Twenty seven nations took part in the Single-Mixed Relay today at Biathlon World Championships in Oberhof, Germany, but none could match the star power of Norwegian duo, Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Johannes Thignes Boe. They teamed up to win Boe’s fifth straight gold medal at the 2023 Championships, and Olsbu’s record-breaking 13th World Championship gold. But it did not come easily.
Though Norway were heavy favorites coming into the race, nothing is certain in biathlon, least of all in the Single-Mixed Relay. The event combines the performances of one woman and one man who each ski two short biathlon races, tagging off in between. Shooting accuracy plays an outsized role in the Single-Mixed Relay because the ski loop is only 1.5 k; there is relatively little distance over which to recover lost time. Shooting speed is also critical. In all biathlon relays, athletes can use up to three spare rounds per stage to hit their five targets; even fast shooters need about seven seconds to load each spare round so it pays to hit all five on the first pass.
During the first 33 minutes of the race leading up to the final shooting, Norway was only in the lead for about four. The rest of the time, Italy and Austria set the pace. A decisive moment occurred at Shooting 6, the final stage for the women, when Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi and Austria’s Lisa Hauser both missed and Roeiseland went clean. Roeiseland tagged the unbeatable Boe in first, setting Norway up for a near certain victory. Boe arrived at the second-to-last shooting bout with a ten second lead. But instead of his typical fast and clean shooting, he missed three from the magazine and one of the spares, sending himself into the penalty loop! The race was suddenly open again. Tommasso Giacomel (ITA) and David Komatz (AUT) capitalized on Boe’s mistakes, leaving the range together with an 11 second advantage over the Norwegian.
Boe shifted into another gear to catch Komatz and Giacomel on course. He let Komatz lead into the range, putting the much less-experienced Austrian on Lane 1 for the final shooting. Komatz handled the pressure brilliantly, using only one spare, but Boe was already gone. He had cleared his five targets in just 17.8 seconds. Giacomal, who maintained his composure so beautifully to secure silver for Italy in the final stage of last week’s Mixed Relay, couldn’t repeat his performance today and ended up with two penalty loops. He got extremely lucky, as nearly all the teams behind him also shot penalty loops, so he didn’t lose a single place.
Eleven of the 21 teams that had not been lapped by that point in the race did at least one penalty loop on the final stage, in part due to pressure distractions, but also due to wind gusts. Unfortunately, the US was one of them. Paul Schommer was shooting on Lane 10 when he missed four from his magazine, but managed to recover well by hitting all three spares to incur just one penalty loop. Schommer and teammate Deedra Irwin finished 11th, just two seconds behind Finland.
Canadians Emma Lunder and Adam Runnalls were down in 18th at the second exchange but with a solid second half they moved up to 13th.
Biathlon World Championships Single-Mixed Relay RESULTS
Saturday at 5:45AM Eastern Time: Men’s 4 x 7.5k Relay
Saturday at 9:00AM Eastern Time: Women’s 4 x 6k Relay
Sunday at 6:30AM Eastern Time: Men’s 15k Mass Start
Sunday at 9:30AM Eastern Time: Women’s 12.5 Mass Start
Watch live here.