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A living legend retires

21.02.2014, Sochi, Russia (RUS): Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR)
- XXII. Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, biathlon, medals, Sochi (RUS). www.nordicfocus.com. © NordicFocus. Every downloaded picture is fee-liable.
21.02.2014, Sochi, Russia (RUS): Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) - XXII. Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, biathlon, medals, Sochi (RUS). www.nordicfocus.com. © NordicFocus. Every downloaded picture is fee-liable.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen with his medals from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Photo: Nordic Focus

After more than a quarter century at the top level, Ole Einar Bjørndalen hangs up his competition rifle and parks his skis.

The 44-year-old wishes he could say he wanted to step down. He doesn’t. He retires out of consideration to his family and his health.

“I wish I could say I’ve had enough, that I’m tired of racing and want to quit. But I’m not. I am retiring out of health and family considerations, after advice from my medical team,” Bjørndalen explained, adding that he has not yet made a decision about what he will do next.

“I have an incredible passion and motivation for sports. I wish I could continue my career for several more years, but this is my last season.”

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Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) heading for a bronze medal in the pursuit at the 2017 IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen (AUT). Photo: Nordic Focus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) heading for a bronze medal in the pursuit at the 2017 IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen (AUT). Photo: Nordic Focus

At the press conference, when he announced his retirement on April 3, Bjørndalen told reporters he has suffered from atrial fibrillation for ten years, a heart condition that can affect endurance athletes. During the preparations for the 2018 Olympics last fall, this became an issue for him, interfering with his training and health.

“Atrial fibrillation is something you can live just fine with, but it’s not ideal when you are competing at the very top level. It keeps you from training the way you plan, and it sets you back each time it occurs. I have had an amazing career and reached everything anyone can dream of. So I think this was the right decision at this point,” Bjørndalen told reporters.

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Ole Einar Bjørndalen helping out with ski testing at Beitostølen (NOR). Photo: Per Wiik

Ole Einar Bjørndalen helping out with ski testing at Beitostølen (NOR). Photo: Per Wiik

Amazing career
The 44-year-old Norwegian is the most winning biathlete in history. He has more Olympic medals and World Champion titles than anyone. But becoming the World Champion on home turf in Holmenkollen, Norway, in 2016 was the jewel in the crown. In 2017, he won his 45th World Championship medal when he took bronze in Hochfilzen (AUT).

The past couple of seasons have brought some significant changes to Bjørndalen’s life. In the summer of 2016 he married Belarus biathlete Darya Domratcheva. On October 1, 2016, he became a father for the first time.

In February 2018, he attended his seventh Olympic Winter Games, his first as a non-competing athlete. However, in Pyeong Chang (KOR), Bjørndalen helped coach his wife to two medals: The gold in the women’s relay and the silver in the 12.5-kilometer mass start.

“We support each other in everything we do, so to see her reach her goals is amazing,” Bjørndalen said after Domratcheva’s relay gold on the last day of the Winter Games in South Korea.

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Ole Einar Bjørndalen earned his last World Championship medal in the pursuit at the 2017 IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen (AUT). Photo: Nordic Focus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen earned his last World Championship medal in the pursuit at the 2017 IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen (AUT). Photo: Nordic Focus

“A different sport than when I started”
After a quarter century at the top level the King of Biathlon takes some time to reflect on the changes and developments in the sport.

He believes both the improvements in equipment and increasing professionalism among the racers have contributed to raising the overall level in the World Cup field.

“The overall level of the athletes has changed a lot. When I first started, there were a lot fewer who skied really fast,” Bjørndalen.

One of the biggest changes was the transition from coarse bore to fine bore rifles. That happened about five years before Bjørndalen entered the World Cup.

“We have used the same weapon and the same mechanical setup during the entire time I’ve been active,” Bjørndalen says, noting that the weapon change made the shooting times drop significantly.

“Eirik Kvalfoss would use a minute to shoot one series. Today, none of the best racers use more than 20 seconds,” Bjørndalen points out.

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Biathlon - Olympic Winter Games 2006 - Torino (ITA): Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR)

Biathlon – Olympic Winter Games 2006 – Torino (ITA): Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR)

Better equipment
But according to Bjørndalen, the evolution of the equipment has been the biggest driving factor in advancing biathlon.

“With the skis in particular, it seems like there is a small revolution almost every season,” Bjørndalen says.

“Skis are now a lot lighter, more stable and faster, and there are entirely different materials used for both bases and construction than when I first started racing,” Bjørndalen says.

