The season for our teams already started at the end of November. While the first competitions in cross-country skiing, nordic combined and ski jump took place in Ruka (Finland), the Biathlon World Cup started in Oestersund (Sweden). Lillehammer (Norway) and Klingenthal (Germany) followed. A week later, the Slovenian and Swiss home cups took place in Pokljuka (Biathlon) and Davos (cross-country). Here is a summary of the highlights of the beginning of the season.
What a show from the French biathlon team! The men's team won it’s first Relay of the season taking place in Pokljuka (SLO) with Russia and Germany taking 2nd and 3rd respectively. The French women could not quite replicate the men’s successes, however took home and impressive silver medal behind Germany. But that's not all: France saw gold for Martin Fourcade and Marie Dorin-Habert in the Single Mixed Relay, a gold for Dorin-Habert in the 7.5km Sprint. Fourcade wasn’t finished as he took four more Golds (20km Individual, 2 x 10km Sprint and 12.5km Pursuit) and a bronze in the 12.5km Pursuit. With his success in Slovenia, Fourcade now has at least one victory at every World Cup venue where he has competed.
Cross-country skier Maurice Manificat could not repeat his victory in Davos from 2014 and got 11th at the 30km distance; his seasons best result so far is 7th place in Lillehammer (NOR). There were several top-ten positions for the rest of the French athletes: Skijumper Vincent Descombes Sevoie got 8th in Lillehammer (NOR) as well as 10th in Klingenthal (GER). From the Nordic combined side Francois Braud managed to finish in sixth and eighth.
Gold for Martin Fourcade, Jean Guillaume Beatrix, Quentin Fillon Maillet and Simon Desthieux. (Photo credit: biathlonworld.com)
How many times can you see Odlo on Martin? :-) (Photo credit: biathlonworld.com)
In the first December week, the Slovenian biathlon team had a home World Cup in Pokljuka. Despite the little snow, the Ski Association of Slovenia can look back on a good competition with top conditions. Unfortunately, one of the most famous biathletes Jakov Fak didn't compete in his home race due to illness, however there was still a strong team put out by the Slovenians. Furthermore, Andreja Mali said good-bye to the sport; the 39-year-old competed in three Olympic Winter Games and the best result in her career was a silver medal in the Mixed Relay at the World Championships in 2012. After the competition on Sunday, she was carried out of the stadium on the shoulders of teammate Klemen Bauer highlighting her popularity and success within the Slovenian ranks.
In Davos the Slovenia cross-country girls produced a recording breaking performance, setting a new record in their team's history with five athletes qualifying for the competition. In the end, Katja Visnar ended the race as the best Slovenian in 17th. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, but with their potential and the experience gained, it is sure to boost their confidence and improve their performances as a team.
Retirement Good-byes to Andreja Mali from the Slovenian team (Photo credit: Instagram Klemen Bauer)
Slovenian Alenka Cebasek (#18) and Swiss Nadine Fähndrich (#8) in Davos (Photo credit: Nordic Focus)
The Swiss cross-country team had "home advantage" at the World Cup in Davos at the beginning of December, but sadly; the athletes couldn't take full advantage of it. A sixth-place finish and with this a personal best result for Nathalie von Siebenthal in 15km Distance was one of the highlights. Bad luck struck for Laurien van der Graaf who crashed in the Sprint quarterfinals with another competitor and unfortunately didn't make it to the next round. Following his start-up difficulties in Kuusamo (FIN), our ambassador Dario Cologna was 7th in Lillehammer (NOR) in the 10km race. On home snow in Davos, the frustration continued as Dario finished in 10th at the 30km distance. In the Sprint on Sunday, two out of twelve Swiss athletes came through qualification but unfortunately, both Roman Furger and Jovian Hediger didn't make it to the next round afterwards.
The Swiss ski jumping team also faced starting difficulties; Simon Ammann still has problems with his technique, but is beginning to show progress. On a brighter note, there is a glimmer of hope as Gabriel Karlen picked up his first World Cup point in Klingenthal (GER).
In contrast, the Swiss biathlon team can look back on a good start to the season considering their circumstances. The men's team picked up 8th place in the first Relay, Selina Gasparin bagged a top-ten finish in Pokljuka (SLO) and Lena Häcki just missed out on the podium with a fourth place finish in Östersund (SWE).
Swiss biathletes Selina Gasparin and Lena Häcki celebrating Lena's 4th place (Photo credit: Facebook Selina Gasparin)