Johannes Thingnes Boe conquers the élite Oberhof Sprint competition, putting his 51st victory in the books. A big disappointment for Lukas Hofer, which lost out on a potential win opportunity for Italy.
By Daphne Seberich
After last week’s events held in the German Black Forest area, Biathlon races are back in Oberhof. Kicking off the Biathlon-packed weekend was the Men’s 10km Sprint race, which was won by Norwegian favorite and provisional Overall standings leader Johannes Thingnes Boe. He reached the 50th victory mark last week in Oberhof.
Even though Italian Lukas Hofer was ahead of Boe ahead of the standing shooting leg, two mistakes cost him the win, falling all the way back to sixth place.
Completing the podium were compatriot Sturla Holm Laegreid and German Arnd Peiffer. Erik Lesser, an Oberhof resident, barely missed out by 2.7 seconds on a Top-3 result on home soil.
The athletes had the added difficulty of complicated wind conditions. Shooting a 10-for-10 at the rifle range was a tricky but essential task. Whoever shot the fastest and most precise had the upper hand to clinch victory. No one had the luxury to concede any mistakes and penalty laps to their opponents.
After the start of the first group, German Arnd Peiffer seemed to be a favorite for the podium, although the big Biathlon names still having to start their run. The athlete competing on home soil set some spectacular times, forcing opponents to zero mistakes shooting legs to earn victory in the 10km Sprint at Oberhof.
Sturla Holm Laegreid deserved to wear the blue bib for this race, being the best performing athlete Under-25 so far of the season. His 94 percent success rate at the shooting range makes him one of the most arduous and consistent athletes to beat.
Laegreid’s first shooting session was closed with a zero-mistakes score. 16.9 seconds of time advantage towards the provisional second French athlete Antonin Guigonnat secured the Norwegian the lead of the competition.
In the second shooting leg, the standing and most demanding one, Laegreid didn’t disappoint and set the 2nd zero at the rifle range, completing his run with a 10-for-10. His precision and speed impressed and put pressure on competitors Johannes Thingnes Boe, Johannes Dale and Arnd Peiffer to perform. All of them had the podium in sight.
At the 9km intermediate, Laegreid demonstrated to be incredibly fast on the skis as well, being 1:32 minutes ahead of the provisional leader. He then ended his run in first place with a time of 24:56.00.
There were high expectations for Emilien Jacquelin, the winner of last week’s Single Mixed Relay. Already being three seconds behind the lead of the standings and, under a high amount of pressure, he was forced not to make mistakes. Unfortunately, his nerves weren’t of steel and he missed one target in the prone shooting set.
Lukas Hofer set the fastest time arriving at the first shooting leg and didn’t disappoint at the rifle range. The impressive shooting time of 30 seconds blasted the South Tyrolean into second place in the standings behind Johannes T. Boe. Italy’s victory dreams were alive.
The battle between Lukas Hofer and Johannes T. Boe continued at the 5.6km intermediate, where Boe did set the fastest time but lost some ground to his Italian competitor.
Hofer entered the second shooting leg with a three-second advantage but missed two targets in the standing heat. He then was forced to do two penalty loop tours. The mistake cost him significantly, falling down the rankings from provisional second to eleventh.
Johannes T. Boe didn’t disappoint and found a 10-for-10 record, deserving the race win with a 24:43.6 final time. Sturla Holm Laegreid held onto second place with a 12.4 seconds delay against his teammate. Arnd Peiffer kept a strong pace throughout his run and deserved the last spot on the podium on home soil with only a 27.9 seconds setback against Boe.
The winner admitted that his clean shooting today was maybe his best day on the range this season. “It was such a great race today, even harder than the last sprint. From the start, I felt I had to work really hard on the track. I had a good focus on the shooting range, Maybe my best performance on the shooting range this season. I am really happy with my race. I needed 10-fo-10 to beat Sturla and be the winner. I did what I had to do and am really satisfied with that.”
Lukas Hofer missed out on a potential win, but he didn’t give up. The 9km intermediate time posted by the Italian displayed a 12 second recovery towards the fastest time set by Boe, ending his run with a 40 second delay in sixth place, despite having done two penalty loop tours.
The Sprint race win consolidates Boe into the lead of the Overall standings (582 points), with Laegerid following in second place (535 points) and Johannes Dale in third (474 points). An All-Norwegian Top-3 Men’s ranking list after six events confirms Norway’s competitiveness and domination in the highest level of Biathlon.
The next event held in Oberhof for the men is the 4×7.5km Relay competition. The Norwegians seem to have the upper hand. Who will succeed?