Biathlon Championships – Nove Mesto Preview and Predictions

05/03/2020

Women’s 7.5km Sprint:

This is the first event of the meeting, it’s also one of the more unpredictable events as you can’t afford to miss more than 1 of the 10 targets if you want a chance to win, each skier will ski 3 2.5km loops, shooting at the end of the first 2 loops before the sprint home. A missed shot is a penalty loop of 150m and approximately 25 seconds lost to your rivals, also the biathletes start at 30 second intervals.

This course was pretty generous on a shooting front last year and I’d expect the winner to clear all 10 targets.

Roeiseland would’ve been my pick but since she is sadly out with the flu, I’m going to go with Wierer to continue her bounceback here. She was the other star of the World Championships on the women’s side and I’d be most confident in her shooting of the big names right now with the other favourites all struggling with standing shoots as of now.

Tiril Eckhoff looked like she was starting to come back into some form during the mass start before losing her way again, but the ski speed is there again and if cleaning up on the stand, she’ll have a big chance of winning this.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all though to see an outsider win this, so I’ll put up Monika Hojnisz to pick up a medal here. She’s a reliable shot and her ski speed is on an upward curve this season. I also have a feeling Makarainen will finally get it together on the range soon and she isn’t a forlorn hope here. Braisaz is another who can medal if clearing things up on the range. Herrmann and Oberg obviously will be favourites for the race as well, but both need to clean up things on the standing shoot.

Prediction:

1: Wierer

2: Eckhoff

3: Hojnisz

06/03/2020

Men’s 10km Sprint:

This is the first men’s event of the meeting; each skier will take 3 laps of the track with 2 shoots involved. As with the women’s, there will be 30 second staggered starts for the athletes and each missed shot incurs a 150m penalty loop.

Yet again, the winner will need to shoot 10 though Boe or Fillon Maillet do have the speed to possibly get away with 9.

I expect Boe to have been done a world of good by all of the racing he got in at Antholz and his shooting looked very clean in the mass start, it’s not an original choice but he has to be my pick for gold here. Especially with the ski speed coming back.

I’m going to go with Fillon Maillet for silver. He was solid throughout the Worlds and cleaned up his standing shoot by the end which was my main concern for him previously. He has a very good chance here and would win if shooting clear with Boe missing one but I’m not sure Boe will miss.

As with the women’s sprint, there’s a chance one of the guys who sees the podium a bit more rarely than the top guys gets one here and I’m going to pick Johannes Dale, he looked very strong on the skis towards the end of the Championships and I’d love to see what he could do with a clear day on the range. Loginov and Fourcade are other obvious medal candidates.

Prediction:

1: Boe

2: Fillon Maillet

3: Dale

07/03/2020

Women’s 4x6km relay

This event consists of 4 athletes from each country skiing 6km legs, they’ll each have 2 rounds of shooting with 3 spare rounds at each shoot if they miss any shots. If they miss all of the spare rounds, then it will be a penalty loop for each missed target.

I have this down as between Germany and France. The Germans look the most likely to shoot clear and ski fast and are the rightful favourites here if making up for a mixed shooting performance in Antholz.

The French though are a big danger for me, Bescond is shooting well and Braisaz skiied seriously fast in the sprint race a couple of days ago. If Simon gets over her recent shooting woes in relays then they should go very close here.

I feel Norway and Sweden could be vulnerable today and I like Italy to take advantage, with Norway being a shade weaker here Vitozzi and Wierer could make this race very interesting for them having both looked very strong in relays this year and I believe they have a very strong chance of medalling if avoiding the penalty loop with their other 2 athletes.

Prediction:

1: Germany

2: France

3: Italy

Men’s 4×7.5km relay

This follows the same format as the women’s relay.

Norway and France look set to dominate again with the German team struggling a bit at the range yesterday.

I’m picking Norway to take this one. Both Boe brothers had very strong races yesterday and I’m hoping Christiansen being extremely slow was just him saving energy for the relay today since the race was over as soon as Johannes had shot 10/10, also as I mentioned in the sprint I think Dale is looking really good at the moment on his skis and they are definitely the ones to beat.

France look the obvious danger again. Fourcade is missing this one out as he needs a strong mass start result to hold onto the golden bib with Boe breathing down his neck but this is still a very strong team. Fillon Maillet was extremely strong in the sprint and shot well which is a good indicator for them. But the race for them will need to be won on the first 2 legs with Jacquelin vs Dale being the matchup that could decide where this race goes. If they miss less than 5 targets they’ll feel they have a big chance.

Germany look booked in for bronze. There’s just a lack of team depth on the men’s side of the sport and Germany are much stronger than anyone else other than the Norwegians and French so they will try and put it up to the big 2 teams but I feel shooting could be a big problem for them.

Prediction:

1: Norway

2: France

3: Germany

08/03/2020

Women’s 12.5km Mass start

The top 30 in the World Cup standings will all start together here in a 12.5km endurance race. They will shoot 4 times and each missed shot leads to a 150m penalty loop.

I’m very bullish about the chances of Tiril Eckhoff here. She showed a lot more patience and discipline yesterday and shot well. If she gets through the prone shoots with 9/10, she should be in a position where she won’t have to over race as the ski speed looks to have returned and she can be a bit more relaxed going into the standing shoots. In a week where the big names haven’t been consistent shots, she looks to have a standout opportunity here.

Hanna Oeberg is my number 2 pick here. She had a rest yesterday and I’m hoping that time will help to erase the mishaps she’s had shooting as of late. If she shoots 19 or 20 here which she is very capable of, then she has a great chance of winning today.

Herrmann will be my number 3 pick. I still don’t trust her shooting at all but with plenty of people struggling I’ll take her ski speed to be able to push her into a medal spot after the final shoot. It feels like the sort of race where someone who wouldn’t be an obvious favourite gets into the mix. Vittozzi could be that person though her relay form hasn’t really transferred to solo events yet.

1: Eckhoff

2: Oeberg

3: Herrmann

Men’s 15km Mass Start

This follows the same format as the women’s race with the top 30 in the World Cup standings lining up in this event.

This just feels like Johannes Boe’s week. He’s yet to miss a shot and didn’t need to get out of second gear in the relay which just turned into a shooting practice for him with the lead he was given. Now he knows he’s comfortably quicker than the others again, he can just run his own race and let the others make mistakes around him.

I like Fourcade to get the silver medal here. He’s well rested after yesterday and knows he has to keep putting in big performances if he wants to hold onto the golden bib. He won’t have the speed to keep up with Boe or Fillon Maillet but he will be able to capitalise on any mistakes they make and has a strong medal chance here.

Tarjei Boe can cap off a fantastic week for Norway with a bronze medal here. He’s been extremely solid the last few days and with a 18/20 shoot, he should be able to claim a medal here. Fillon Maillet is the obvious other medal contender here and if reproducing his sprint performance, he’d go very close.

Prediction:

1:  J Boe

2: Fourcade

3: T Boe

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