In his mind, moving to shorter, flatter tips is one of the biggest improvements in skis, and Bjørndalen was a big part of making that change.

“I was one of the first to cut my tips, and I shortened them by 5 centimeters. That cut delivers a much faster return of the ski, and you’re ready to make a new push and stride sooner. We beat Fischer to the punch on that. I cut my tips about two weeks before they were going to launch their hole-tip. I’ve been told that this caused a bit of chaos and confusion at Fischer. They didn’t know what to think of my tips,” Bjørndalen recalls.

Ski boots have also made leaps since Bjørndalen started racing, becoming both stiffer and lighter and better suited for skating. The biggest jump is moving to carbon in the boot construction, Bjørndalen says.

“With the new integrated carbon sole construction that came last season, the boots are even stiffer and still lighter, and with less material, you better contact with the snow and more control of the ski,” he explains.

The combination of all these improvements in the equipment has contributed to that the biathletes both ski and shoot faster than when Bjørndalen first started racing, without taking away from the job that the athletes put in day after day.

Bjørndalen also points out that the athletes now put in far more training hours both at the range and on physical conditioning than when he entered the World Cup back in the 1990s.

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Ole Einar Bjørndalen discussing the details with Madshus product developer Svein Ivar Moen - during a testing session in Sjusjøen (NOR) in April 2017. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Ole Einar Bjørndalen discussing details with Madshus product developer Svein Ivar Moen while testing in Sjusjøen (NOR) in April 2017. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Product development adds a dimension
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. That approach applies to equipment as well as training and lifestyle.

The involvement with the factory and the Madshus product development team is important and valuable for Bjørndalen. For him, being able to share his experiences and contribute to advance the sport gives his an added dimension and motivates him.

“You can put is this way: Sport is training, and equipment is development. Biathlon is still a young sport, and there is a lot more to gain. To be a part of that development is extremely exciting to me,” Bjørndalen explains.

“Being an active part of the research and development, and being included and involved in all the processes is a major reason why I switched equipment. Madshus is really on the cutting edge of equipment, they are extremely good at research and development and the process from idea to innovation is fast,” Bjørndalen says.

“With Madshus, you call and discuss an idea, and 24 hours later, their product engineers are after it. With other brands, it can take weeks,” he explains.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) earned his 45th World Championship medal in the pursuit in Hochfilzen (AUT). Photo: Nordic Focus

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) earned his 45th World Championship medal in the pursuit in Hochfilzen (AUT). Photo: Nordic Focus

How Champions Train

Ørjan Moseng, the reigning Norwegian junior biathlon champion as well as a regular podium finisher in the national cross-country series, shares his favorite November workout. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus
Ørjan Moseng, the reigning Norwegian junior biathlon champion as well as a regular podium finisher in the national cross-country series, shares his favorite November workout. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Norwegian junior biathlon champion Ørjan Moseng shares his favorite November workout. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Ørjan Moseng, the reigning Norwegian junior biathlon champion as well as a regular podium finisher in the national cross-country series, shares his favorite November workout.

“If you want to aim high and go far, there are no shortcuts. You have to put in the hours,” says the ambitious junior, who has his eye set on a spot on the Norwegian national team to the junior world championships this winter.

“In November, I generally put in 15 to 20 hours of training per week prior to the race season, depending on whether it’s a volume week or an intensity week,” he says, explaining that volume weeks have a few more over-distance workouts than intensity weeks.

“During volume weeks, I typically have several overdistance workouts of up to three hours each, sometimes even a bit longer. But I make sure I have some easier weeks too, where I hardly do anything really long, in order to absorb the harder weeks.” Moseng says.

The 17-year-old, who is a junior at the ski academy NTG in Lillehammer, not only has to balance his training program to the race season, but also with his academic program, tests and finals.

“NTG helps us set up our training and peaking program to where we also have time to focus on school. We do our first workout in the morning, then we go to school mid-day, and then we do our second workout late afternoon. That leaves some time for homework in the evening too. It works, but you have to be disciplined about both training and school, because you don’t have a ton of spare time to catch up if you fall behind,” Moseng says.

This is Moseng’s favorite workout in the final preparations for the race season, which starts in early December.

