top 10. I can’t tell you how I excited I am to watch Cloetens develop!
Paula Botet, Gilonne Guigonnat, Marthe Krakstad Johansen, Maren Kirkeeide, Tilda Johansson, Sara Andersson, Selina Grotian
These women all raced somewhere between 1-3 races this season. Between the five of them they are some of the best and brightest young talent on the IBU Cup. I include them on this list because the amount of talent about to join the World Cup level is immense. These women are all young and very talented.
Five to six seasons from now these women will be the leaders of their respective squads. They’ll be going head to head in all of the major races. Hopefully we see them all battling it out in the relays.
The fun part is that they have very different ways of being great. Selina Grotian and Paula Botet absolutely fly across the snow. Marthe Krakstad Johanesn and Gilonne Guigonnat are top notch shooters.
I already can’t wait for next season. I want to see all of these women getting their feet wet on the World Cup! There is a high likelihood that these are our Rookies of the Year next season!