Those of you who know me, probably know how much of a pacifist I am. I don’t like weapons, I don’t play violent video games; I value piece, communication, and diplomacy before all else. And thus it may be quite the surprise that I have (re)discovered biathlon, and boy am I a fan.

Biathlon from Wannapik Studio

For those who don’t know what this sport is, it’s cross country skiing and rifle-shooting at targets 50m away in both prone and standing positions. Basically, you ski a few kilometers, then shoot some targets, and depending on the discipline, missed targets mean penalty laps or added time, then continue on skiing. The winner is the one with the best time crossing the finish line, but this often means needing to shoot well, or in the rarer of cases shooting with one or two penalties, and skiing faster than anyone else on the track.

I remember seeing biathlon on TV as a kid. Memories of Olympic glory for a Norwegian named Ole Einar Bjørndalen dominating at a later part in his career filled my thoughts when I saw my first biathlon race during the covid-19 pandemic. I was at home on a Saturday, and it was a pursuit race, and I was instantly hooked.

It was strange to see races that were with empty stadiums, but luckily the commentating was always good. What was even more interesting was the fact that all of the races are streamed for free via the IBU website. I was floored, and so happy to be able to catch up on years and years of races!

I was first an observer and latched onto a few personalities that appealed to me. For example, the powerful style of Benjamin (Benny) Weger was one that caught my eye first. It wasn’t just the world class beard, but rather the feeling that he was an underdog. It came to a huge surprise that he retired that year after winning one of his last races, so he went out in a good way! Plus he has the most adorable voice in interviews!

But there was a moment of familiarity among all of this. Norway has been dominating for some years both in the men and women events, but I recognised someone. It was none other than my all-time favourite, and I can even remember him racing and winning back almost 10 years before, Tarjei Bø who is the older brother of the otherwise dominating Johannes Tinges Bø. Tarjei’s longevity at a high level impressed me, and his adorable humour and constant smiles was both endearing and impressive. I consumed everything Tarjei, all his interviews, all of his post-match reports, all of his social media. I just couldn’t get enough of Tarjei, so now in the 2024 season where I see him succeeding again, it brings me great pride and joy to see it coming his way! There is something about Tarjei…

And with two biathletes inside my loving heart, there is always room for a third. Enter another Norwegian, Sturla Holm Lægreid who has burst onto the scene and has not only performed wll, but consistantly is humble and competitive at the same time. Playing second fiddle to Johannes Tinges can’t be easy, but he does it in style and is great on social media. He’s always been on my IBU.org “Follow” list, and a moment came yesterday that simply made me scream out with joy, and thus compose this post.

He won the World Championships Spring Gold Medal, beating out everyone else and sneaking inside the time of the arguably best biathlete on the tour: Johannes Tinges Bø. I had thought that due to the competitive nature of the Norwegian team, Lægreid might be dropped at some point, as even one of the other top ranking Norwegians got dropped from the team; but the look of triumph and conquering on one of the biggest stages in the year, warmed my heart and the thousands of fans worldwide. A tear ran down my face, and I was so proud. The triumph, the relief, the satisfaction of victory; nothing can compare!

And so paying an ode to my favourite biathletes comes to the end, but a question remains as to why I like this sport so much? I think it’s the fact that it combines two very technical disciplines and requires immense skill and dedication. It’s frankly hot as. I have a huge respect for these athletes, and I will continue to be a fan for years to come.

Who knows, maybe this will motivate me to get out onto my skis more often, or get some lessons to improve my technique. Or perhaps even an even wilder thought: learning how to shoot an air-rifle and then throwing it on my back to continue skiing. I guess this is a less likely of a prospect, but who knows.

In the meantime, I need to find a coach for next year that will help me with my skiing technique… 🤔