Magdalena Neuner Video Interview
|05.03.2012, Ruhpolding / IBU Info JK|
|Individual Competitions: Men Tuesday; Women Wednesday|
|Magdalena Neuner at age 25 is the iconic female biathlete of her generation; talented, attractive and famous. As she says in this new Biathlonworld.com interview, “I have it all; Olympic Gold medals, World Championships…” So far this week, she has a complete set of medals from these 2012 IBU World Championships. Yesterday, she said, “I am very proud of all of the medals I have won this week, but there are still more races and chances for more.”|
Neuner’s quest for possibly six medals is still a distinct possibility. Her ongoing medal quest continues in the women’s 15K individual on Wednesday. Looking at her outstanding ski form at the moment, plus some of her best shooting of the season, she has to be considered a favorite. Every competition is important to her at this point of the season; she wants to walk away from the sport wearing the Yellow Bib while carrying the big crystal globe, symbolic of the World Cup Total Score title. It takes a truly talented and very brave young woman to leave “the sport I love,” at the peak of her career. It is a move that only an icon like Magdalena Neuner would ever dare to do.
In the video “Magdalena Neuner: Medals, Teammates and the Future” following this preview of the individual competitions, she reflects on her career, teammates and how she spends her time away from the stadium.
20K and 15K on the Horizon
The competitions over the weekend emphasized speed on the tracks combined with equally aggressive shooting. Now the focus shifts to controlled accurate shooting and strong steady skiing in the men’s 20K and women’s 15K individual competitions.
These traditional biathlon competitions are the link to the roots of modern biathlon, fifty plus years ago, when the individual was the only discipline. In those early days, the competitors were shooting at glass, paper and balloon targets from distances more than twice the 50 meters of today. Thus deliberately slow, accurate shooting was the only way to avoid the one-minute penalties.
Today, the shooting is not quite so slow, but even the fastest shooters slow down to avoid the podium-destroying one-minute penalties. A great day on the tracks over the long 15K or 20K distances can disappear when more than one shot goes astray.
Repeat of Weekend
The women’s 15K on Wednesday could be a repeat of the sprint and pursuit, with a couple of additional faces in the mix. Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen is the current seasonal leader with fourth and first places in the two competitions. Pursuit World Champion Darya Domracheva is second with an Östersund victory and fifth in Nove Mesto. Sprint World Champion Magdalena Neuner is third with two third places. Of these three, both Neuner and Domracheva are at the top of their games both on and off the shooting range. Either could take the title; both are shooting very well at this point. Mäkäräinen did not look like her normal self this weekend.
Yet possibly standing above these three is one Helena Ekholm of Sweden, the 2011 World champion. Ekholm went 28-of-30 this weekend and is close to her top form on the tracks. Last year, she dominated the field in Khanty Mansiysk with clean shooting and 2:15 margin of victory. She had enough time on the final loop that her then Coach Wolfgang Pichler remarked on the final hill that she could “fix her make-up” before the finish! Ekholm just missed the podium in the sprint and pursuit and seems poised to retain her title on Wednesday.
Looking at Tuesday’s men’s 20K, the obvious favorite is double World Champion Martin Fourcade of France. He is also the current leader in the seasonal individual standings, with a victory in Östersund and 10th at Nove Mesto. Beyond Fourcade, the field looks wide open as none of the men has been outstanding in the two individual competitions so far this season. Andrei Makoveev of Russia won in Nove Mesto, with the clean shooting that will probably be necessary to become World Champion tomorrow. Austria’s Daniel Mesotitsch could be in the running after a strong weekend here when he dropped 28-of-30 targets, while staying up with his rivals that are mostly 10 years younger than he is.
Last year in Khanty Mansiysk, Tarjei Boe won the title, but he will be hard pressed to defend here in Ruhpolding. That leaves the battle for the top spot to the above group plus a few athletes known for their shooting prowess. Sweden’s Bjorn Ferry fits the bill with 27-of-30 shooting this past weekend and strong skiing. Fourcade’s brother Simon has a solid track record in individual competitions and showed his form with fifth and sixth places here.
True to the roots of the sport, the two individual competitions will be one by those who have their best day on the shooting range, while managing to pace themselves over the five hard loops on the tracks at the Chiemgau Arena.