These days, the biggest rivalry in biathlon is between Martin Fourcade of France (pictured above) and Norway’s top biathlon athletes—including Emil Hegle Svendsen and the Bø brothers, Tarjei and Johannes. Notably, Norway’s biathlon superstar, Ole Einar Bjørndalen, will not be competing at this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which moves Johannes Thingnes Bø squarely into Fourcade’s sights on a quest for his first Olympic medal.
On Sunday, February 11, the men’s biathlon program begins with the 10 km sprint, an event that will determine who will be participating in the pursuit event. This will be the first of three live televised biathlon events this year at the Olympics. View the full biathlon television schedule here.
Fourcade is a force to be reckoned with in biathlon, with 12 wins in the mass start that place him head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. For example, Svendsen, the defending Olympic champion, has seven mass start victories. There’s no other biathlon athletes that have earned more than three mass start wins. Never one to be rattled, after winning his last mass start event before arriving in Pyeongchang, Fourcade remarked about how important the victory was to him.
“My race was really good. I was a bit nervous on the last bullets in prone and standing, but I was quite in control. I felt good on my skis … that was key to my success … That was good for my confidence before the Olympics.”
Bø won his 14th career victory last year at the BMW International Biathlon Union World Cup in Ostersund, Sweden. This was his first win in biathlon’s classic competition. Fourcade finished in third place with two penalties—putting him over two minutes behind.
“This is a big day for me, because I’ve been waiting for long to win in this format; it feels great to have a win in each of them,” said Bø.
Bø’s brother Tarjei had his first biathlon World Cup win when he claimed a 10 km sprint victory in Ostersund—winning by a slim margin of 0.7 seconds over Fourcade.
As for the U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team, our 10-person squad was finalized in January. On the men’s side, Leif Nordgren (Minnesota) and Russell Currier (Maine) will join Lowell Bailey, (New York), Tim Burke (New York) and Sean Doherty (New Hampshire). Female team members are Susan Dunklee (Vermont), Clare Egan (Maine), Joanne Reid (Colorado), Emily Dreissigacker (Vermont) and Maddie Phaneuf (New York).
Be sure to pay attention to Norway’s medal rankings as the Games progress, because every gold medal they miss out on will help bump up the U.S. Olympic medal count.