“My favorite workout at the start of the season is a speed/intensity combo. I start with a thorough warmup; then I do several intervals at level 3-4, which is just below threshold and at threshold. These intervals are typically 6 to 7 minutes long. Then a ski a few minutes and find a long, flat straight section of 100 to 200 meters where I go all out. The combination of intervals and sprints makes this a level 4-5 intensity workout. The training effect is perfect: It’s hard, it builds and maintains capacity and also allows you to work on technique, but doesn’t take too long to recover from,” explains Moseng, adding that he loves to go hard.

“I really like to push myself. The best feeling is when you race so hard you can barely stand up when you cross the finish line. Then you know you really gave everything,” Moseng says.

Name: Ørjan Moseng
Birthday: 19.mai 2000
Club: Røros IL
Team: NTG Lillehammer
Top results :
– Gold at the Norwegian junior nationals M17 (2017)
– Gold at the Norwegian junior nationals mixed-relay 17/18 years (2017)
– Won the overall Norwegian junior Biathlon cup 2017
– 2/2 podium finishes at the Norwegian junior cross-country cup (2017)
Goals: To represent Norway in international competitions. The short term goal is the IBU junior world championships this winter, but the long-term goal is the World Cup, the World Championships and the Olympics.
Favorite activity outside training and racing: I like driving the tractor at home on the farm in Dalsbygda. I like working, and I like doing different things. It’s good to do something other than training too.

Ready to Race

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) will compete in the mass start on Sunday. Photo: Nordic Focus
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) will compete in the mass start on Sunday. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) is ready for the World Cup season opener in Östersund (SWE). Photo: Nordic Focus

The weekend marks the opening of the World Cup season for Nordic and biathlon, as well as the kick-off for the 2017 Ski Classics long-distance series.

It will be a busy season for both fans and racers, so mark your calendar for the season highlights.

The IBU biathlon World Cup opens in Östersund (SWE) on November 27 with the mixed team relay in the afternoon and the single mixed relay in the evening. The World Cup opener continues with the women’s 15km normal on November 30, the men’s 20km normal on December 1, sprints for men and women on December 3 and concludes with pursuit races for men and women on December 4.

The IBU World Cup season consists of nine World Cup rounds:
Nov 25-Dec 4: Österssund (SWE)
Dec 6-11: Pokljuka (SLO)
Dec 13-18: Nove Mesto (CZE)
Jan 2-8: Oberhof (GER)
Jan 10-15: Rupholding (GER)
Jan 17-22: Antholz-Anterselva (ITA)
Feb 27-March 5: Hochfilzen (AUT)
March 7-12: Pyeongchang (KOR)
March 14-19: Oslo (NOR)

The 2017 FIS Nordic World Cup opens in Ruka (FIN) with races for both cross-country and Nordic combined on November 26-27. For cross-country, the World Cup opens with classic sprint races on Saturday, followed by 10/15-kilometer skate races on Sunday. The Nordic Combined racers open their season with Gundersen Large Hill 142m and 10-kilometer cross-country on both Saturday and Sunday.

Then the cross-country World Cup continues with 12 rounds including Tour de Ski and two mini tours throughout the winter:
Nov 26-27: Ruka (FIN)
Dec 2-4: Lillehammer (NOR) mini tour
Dec 10-11: Davos (SUI)
Dec 17-18: La Clusaz (FRA)
Dec 31-Jan 8: Tour de Ski
Jan 14-15: Toblach (ITA)
Jan 21-22: Ulricehamn (SWE)
Jan 28-29: Falun (SWE)
Feb 3-5: PyeongChang (KOR)
Feb 18-19: Otepää (EST)
March 8: Drammen (NOR)
March 11-12: Oslo (NOR)
March 16-19: Tyumen (RUS) mini tour

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Ingvild Flugstad Østberg won the 10-kilometer season opener at Beitostølen on Friday, and was third in the 10-kilometer skate race on Saturday. Photo: Geir Olsen

Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) won the 10-kilometer season opener at Beitostølen last weekend, and is excited to get started with the 2016-17 FIS World Cup. Photo: Geir Olsen

For Nordic Combined, there are 12 World Cup rounds this season:
Nov 26-27: Ruka (FIN)
Dec 2-4: Lillehammer (NOR)
Dec 17-18: Ramsau (AUT)
Jan 7-8: Lahti (FIN)
Jan 13-15: Val di Fiemme (ITA)
Jan 21-22: Chaux-Neuve (FRA)
Jan 27-29: Seefeld (AUT)
Feb 4-5: PyeongChang (KOR)
Feb 10-11: Sapporo (JAP)
March 11: Oslo (NOR)
March 15: Trondheim (NOR)
March 18-19: Schonach (GER)

Two World Championships
Additionally, the IBU World Championships take place in Hochfilzen (AUT) from February 8-19, and the FIS Nordic World Championships take place in Lahti (FIN) from February 21-March 5.

