German biathletes hope for a good start in the home world championships (

The young Sophia Schneider shone in Ruhpolding and Antholz with podium finishes in the relay. The crowning of the World Cup is to follow in Oberhof.

Photo: imago/Oryk Haist

While everyone else is already feeling this “tingling sensation,” as always, nothing is happening with Mark Kirchner. At least on the outside. Even verbally, the Thuringian would probably never say anything else about his state of mind. The head coach of the German biathletes likes to see himself as a haven of peace. That doesn’t even change – or especially not – when the World Championships in Oberhof are right on your doorstep. He was already there in 2004, when the title fights last took place at Grenzadler. Although in a different position than today, Kirchner probably wants to say that he already knows what awaits him and his team in the next twelve days. One thing is certain: it gets loud when up to 27,000 fans cheer on their favorite athletes. So why should Kirchner also be loud?

When the World Championships were once again awarded to this traditional winter sports resort more than four years ago, the German biathletes were at a sporting high point: Laura Dahlmeier had finished the last World Championships in 2017 with five titles, in 2018 the Bavarian and Arnd Peiffer were still laying three Olympic victories on top of that. At the time, hardly anyone would have believed that the German Ski Association (DSV) would head for the 2023 World Championships with almost no contenders. But with Peiffer, Dahlmeier and Erik Lesser, three long-standing medal guarantors ended their careers in quick succession.

Basically only Denise Herrmann-Wick remains. The 34-year-old added another season after her Olympic victory in Beijing a year ago. Without them, the DSV would have had to rely entirely on a youth team, especially for women. Half of last winter’s Olympic bronze relay is missing after the chronically ill Franziska Preuss ended her season prematurely and the weak Vanessa Hinz gave up her skis and rifle after missing qualification.

“Of course Denise is our precursor, but the World Cups in Ruhpolding and Antholz showed that all the girls are in good spirits,” said women’s national coach Kristian Mehringer, pleased with the long-awaited rise of a new guard in the German women’s team. »The young runners don’t have too much pressure yet. If they approach it with a certain ease, but are also in attack mode, then there’s a lot in it,” he says. In fact, Vanessa Voigt, Sophia Schneider, Hanna Kebinger (all 25) and Janina Hettich-Walz (26) have all arrived at the top of the world. In this line-up they even ran on the World Cup podium in the Antholz relay in January without Herrmann-Wick. “We proved that we don’t have to hide from the others. There’s still a lot to come,” says Hebinger.

The new DSV sports director Felix Bitterling is hoping for the same. Even if the association no longer officially specifies a medal requirement, according to Bitterling it is still the claim to at least “fight for the three podium places in every relay race”. This has also been achieved in seven out of ten team competitions this season, but not yet in mixed. With this season of all places, however, world championships are traditionally heralded, so the quartet around start runner Voigt has to stretch this Wednesday to reach its goal. The DSV did not want to reveal who will follow her until Wednesday afternoon. However, the experts reckon with Herrmann-Wick, Benedikt Doll and Roman Rees in positions two to four.

The latter have performed well this winter, especially in terms of running, and are the most consistent DSV men. On good days, Rees and Doll, like Herrmann-Wick, are also good in the individual races for precious metal, but have less of a chance of winning gold than Saxon. After all, they have to compete with the Norwegian Johannes Thingnes Bø, who is running to the ground. The five-time Olympic champion has won eleven of the 14 individual races this season and is now preparing to become the star of the Oberhof World Championship days.

In this respect it is quite good that the decision in the mixed relay is the start, perhaps the most exciting of all races. »I wish for a good start, because then everything else runs much easier afterwards. The rest is then just floating on a wave, «women’s trainer Mehringer hopes for a kind of initial spark. On the other hand, sports director Bitterling warns that this competition is “the toughest relay ever” and a “brutal race” in which up to eight teams are so well positioned that they can win a medal. “So this can go either way, but we want to attack.”

In any case, nervousness has long been felt. “It’s really tingling,” says Hanna Kebinger. And colleague Sophia Schneider adds that “everyone is just waiting for things to finally start”. Not everyone of course. When everyone is turning the wheel, there is still head coach Mark Kirchner to bring them back into line. The home World Cup is “made special, but we are well advised not to put on an extra backpack for ourselves. In the end, the ten kilometers are still ten kilometers long in Oberhof.«



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