Johannes Thingnes Bø scores ninth win

The Norwegian biathlete dominates the World Cup; opponents give up on winning

Johannes Thingnes Bø

Photo: Jostein Magnussen / VG
Biathlete Johannes Thingnes Bø, wearing yellow jersey that indicates that he is the World Cup standings leader, at December competition in Pokljuka, Slovenia.

Jo Christian Weldingh

Biathlete Johannes Thingnes Bø set a personal record with his ninth individual World Cup win of the season in the 15-km mass start in Ruhpolding, Germany, Jan. 20. Bø missed a shot at the last shooting, but his speed around the track secured him the victory. Nine World Cup wins is more than he has ever won in a single season, but after crossing the finish line, he looked totally unfazed.

“That was quite the drama, wasn’t it?” he said smiling. “Everyone missed their last shot. Fourcade’s form seems to be improving. That was a big motivation for me,” he said talking about France’s Martin Fourcade, the best biathlete over the last five to seven years, who has been a shadow of his former self this season.

Bø, older brother Tarjei Bø, Fourcade, and Austrian Julian Eberhard came into the last shooting at the same time. Fourcade missed first, then Tarjei Bø and Eberhard missed, and when Bø was about to secure a superb victory, he missed his last shot. The miss lost him eight seconds to the other three, entering the last lap, but being the best skier of the quartet, those seconds didn’t last long.

Fourcade didn’t last the whole race and, along with older brother Tarjei, lost contact with the others a few kilometers before the finish, and it all came down to a sprint finish between Eberhard and Bø. Bø came out victorious in 36:43.8 and won his third victory of the weekend in Ruhpolding, a hat-trick. He won the 10-km sprint, Jan. 17, in 22:56.3, and teamed with Lars Helge Birkeland, Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen, and Tarjei Bø to win the 4×7.5-km relay in 1:09.54.3, Jan. 18. Tarjei was second in the 10-km sprint.

“This feels like a major accomplishment to me. It was one of my more satisfying victories. I’m being challenged the whole way through, and I take the victory at the finish line like that,” he told the press. “I have probably never been better than I am right now.”

The victory increased Bø’s already massive lead in the World Cup standings.

Fourcade, the biggest star of the biathlon circuit, has stated that he has already given up on winning the World Cup. Forty-five days before the World Championship, he has no idea why he doesn’t ski as fast as he used to.

Fourcade has won the World Cup seven years in a row, but this year, half-way through the season, he has only been on the podium three times. That’s why Fourcade has given up the fight against Thingnes Bø for the yellow World Cup jersey.

“Johannes might fall and break a leg or something, but if he continues like this, there’s no way I have a chance,” Fourcade told the press after the sprint in Ruhpolding. “It’s about being honest with myself. My biggest goal of the season is the World Championship.”

Former biathlete, now media expert, Liv Grete Skjelbreid, thinks the Frenchman has to make major changes in his training regimen to have a chance at the World Championship.

“The most important thing for him now is to figure out what he has done wrong, and fix it—fast,” she said in an interview with NRK.

Fourcade has stated before that his motivation isn’t quite what it used to be, and that his two daughters are far more important to him than being the best possible athlete.

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the February 8, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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