June 15, 2024

Challenging Conditions Spark Concerns Among Biathletes, Call for World Cup Site Reevaluation

More or less as usual, the competitors in Oberhof are facing huge challenges ahead of the World Cup races in January, prompting calls for a reevaluation of the event location. As low snowfall and rain is rather typical in Oberhof during January, the IBU have several times placed a World Cup round in Oberhof precisely in January, the current conditions are worrying several biathletes..

Talking to NRK, World Cup leader Johannes Thingnes Bø expressed, “These are perhaps the worst conditions I have ever encountered in Oberhof.”

Endre Strømsheim echoed the sentiment, describing the skiing conditions as “horrible” and “absolutely insane.”

Johannes Dale-Skjevdal added, “Cold and wet, really terrible.”

The men’s sprint, initially scheduled for Thursday, was postponed to Friday due to heavy rain, wind, and fog. Athletes navigated a trail of gray artificial snow laden with bark, rocks, and minimal snow. The descents were perilous, with loose snow posing a significant risk.

The Norwegian waxing team faced challenges, and their manager, Tobias Dahl Fenre, criticized the organizers for the technical shortcomings, emphasizing the need for better preparation. Thingnes Bø expressed disappointment, stating, “I think they should have had better preparations when we train.”

Fenre questioned the amount of stones and wooden chips accumulated in the snow during the run-out, emphasizing that other World Cup organizers manage to provide artificial snow without such issues. He deemed it impossible to rectify the conditions for the competition, even with additional snow and a different approach.

The International Biathlon Union (IBU) acknowledged the poor conditions but opted to delay slope preparation until Thursday to avoid exacerbating challenges. The IBU aims to collaborate with organizers to enhance conditions with the available resources, acknowledging the limitations of creating an ideal winter setting.

Criticism has not been uncommon for Oberhof’s conditions, prompting some athletes to question the viability of maintaining the fixed World Cup round. Martin Fourcade, according to some the greatest biathlete of all time, questioned the environmental impact of continuous artificial snow production and suggested finding a more suitable venue for modern times.

In the evening, Martin Fourcade, confronted with the widespread attention his message received, took the opportunity to clarify his thoughts. He stated, “To clarify my position, I am not against artificial snow, which is necessary to ensure the organization and fairness of the races. However, when, for the past fifteen years, a venue has relied on artificial snow 95% of the time, I believe this feedback should be considered.” Fourcade emphasized the importance of taking into account the long-term reliance on artificial snow in evaluating the suitability and sustainability of a particular venue.

Belgian Tom Lahaye-Goffart, who recently retired from the world circuit, shares a similar sentiment, questioning the rationale behind organizing a World Cup at an altitude of 800 meters. He points out the struggle of ski resorts below 1,500 meters, which have been facing a significant decline for the past decade. Lahaye-Goffart advocates for a reevaluation of World Cup specifications and the calendar. In a statement on platform X, he suggests that locations like Oberhof, Nove Mesto, and others should have alternative destinations as backups. Lahaye-Goffart highlights the need for a more thoughtful approach to ensure the sustainability and viability of World Cup venues.

Concerns about Oberhof’s suitability persist among athletes, with Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold suggesting a potential change in location. The IBU sports director, Daniel Böhm, acknowledged the challenges, stating a need to review the calendar layout and reassess organizers’ willingness to host races in January, reports NRK.

As the athletes face challenging conditions, discussions about the sustainability and practicality of Oberhof as a World Cup venue continue.

Mathis Brorstad

Mathis Brorstad

Mathis Brorstad is a Norwegian freelance writer. He is mainly covering Athletics, Biathlon and other Winter Sports. In the past he has done work on odds and probabilities.

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