Biathlon World Championships: Norwegian Men Sweep Sprint Podium

Clare EganFebruary 11, 2023
Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR) congratulates his brother, Tarjei Boe (NOR) who finished beside him on the podium at the IBU World Championships Men’s Sprint in Oberhof. (Photo: Reichert/NordicFocus)

One man has won all five 10 k Sprint competitions so far this season, so even with 112 starters in today’s BMW IBU World Championship Sprint, there was no doubt about the favorite. Johannes Thignes Boe of Norway has been untouchable on skis since November, regularly out-skiing his nearest competitor by over 30 seconds. The 150m penalty loop in biathlon usually takes athletes about 23 seconds, so Boe can afford to miss once and still win. Today he missed once in prone—the target barely visible at 50m through dense fog—but cleaned standing with no hesitation in just 21 seconds. With a 36-second second margin to the next-fastest skier, Boe defended his Olympic title and become the 2023 World Champion. This sets him up for another likely victory in tomorrow’s Pursuit competition, but with four shooting stages, anything can happen.

Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR) started and finished in bib number 1 at the IBU World Championships Sprint in Oberhof, Germany. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Sharing the podium with the unbeatable Boe were two teammates: his older brother, Tarjei Boe, shot the perfect score to complete the family sweep for the second time this winter, and Sturla Holm Laegreid missed just one in standing to capture the bronze. Laegreid is ranked second behind J. Boe in the Overall standings and has been on the podium in all but three competitions this season, so he was very much the silver medal favorite, but T. Boe is the fifth-ranked Norwegian (and 8th in the World Cup Overall standings), so the so-called “Boedium” was a pleasant surprise for the brothers.

Tarjei Boe (NOR), Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR), Sturla Holm Laegreid (NOR) (l-r) on the podium of the IBU World Championships Sprint in Oberhof, Germany. (Photo: NordicFocus)

The Norwegian men make it look easy to land on the podium even with nine out of ten hits, but it’s not. Only four people on the whole men’s World Cup circuit have a shooting average of 90%. Laegreid is one of them. The Boe brothers are among the top 15 athletes with an 88% hit rate. Add the expectation of victory, and their performances become even more impressive.

Sturla Holm Laegreid (NOR) racing to third place in the IBU World Championships Sprint in Oberhof, Germany. (Photo: NordicFocus)

With Johannes Dale in fourth and Vetle Christiansen in sixth, the Norwegians almost pulled off a full sweep of the Flower Ceremony, but one athlete managed to upset the total domination. Dmytro Pidruchnyi of Ukraine shot clean and skied the 15th course time to take fifth. He had only raced twice this season—once in November and once just last week, with a knee operation in between—before coming to the World Championships. Pidruchnyi has a history of performing his best at championships; he was the World Champion in the Pursuit in 2019. Today’s fifth place was his top result since then. This victory will certainly mean a lot to him, his team, and the people of Ukraine as they suffer from war at home.

Flower Ceremony finishers in the IBU World Championships Sprint in Oberhof, Germany. Front L-R: Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen (NOR), Dmytro Pidruchnyi (UKR), Johannes Dale (NOR), Back: L-R: Tarjei Boe (NOR), Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR), Sturla Holm Laegreid (NOR). (Photo: NordicFocus)

Andrejs Rastorgujevs of Latvia shot 10/10 to finish 7th, Johannes Keuhn of the home German team finished 8th for his best result of the season, and two French athletes, Quentin Fillon Maillet and Antonin Guigonnat, rounded out the top ten. Sebastian Samuelsson of Sweden finished in 11th with two penalties. Both he and Fillion Maillet will be podium threats in the Pursuit even starting around 1:10 back.

Paul Schommer (USA) zeroes his rifle before the Sprint competition at the IBU World Championships, in Oberhof, Germany. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Today was a tough day for the North Americans, with the exception of Paul Schommer (USA) who qualified for the Pursuit in 31st with one penalty each in prone and standing. Paul’s 31st-ranked course time was his best in a Sprint this season. “That prone miss was definitely one of those things where I thought, okay, I should have taken another second, but the standing felt good,” Schommer said of his shooting. As in yesterday’s Women’s Sprint, drafting on the long, windy straightaway into the range was critical. With that in mind, Schommer went out of his comfort zone on the second lap to stay with another athlete. “I may have pushed a little too hard before standing, but I made up so much time by staying with him.” It’s easy in biathlon to play the “what if” game, and Schommer recognized that he would have cracked the top 20 with one less miss, but he said, “tomorrow I’m going for the money!” The top 30 finishers in biathlon World Cups and World Championships earn prize money.

Maxime Germain (USA) in the finish of his first senior-level World Championship race. Oberhof (GER). (Photo, NordicFocus).

Twenty-one-year-old Maxime Germain (USA) finished just outside of the Pursuit qualification in 65th with three penalties. Both Sean Doherty (USA) and 22-year-old Vincent Bonacci (USA) cleaned prone but then uncharacteristically missed four in standing. They finished 80th and 98th.

For Canada, Adam Runnalls was the team’s top finisher in 82nd with five misses. Trevor Kiers was 86th with three, Christian Gow was 92nd with four, and Logan Pletz was 94th with four. This was certainly not the day that either North American team had hoped for. Those not racing in tomorrow’s Pursuit will shift their focus now to next week’s 20km Individual competition.

IBU World Championships Men’s Sprint RESULTS

Next Up:
Women’s Pursuit on Sunday at 7:25AM Eastern Time
Men’s Pursuit on Sunday at 9:30AM Eastern Time

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Clare Egan

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