Alexander Os (NOR) hasn’t delivered internationally since the 2008-09 season, but at the 10 k sprint in Sjusjøen, Norway, today, he won convincingly by more than 20 seconds over Simon Fourcade from France. Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen of Norway placed third, another seven seconds behind Fourcade; all three men shot perfectly.
Not a bad way to start the biathlon season.
“This was fantastic, and I’ve worked hard for this,” Os said to Norwegian TV station NRK. “I’ve trained a lot, and I’ve never given up on the dream of a comeback… I’ve never considered quitting, never given up being able to get back to that feeling of really being at my peak performance.”
Os represented Norway at the 2010 Olympics, finishing 28th in the 20 k individual, but the result was disappointing. He also made the team for 2011 World Championships, but wasn’t proud of his racing there either. For the past several years, he has trained on his own, hoping to find back that flow and fitness he last felt more than five years ago. There was also one bout of mono and other unidentified physical issues.
“After the 2008-09 season something happened in my body,” he told NRK, referring to the season where he placed second in two different World Cups. “I can’t really put my finger on what it was, but I think it is possible to return to the 2008-09 level.”
Ole Einar Bjørndalen, who is entering his 23rd World Cup season, was ninth. He is already preselected for the first three World Cups, so for him the national season opener was simply an important part of the peaking plan for the first World Cup in Östersund in December. While reasonably content with his own race, Bjørndalen was, as everyone else, extremely impressed with Os.
“After so long and outside of the national team, that was impressive,” Bjørndalen said after the race. “This field is as tough and competitive as any World Cup, so it was a good indicator of where you are.”
Norway has preselected three of the six men for the World Cup opener. The final three will be announced on Monday, after the Sjusjøen opener races. Os has certainly made a strong bid for one of those spots, but will also need to deliver a strong performance at the mass start tomorrow. Christiansen also acquitted himself well, and will offer stiff competition in the fight for start rights.
Christiansen has shone in season openers before, but knows that skiing fast in November isn’t what counts in the long run. He told NRK on Friday that he believed he had trained too much the previous year, and is cutting back slightly to try to maintain form through the whole season this time around.
“I’ve been a little looser with the training,” he said, according to a translation. “I have trained a little less hard workouts and less of the harsh competition sessions.I have been a little more on the couch, and trained a little less.”
Other notable results: 2011 World Cup Champion Tarjei Bø was unsure whether he would start on Saturday as he’s had a head cold, but he finished fourth with one penalty and one of the fastest ski times in the field. Bø is also not pre-selected for the World Cup team.
Simon’s brother Martin Fourcade, who won two gold medals at the 2014 Olympics as well as the season title last year but is now returning after a bout of mono, ended up in sixth place, behind Quentin Fillon-Maillet (FRA) – who is two years out of the junior ranks and for whom this was a breakthrough result.
Top 3 men’s sprint
1. Alexander Os, NOR, 25:57.1 (0-0)
2. Simon Fourcade, FRA, 26:18.2 (0-0)
3. Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen, NOR, 26:25.2 (0-0)