The German biathletes leave Ruhpolding with mixed feelings. While the men have underpinned their ambitions for the Olympics with two podium finishes, the women are in a crisis with just three weeks to go before the Winter Games.
After his last race before the Olympics, Erik Lesser fell to the ground, completely exhausted. The pursuit at the end of the home World Cup in the Bavarian biathlon Mecca Ruhpolding was “a single agony” for the German hope for a medal – but the joy about the strong performance almost three weeks before the Winter Games in Beijing (February 4th to 20th) then prevailed indeed.
“The results are right. Of course, my shape curve is pointing upwards for the Olympics,” said Lesser, who, like in the sprint, also finished sixth in the chase race on Sunday.
In victory for French overall leader Quentin Fillon Maillet, who won the last four chasers, Lesser was 24.8 seconds off the podium, one miss on the last standing stage was too much.
Doll set an exclamation mark on Thursday with second place in the sprint, in the pursuit he gave up his chances of winning while in the lead with two penalties in standing and finished eleventh. Nevertheless: “These are further milestones in the development of the team that give us peace and security in the direction of Beijing,” said national coach Mark Kirchner and drew a “positive conclusion”.
Biathlon women in crisis
While the men in China are on the upswing shortly before the peak of the season, the German women are in a crisis. In the absence of Franziska Preuss, who is still recovering from a foot injury and corona infection, Franziska Hildebrand’s 17th place in the sprint in the empty Chiemgau Arena was the highest of emotions.
“We still have to remain calm,” stressed Bernd Eisenbichler, sporting director of the biathletes, on “ZDF”. Also on Sunday, Hildebrand did not get more than a disappointing 20th place in the pursuit as again the best DSV ski huntswoman after three penalties in standing. After finishing 24th in the sprint, Denise Herrmann skipped the chase as planned.
In the men’s race, David Zobel surprised in his fourth World Cup race by finishing tenth, only missing once. “Overall a great race,” said the 25-year-old Bavarian, who also met half the Olympic standard and has legitimate hopes for Beijing. Philipp Nawrath rounded off an excellent team result in 15th place.
Men’s relay with announcement in Ruhpolding
On Saturday, the DSV men stormed onto the podium for the first time with a second place in the third season of the Olympic winter. “The result gives us a lot of self-confidence towards Beijing,” said Eisenbichler, adding “a jolt” to the front.
Final runner Nawrath spoke of a “pointer” after crossing the finish line just seven seconds behind Russia. In the Olympic qualification ranking, the DSV men defended third place ahead of Sweden, which means they can look forward to a sixth quota place.
First of all, the outfitting for the Olympics in Munich is on the agenda on Monday, then the plans diverge. Doll will compete in the dress rehearsal in Antholz starting Thursday, as will Herrmann, who is planning for the mass start on Sunday. Lesser and Nawrath, on the other hand, are doing without the races in South Tyrol. It is unlikely that Kühn, the only German winner of the season, tested positive.
The corona-weakened Preuß will slowly fight her way back to competition level at home. She “trained a bit” for the first time on Saturday, said Eisenbichler, “we have to look from day to day and stay positive.” With a view to the Olympics, it is “not an optimal starting position”, but possible.
On January 31, the German biathletes will fly from Frankfurt to Beijing. Partly with medal hopes, partly with worries.