Biathletes are opening the year 2023 with the sprint race. In the men’s 10 km competition, the only question is who can seriously challenge Johannes Thingnes Boe, by far the best competitor of the winter. He already collected five wins this season.
The only one who is close to him is his compatriot Sturla Holm Laegreid, who is 34 points behind in the overall standings. Frenchman Emilien Jacquelin in third place is already 180 points away from the yellow bib.
Laegreid forces Boe to show the best performances with fast and accurate shooting. Laegreid might be even more dangerous than usual in Pokljuka as the tracks here suit him well. Most recently, at the World Championships in Pokljuka in 2021, he won as many as four gold medals, Boe was left empty-handed in the individual competition.
Norway has sweet worries, and some individuals in the team have big ones. Tarjei Boe and Johannes Dale need a good result and they get mentioned more and more among the journalists. Their place in the national team is threatened by a number of young rivals from the IBU Cup. There are four Norwegians at the top in the overall standings, with 25-year-old Endre Stroemsheim leading the way.
The French team has Jacquelin and Fabien Claude, who recently celebrated a victory with Julia Simon at the Schalke 04 stadium in Gelsenkirchen just before the New Year, as well as Quentin Fillon Maillet. Last year’s overall World Cup winner and Olympic champion from Beijing is currently eighth in the men’s standings.
The French media are therefore already predicting a step forward and a rise of form in the light of the World Championship in February in Oberhof. Good results already in Slovenia are one of the goals. The French team also has a newcomer, Oscar Lombardo, who comes from the IBU Cup.
The Swedes and Germans also showed a lot this year. Especially in the Swedish team, there are some open questions ahead of Pokljuka. During the holidays, Sebastian Samuelsson and Jesper Nelin only had one real training each due to illness and the race will show whether the health problems have left consequences.
The Germans, with Slovenian coach Uroš Velepec on their staff, have taken a step forward, but the occasional podium is not what they are easily satisfied with. Most of them are timing their form for the home World Championship in Oberhof, and for self-confidence and confirmation of good work, a top result in Pokljuka will be more than welcome.
Competitors from the above-mentioned countries occupy as many as 16 of the 18 places at the top of overall World Cup standings.
And the Slovenian athletes? The goals are clear. Jakov Fak is not satisfied with one ranking among the top ten, and this is also the first goal. The others will primarily be chasing World Cup points. The challenge is the best results of their careers, which all young Slovenian competitors have already achieved this year.