5-month marathon party
Also, the Ski Classics long-distance race series opens on November 27 with a team prologue in Pontresina, Switzerland, and continues through mid-April with the final taking place in Levi, Finland. For the 2017 season, there are 28 professional teams and almost 200 racers in the pro category.

For the first time, the race series ventures outside Europe, featuring the Vasaloppet China on January 4 as a part of the 2017 race schedule.

Read more about the 2017 Ski Classics season

The 2017 Ski Classics Schedule
Event 1: 27th November, Prologue Pontresina Switzerland 10 km
Event 2: 3rd December, La Sgambeda Livigno Italy 35km
Event 3: 4th January, Changchun Vasaloppet China 50km
Event 4: 14th January, Kaiser Maximilian Lauf Seefeld Austria 60km
Event 5: 21st January, La Diagonela St Moritz Switzerland 65km
Event 6: 29th January, Marcialonga Trentino Italy 70km
Event 7: 11th February, Toblach-Cortina Italy 50km
Event 8: 19th February, Jizerska Padesatka Czech Republic 50km
Event 9: 5th March, Vasaloppet Sweden 90km
Event 10: 18th March, Birkebeinerrennet Norway 54km
Event 11: 26th March, Årefjällsloppet Sweden 65 km
Event 12: 1st April, Reistadløpet Bardufoss Norway 50km
Event 13: 8th April, Ylläs-Levi Finland 55km

Each year, 15,800 racers embark on the 90 kilometer journey from Sälen to Mora. Photo: Vasaloppet

Each year, 15,800 racers embark on the 90 kilometer journey from Sälen to Mora. Photo: Vasaloppet

Bjørndalen Aims for Overall World Cup

Ole Einar Bjørndalen at the World Cup weekend in Pokljuka (SLO) with a second place in the sprint on Thursday. Photo: Nordic Focus
Ole Einar Bjørndalen at the World Cup weekend in Pokljuka (SLO) with a second place in the sprint on Thursday. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen at the World Cup in Pokljuka (SLO) December 2015. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) is as motivated as ever headed into his 24th World Cup season.

This weekend marked the start of the 2017 FIS and biathlon season, and the 42-year-old veteran has his eyes set on winning the 2017 IBU World Cup.

“The overall World Cup is my main goal this season, which means I have to perform consistently throughout the season. Of course, I will try to peak for the World Championships, but I am not focusing on that until just prior to the championships,” Bjørndalen says.

The seasoned veteran is known to have the peaking plan down to a T, and after almost 25 years at the World Cup level, Bjørndalen is as motivated as ever.

“I’m having fun. I love training, and this is what I love doing. I still see new opportunities. I still have a lot of potential and areas where I can improve when I get my workouts done as planned. I am very excited for this season,” says Bjørndalen, who just became a father last month.

The first World Cup races take place in Östersund (SWE) November 27 to December 4.

4 National Championship Medals

Marte Olsbu won both the sprint and the pursuit at the Norwegian Summer Biathlon Championships, two gold medals out of two possible. Photo: NSSF

Marte Olsbu won both the sprint and the pursuit at the 2016 Norwegian Summer Biathlon Championships, two gold medals out of two possible. Photo: NSSF

Madshus biathletes helped themselves to the hardware at the Norwegian Summer Biathlon Championships.

World champion Marte Olsbu drove home with two gold medals of two possible, winning both the sprint race on Saturday and the pursuit on Sunday.

“It was a hard day on the course today, but I did well at the range. I feel like I’ve made some progress with my shooting over the summer, and I hope I can keep up the good work now,” she said to Norwegian broadcasters after her sprint race on Saturday.

The 25-year-old won the sprint by more than a minute to second place, which put her in an excellent position for another gold in the pursuit on Sunday. While the weather conditions were difficult with both rain and wind during the pursuit, Olsbu shot clean on her first two trips to the range. Despite a total of five penalty laps over the last three shootings, Olsbu ended up winning the pursuit by more than two minutes.

Madshus racer Aslak Nenseter earned the bronze medal in the pursuit, while Erling Aalvik, who won the sprint on Saturday, ended up fourth in the pursuit. Nenseter was only 12 seconds out of the gold. Overall for the weekend, Madshus racers earned four medals at the Norwegian National Summer Biathlon Championships.

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