Today marked the beginning of the World Cup Biathlon season for the women. The women raced the 15-kilometer individual start format in Kontiolahti, Finland, skiing 5 laps on a 3-kilometer course. Missing from the start line were common pre-race favorites, Norwegian’s Marte Olsbu Roiseland and Tiril Eckoff, allowing other known stars to dominate the podium: Sweden’s Hanna Oeberg finished first, Norway’s Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold second, and Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi third. The U.S was represented by Deedra Irwin (25th), Joanne Reid (48th), Chloe Levins (56th), Kelsey Dickinson (61st), and Tara Geraghty-Moats (87th) who had recently switched from Nordic Combined and received her World Cup biathlon initiation.
Wednesday’s individual start format saw racers starting every 15 seconds in conditions that were a pleasant 26 degrees (-3 Celsius). But by the beginning of the race, 2:15 p.m. local time, the Arctic night had taken hold, and the sunlight had disappeared. Skiers raced under the lights. Wind is always an issue for the shooting portion of biathlon and the race began with relatively calm conditions of 2.5 mph (4km/h). The leadoff skier was Italian biathlon superstar Dorothea Wierer. She would set the early pace by clearing all five targets in her initial shooting (prone) in under 25 seconds.
Wierer’s strong start was quickly eclipsed by Swedish star Hanna Oeberg who left the first stage having shot clean. The majority of the early racers went clean shooting, as well. The race quickly turned into a family duel as Sweden’s Oeberg sisters, Hanna and Elvira, were separated by only five seconds after the first shoot.
But charging hard was Ingrid Tandrevold of Norway who shot clean through two rounds and was also skiing well. Coming into the third shoot she continued her streak and shot clean, keeping her in the hunt.
Coming out of the third shoot, Hanna Oeberg’s ski speed and clean shooting put her on top, followed by Linn Persson (Sweden) and Tandrevold. Elvira Oeberg missed one shot on her third round, ending the sibling rivalry, for this day at least.
Coming into the final shoot, the outcome was still in doubt. But Wierer fell out of contention when she missed three targets.
Tandrevold skied at a controlled pace and ended up shooting clean on her final round, and for the day. She emerged from the fourth shoot in the lead, but many others had yet to shoot.
Hanna Oeberg came into the final shoot knowing that five out of five would all but guarantee her the victory. She opened the door slightly by missing her fourth shot, but her quick skiing kept her in the lead. She put the hammer down after her fourth shoot and put a little extra time on the competition.
The sighs of relief continued from the Italian camp as Vittozzi shot clean in her final shoot; hopefully putting an end to her epic shooting woes from last season.
The final standings mirrored the results of the standings at the end of the fourth shoot, with Hanna Oeberg slightly extending her lead over Tandrevold and Vittozzi.
After the race, Hanna Oeberg related that her main goal for the day was to put the pieces together with the shooting and the skiing, and she was happy with both.
Results for this race may be found here.