The Norwegian dominates the season at will and pulverizes records
In the history of biathlon sport there are enough heroines and heroes. Magdalena Forsberg is one of them, Alexander Tikhonov, Frank-Peter Roetsch and Frank Ullrich, Liv-Grete Skjelbreid, Magdalena Neuner and Laura Dahlmeier, Rafael Poiree or Darja Domratcheva and Ole-Einar Björndalen. They all have a permanent place in the hall of fame of their sport, but for all of them, at the latest after this season, the following applies: Move back a little for the new biathlon god, please! He comes from Norway, has dominated the competition for years and he goes by the melodious name of Johannes Thingnes Boe. The 2022/23 season was his best yet.
The almost unbeatable 29-year-old comes from Stryn, a town with 3,000 inhabitants in the province of Vestland, and the Norwegian became a biathlete thanks to his five-year older brother Tarje, who persuaded Johannes, who was actually on his way to a career as a soccer player, to try his hand at skiing and shooting. Today's high-flyer was already 16 years old. Incidentally, it was also Tarje's brother who first verbally introduced the young man to the general public by pointing out in December 2010, following his own first World Cup victory, that there was someone even better - his younger brother.
The younger Boe now dominates the scene and Johannes Thingnes did that this winter in unprecedented style. At the World Championships in Oberhof, the dominator won no less than seven gold medals and it was almost a miracle that it was "only" enough for silver and bronze in the relay and mass start. Nevertheless, this kind of medal hamster was a new record. In the World Cup, Boe had made a false start at the very beginning in Kontiolahti with a 12th place, the two third places in the pursuit and in the mass start in Le Grand-Bornand, France, must almost be considered a failure. Otherwise it was true: If Boe was at the start, first place was taken. Four victories with the relay team, sensational 16 in the individual decisions - that has never happened before. Johannes Thingnes Boe literally pulverized all records, his running times are so impressive that probably even a start with the cross-country specialists in the World Cup would not be without prospect of success. Fortunately for the competition, however, Norway has enough successful personnel among the cross-country men. But there are still goals for the successful. More victories - if you count all competitions together - still has Ole Einar Björndalen. If the Boe show continues next winter, then this record will also fall.
And then there are the teammates who are on Johannes' verse. Sturla Holm Laegreid, for example, is waiting in second place for his chance to finally beat the high-flyer, and Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen has also been successful in the season with the crystal globe for the individual and mass start.
While Johannes Thingnes Boe roared through the field like a hurricane throughout the entire season, the women's season was more exciting. Perhaps this was also due to the fact that the Norwegians Tiril Eckhoff and Marte-Olsbu Roiseland, who had been dominant in the last few years, were not able to show the form that had made them the measure of all things in the previous winters due to injury and illness. Both declared their retirement from active sports at the end of the season, Eckhoff without having competed once in this post-Olympic winter, Olsbu-Roiseland with two gold medals from the World Championships in Oberhof in her luggage, which makes her the most successful participant in world title competitions - with now a total of 13 World Championship gold medals. France's Anais Chevalier-Bouchet and Germany's best: Denise Herrmann-Wick will also not be competing. She bid farewell in Oslo with the small crystal globe for the Sprint World Cup, and at Holmenkollen she had another success, fitting for her career. Because actually many insiders had already speculated about the end of the career of the now 34-year-old, who once started as a cross-country skier, won bronze in Sochi 2014 with the 4×5 km relay and a few years later embarked on a new career as a biathlete, after winning the gold medal after the Olympic Games in Beijing. But Herrmann-Wick didn't want to stop yet, and the home World Championships in Oberhof seemed an appealing goal to achieve. Even more - the World Championships at the Grenzadler became her championships, Denise Herrmann-Wick advanced to the darling of the public and with gold and two times silver the festive days in Oberhof were also the most successful overall of her already successful career.
The most successful biathlete this winter, however, was France's Julia Simon. With her overall World Cup victory and the two small crystal globes in the mass start and pursuit, she dominated this winter and brought the overall women's victory back to France after 18 years. In addition, Julia Simon crowned herself and her teammates with the crystal globe in the relay discipline. For the French men, however, things did not go as well as in the previous season. The most successful biathlete in the Olympic season Quentin Fillon Maillet had to struggle with the many press appointments of the summer and was a bit disappointed with his performance himself in the end. It was only a little consolation for the Frenchman that he was able to end his season in Oslo with a podium finish in the pursuit and a good fourth place in the mass start. Thus he remains the best Frenchman in the top of the world this year. His teammates did not fare any better this season. Fabian Claude mostly stood in his own way and his fast run times with his shooting mistakes, he still finished the season in tenth place. Antonin Guigonnat was also mostly found in the midfield. But the worst hit was Emilien Jacquelin who did not find his form and ended his season after the World Championships in Oberhof. Nevertheless, there was a highlight, the French beat the Norwegians in Oberhof and won the gold medal in the relay.
So ended a season with ups and downs, exits and a few goodbye tears. But the next generation is already knocking on the door. And new, exciting questions need to be answered. How will the coaching change in the German Ski Association succeed after the surprising resignation of Mark Kirchner? Who will fill the gap in the Norwegian women's team? Will Dorothea Wierer hang on for another season? Will Boe remain so dominant in the coming season? Who are the new talents in the World Cup circus? Who will leave their mark on the World Cup in Nove Mesto? Questions upon questions - it's time for winter to slowly return.
Pictures: K. Voigt Fotografie