Ole Einar Bjørndalen won the IBU World Cup opener in Östersund, Sweden on December 2. Photo: NordicFocus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen won the IBU World Cup opener in Östersund, Sweden on December 2. Photo: NordicFocus

Weekend loot: 12 WC podiums, 3 Ski Classics podiums and the yellow jersey in the long-distance series.

For starters, The King of biathlon is back.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR), who enters his 23 World Cup season, left no doubt: The King started the 2016 season on the top of the podium after the 20km at the IBU World Cup in Östersund (SWE) on December 2. In January 1996, he won his first WC. In between those two victories, there have been around 92 more.

And after more than two decades on the World Cup, the 41-year-old takes time to reflect on the changes and developments in his sport. Read the full interview HERE.

The seasoned veteran is known to constantly seek out new insights and research on everything from training and equipment to diet and lifestyle, just to gain that split second margin that separates the winner from the rest of the field.

However, in the first World Cup race of his 23rd World Cup season, Bjørndalen won by more than a split hair. He didn’t miss a single target. He skied like a tornado with perfect technique milking each glide and getting the most from every push-off. At the end of the day, Bjørndalen had almost half a minute down to second place.

On Saturday, he was back on the podium, this time in third place in sprint competition.

“Biathlon is biathlon; it was a really good race today. It was a lot of stress after the 20K with all of the publicity, but I had no problem with motivation. I was really lucky to hit four; it was a combination of luck and experience,” Bjørndalen said after his race on Saturday.

However, he remained in the yellow leader jersey for the Sunday pursuit, but had to give it up after the final race in Östersud. But that doesn’t bother him. Bjørndalen reemphasizes that his focus is the 2016 World Championships in Oslo in March.

“I am only focused on Oslo, not the total World Cup score.”

Now, the IBU World Cup heads for round 2 in Hochfilzen (AUS) next weekend with sprint, pursuit and relay competitions for both men and women.

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 Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) during the 20km IBU world cup in Östersund on December 2. Photo: NordicFocus


Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) during the 20km IBU world cup in Östersund on December 2. Photo: NordicFocus

The cross-country World Cup moved to Lillehammer (NOR) this weekend, featuring 15- and 30-kilometer pursuit races for women and men, respectively.

Hans Christer Holund (NOR), who surprised everyone including himself with two podiums in a row at the FIS season opener at Beitostølen (NOR) in November, posted his first World Cup podium finish with a strong third place on the brutal course on Saturday.

“It is my first podium. It is like a dream come true for me,” Holund said of his first WC podium.

“The race was hard from the first lap. The course is really hard. I was a little afraid of the chasing group coming up from behind, so I tried to ski as fast as I could, so that they wouldn’t catch us. On the last hill, I knew I did it,” Holund said of the 15km+15km duathlon/pursuit.

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Hans Christer Holund (NOR) during the WC duathlon in Lillehammer on Dec.5. Photo: Nordic Focus

Hans Christer Holund (NOR) during the WC duathlon in Lillehammer on Dec.5. Photo: Nordic Focus

 

Also on Saturday, Heidi Weng (NOR) delivered a solid second place after winning the sprint finish with Charlotte Kalla (SWE) in the women’s 7.5km+7.5km duathlon/pursuit.

“I felt very good in classical part. In the skate portion I got stiff, but I tried to fight. I kept focused on the second place. It was very hard to ski with Charlotte,” Weng said after her race.

Given her strong performances so far this season and proven sprint capacity, Weng was appointed to anchor the Norwegian women in the 4x5km relay on Sunday – a job that so far has belonged to Marit Bjørgen. And Weng didn’t disappoint, anchoring Norway to a 2-minute victory, while Ingvild Flugstad Østberg skied a solid second leg for the same team. Krista Parmakoski (Madshus) helped Finland to 2nd place.

In the men’s relay, Hans Christer Holund helped Norway I to victory in the men’s 4×7.5km relay – ahead of two other Norwegian teams. Madshus racers Simen Sveen and Mathias Rundgreen helped their team to 2nd place, and Didrik Tønseth was on the 3rd place team.

The cross-country World Cup now moves to Davos (SUI).

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 Heidi Weng (NOR) in front of Charlotte Kalla (SWE) during at the WC duathlon in Lillehammer on Dec. 5. Photo: Nordic Focus


Heidi Weng (NOR) in front of Charlotte Kalla (SWE) during at the WC duathlon in Lillehammer on Dec. 5. Photo: Nordic Focus

This weekend also marked the start of the 2016 Ski Classics long-distance season: Team United Bakeries with Madshus marathon racers Johan Kjølstad, Øystein Pettersen, Tore B. Berdal and John Kristian Dahl set the stage for the season by winning the Team Prologue in Livigno (ITA) by more than a half minute! United Bakeries posted the combined time for the 15-kilometer team time trial 2:16:09. This event consisted of a mass start for women and a team tempo for men. The best female time was added to a pro team’s third best skier’s time, which was multiplied by three.

On Sunday, Dahl (NOR) went straight to the top of the podium in the first individual long-distance race of the season, winning the 24-km classic race La Sgambeda in Livigno by 8 seconds, with Eugeny Dementiev (RUS) in 2nd place and Johan Kjølstad (NOR) in 3rd.

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Team United Bakeries won the Proteam Prologue, which was the first event in the 2016 Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

Team United Bakeries won the Proteam Prologue, which was the first event in the 2016 Ski Classics. Photo: Ski Classics

The FIS Nordic Combined skiers finally had a chance to start their 2016 FIS World Cup season, after their first competitions last week in Finland were cancelled. Magnus Krog (NOR), who opened his season by winning the Norwegian national championships at Beitostølen on November 14, won the large hill/10km World Cup competition on Sunday.