Empty arena, two podiums for the Czech team, Šlesingr's swan song & Norwegian domination: this was the WC in NMNM 2020
The 2018 World Cup event had not been concluded yet and the organizing team had been flooded by questions regarding sale of tickets for the following year. And it had been exactly 12 months before the races in Nové Město na Moravě started that sale of tickets for the following season had been launched. A year of preparation, thousands of e-mails, phone calls, arrangements and reservations, kilometres driven both in snow groomers and scooters. And a year of looking forward to March 2020 when the Vysočina Arena was supposed to become the capital of biathlon and a temporary home for more than 100 thousand lovers of the sport. All of this was destroyed by the COVID-19 though…
On Thursday afternoon, the women‘s sprint was started into gusts of strong wind, despite all the hopelessness and disappointment. The race was dominated by Denise Hermann of Germany, who took advantage of being the third on the track, did not make a single mistake at the shooting range, run fast and earned herself the gold. Czech fans were overjoyed by Markéta Davidová, who made just a single mistake at the shooting range and finished third. “I am satisfied with my performance today. Looks like I am having a bronze season this year, and I am glad for it, naturally. It is sad that it has happened in an empty stadium,“ Markéta said. The silver went to Anais Bescond of France, who made no mistake at the shooting range.
The men’s sprint on Friday was successful for the Czech national team again thanks to Michal Krčmář, who finished fourth. His result could be even better if he had not made two mistakes at the shooting range. “With mistakes like this, it is impossible to keep up with the best. I just screwed up, though there was not the pressure from tens of thousands of fans today,“ he commented on his performance. The Norwegian phenomenal athlete Johannes Thingnes Boe was victorious in the race just like he had been before Christmas in 2018. The silver medallist, Quentin Fillon-Maillet of France, finished 20 second behind, the bronze went to Tarjei Boe.
An attractive Saturday programme brought relays to organizers and tens of fans who gathered behind the fences around the arena. Norwegian women led by Tiril Eckhoff recorded a sixth victory in this discipline in a row. The silver went to France and bronze to Germany. Czech women did not have a good race and struggled at the shooting range. Scoring three penalty loops and eighteen reloads, they finished tenth.
Men‘s race was dominated by the Norwegians again, who led the pack from the very start of the race. They were victorious ahead of the Ukraine, the bronze went to the French men. The evening brought the last 422th professional race to Michal Šlesingr, who has three medals from World Championships. Michal thus finished his nineteen-year long career of professional biathlete. The Czech legend of the sport was “waved goodbye” by his teammates, organizers, referees, volunteers and hundreds of thousands viewers at their TV sets. “Thank you, Michal!” resonated in the Vysočina Arena and it is worth repeating here again!
As is tradition in the Vysočina Arena, the last day brought mass races and three Czech athletes were in the roster: Markéta Davidová, Michal Krčmář and Ondřej Moravec. The Norwegians dominated in the heavy and melting snow: Tiril Eckhoff celebrated her triumph with a jump at the finish line, Johannes T. Boe crossed the finish line bent forward in exhaustion. The silver in the women‘s race went to Hannah Oeberg of Sweden, and the bronze was taken by Franziska Preuss of Germany. Johannes stood on the podium with Jacquelin of France (silver) and the German Arnd Peiffer (bronze).
These two races concluded the four-day long programme of the Nové Město na Moravě World Cup event. “I must thank all people for the way they dealt with the situation, the fact that conditions generally were not favourable to us at all, how they supported and stuck with us. The whole team of organizers worked extremely hard to prepare everything for the race, and I want to thank them all from my heart. And I only hope that we shall meet our fans next year in March, and that no virus no. 2 shall come,“ Jiří Hamza, the chairman of the organizing committee evaluated the 7th event of the Biathlon World Cup held in Nové Město na Moravě, thus refering to the next year when the world‘s biathlon elite shall gather in Nové Město na Moravě again, from March 8 to March 14.
Author and photo: Michal Jilka