Nove Mesto celebrates the Biathlon World Championships for the second time

At the beginning of the 1980s, Nove Mesto became the focus of attention in winter sports for the first time. A cross-country skiing world cup was held. In 2006, the town in Moravia then wanted to take to the big stage: the Tour de Ski, now an established competition on the cross-country skiing circuit, was to celebrate its premiere on Harusův Kopec , the highest mountain in the region, and in the Ochoza Forest. The area is the most important ski center on the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands. Unfortunately, however, the snow was not guaranteed enough; at the end of December 2006, there was not enough of the white splendor, and the ski caravan only made a stop in Moravia the following year, followed by a few more participations in the ski tour. But: Nove Mesto was not completely satisfied and turned to another winter sport, the biathlon.

Millions were invested, the stadium rebuilt, grandstands erected, the shooting range refurbished, a modern functional building established - good prerequisites for finding a permanent place in the World Cup. In many respects, the Czechs were inspired by Oberhof. Also in terms of the audience response. The fans are enthusiastic, loud and party-loving. The steep visitor platforms around the start and finish create a real stadium atmosphere, something that Nove Mesto was also able to use to score points in its bid for the 2024 World Championships. The Biathlon Association of the Czech Republic was also able to point out that the 2013 World Championship premiere in the Vysočina Arena was a complete success.

So now all the big names in biathlon are gathering in the Czech Republic once again. The top nations, Norway, Italy, France, Austria, Sweden and, of course, Germany are not only sending athletes, but also plenty of fans, and it is to be expected that the competitions can once again be held in front of an atmospheric backdrop. The organizers are even hoping to surpass Oberhof in terms of atmosphere.

After a mixed start, Norway's men are now dominating the World Cup and the top six places in the current overall rankings are all occupied by athletes from the land of the fjords. Johannes Thingnes Boe is once again the measure of all things. However, it is doubtful whether the serial winner will be able to win seven medals in 2024 as he did last year, including five gold medals in Oberhof. The 29-year-old is not as dominant as he was in the previous season this winter, with several of his compatriots also winning World Cups, including the Swede Sebastian Samuelsson and, fortunately, the Germans Philipp Nawrath, Roman Rees and Benedikt Doll twice. Although Doll has struggled with his shooting performance recently, if he scores again in Nove Mesto, he will be a serious medal contender.

Ingrid Landmark-Tandrevold from Norway is also leading the overall World Cup rankings in the women's event, but after that it will be international. The Frenchwomen Julia Simon and Justine Braisaz Bouchet have recently been involved in some racy duels, Lisa Vitozzi from Italy has title ambitions, as does Elvira Oeberg from Sweden and Lena Häcki-Groß from Switzerland, who celebrated her first World Cup victory at the dress rehearsal in Antholz. The German hopes bear the names Vanessa Voigt and Franziska Preuß. Both started the season strongly, but Preuß was then slowed down by an infection and is slowly finding her way back to her old strength. Voigt was already one of the medal candidates in the previous winter, but was not quite able to withstand the pressure at the World Championships in her home state of Thuringia.

The atmosphere in Nove Mesto will be similar, but the expectations - concerning her personally - will not be so great, perhaps that will give her wings. The local biathletes will also have to grow them if they want to compete with the world's best. Unfortunately, there is another thing in common with the 2013 World Championships at the same venue. Eleven years ago, the Czech Republic's athletes were mostly nowhere to be found at the top of the results lists, with a single bronze medal in the mixed team relay for the hosts. Only one young athlete by the name of Gabriela Soukalova impressed. The young woman became even better known under her name Koukalova, having married badminton player Petr Koukal in 2016. The marriage did not last. After divorcing in 2021, Koukalova is now called Soukalova again and will be back in Nove Mesto. As a television presenter.

Fotos: K.Voigt Fotografie

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