FasterSkier’s Coverage of the Biathlon World Championships is made possible through the generous support of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center: New England’s finest snowmaking, world class race venues and touring trails, healthy food in abundance, comfortable accommodations at Craftsbury: Sports, Sustainability, Stewardship.
The 2024 Biathlon World Championships open on Wednesday, February 7 in the countryside town of Nove Mesto na Morave in the Czech Republic. While not widely known as a winter wonderland, Nove Mesto boasts some of the most impressive crowds on the international biathlon circuit. Organizers have already sold out the 30,000-capacity stadium and bleacher-lined course for the opening and closing weekends and expect to sell a total of 200,000 tickets during the 12-day event. For those not lucky enough to join the festivities in person, here’s a brief viewer’s guide.
How to Watch?
All races will be streamed live for free with English commentary on a brand new digital platform: Eurovision Sport. Replays are available there as well. The full event schedule is available here automatically adjusted to your time zone.
Wednesday’s Mixed Relay features 25 teams from 25 nations! While the podium places in most World Championship competitions will likely be contested by the “big five” biathlon nations—Norway, Germany, France, Sweden, and Italy—the field is deep and diverse and will inevitably deliver some surprises. Watch for the drama!
Watch to be inspired by the stories of set backs and success that take shape over the course of the nearly two-week event. The series of 12 races in 12 days (a maximum of seven for any given athlete) is an odyssey for athletes and viewers alike. It starts with the chaos of the opening Mixed Relay. The most tense moments of pressure for perfection come in the Sprint, which serves as the qualifier for the Pursuit and sets the tone for each athlete’s Championships. Fatigue peaks in the second week with the long Individual competitions, before a reprise of team relays and finally the grand finale Mass Starts featuring the 30 best athletes. While each competition is entertaining in its own right, viewers will be rewarded for following the arc of the full Championships.
Finally, it’s worth watching this event just to see the stadium atmosphere. It’s shaping up to be one of the most well-attended Nordic skiing events ever.
What to Watch?
Relays, Pursuits, and Mass Starts are head-to-head races that promise high drama and are easy to follow for new fans. The Sprint and Individual test the composure of athletes on the range, as the podium almost always demands perfection. The full event schedule is below (Eastern Time):
07 Feb 11:20 4x7k Mixed Relay (M+W)
09 Feb 11:20 Women 7.5k Sprint
10 Feb 11:05 Men 10k Sprint
11 Feb 08:30 Women 10k Pursuit
11 Feb 11:05 Men 12.5k Pursuit
13 Feb 11:10 Women 15k Individual
14 Feb 11:20 Men 20k Individual
15 Feb 12:00 Single Mixed Relay (M+W)
17 Feb 07:45 Women 4x6k Relay
17 Feb 10:30 Men 4×7.5k Relay
18 Feb 08:15 Women 12.5k Mass Start
18 Feb 10:30 Men 15k Mass Start
Who to Watch?
The American duo of Deedra Irwin and Campbell Wright is likely to get some TV time in the Single-Mixed Relay after fighting for a podium finish in the most recent running of the event in late January. Irwin set a new personal-best World Cup result of eighth place in a Sprint in December and will be looking to improve on that in Nove Mesto. She has hit 19/20 targets in the 15 k Individual in her last two Championships; if she can do that again this year she’ll have shot at the podium thanks to improved ski speed.
The Americans are also dark-horse contenders in the Men’s Relay. Led by veterans Sean Doherty and Jake Brown, the team has been boosted by a cohort of precocious young talents, including two medalists from last winter’s Junior World Championships: Wright and Maxime Germain. Vincent Bonnacci rounds out this year’s World Championships roster, coming fresh off an impressive 6th place at the European Championships. The team has shown glimmers of greatness this season but has yet to perform to its full potential. This could be their moment to shine.
Looking at the international field, Norwegian superstar Johannes Thingnes Boe has won the World Cup overall title five times in the past six years and is threatening records set by biathlon legends Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) and more recently, Martin Fourcade (FRA). But he’s not the only Norwegian to watch; six of them fill the first six places in the men’s World Cup overall score. Always in the shadow of Norway, the Germans have quietly made their own statement, placing five different men on the podium this season including three different winners. There will be good fights for medals between these two teams and some challengers from Sweden and Italy, but it’s fair to expect a frequent playing of the Norwegian national anthem.
The women’s podium is more widely contested. Fifteen women from six nations have landed on the podium this winter. France alone has had three different gold medalists. Lena Haecki of Switzerland broke through the dominance of the big nations with her first gold medal just a few weeks ago. And with more than ten women averaging over 90% hits on the range, the standard of competition is exceptionally high. All of this will make for some exciting biathlon.
It all gets underway Wednesday at 11:20 Eastern Time.