The time has come on Wednesday: The biathletes will start the new World Cup season in Kontiolahti, Finland. However, the focus of the German team is further ahead - at the home World Cup in February.
Denise Herrmann-Wick made no secret of her actual focus. When the biathlon Olympic champion goes cross-country skiing for the first time this winter in Kontiolahti, Finland, her eyes are already on the coming year. More precisely in February - at the high point of the season in Oberhof.
"The goals are clearly the home World Cup," emphasized Herrmann-Wick: "What happens up to then is more or less the way there." The 33-year-old has already won six World Championship medals, and more are to come in the "biathlon Mecca" Oberhof. "I'm trying to build up a certain self-confidence until then and I hope that the zenith will come in Oberhof."
Herrmann-Wick has enough time: There is still a long way to go before the World Championships, six World Cups have to be completed before the start on February 8th. The first of these will be in Kontiolahti, where men's and women's individual, relay, sprint and pursuit races will be held from Tuesday to Sunday. The first, important step has already been taken. "The pre-season went according to plan and without any problems," said Herrmann-Wick. The new sports director Felix Bitterling was also "satisfied" and added: "We hope that this will also be reflected in good results."
Herrmann-Wick seems predestined for this, she is still the face of the team. The podium-experienced Franziska Preuss can also - if fit - be a contender for a top three place. Vanessa Voigt, like Preuss, part of the Olympic bronze quartet in Beijing, is also seeded. Only the fourth season member Vanessa Hinz has to play in the second-rate IBU Cup after an injury in preparation.
The men are under even more pressure: In February, Benedikt Doll and Co. traveled home for the Olympics for the first time since 2010 without a medal in their luggage. The former guarantors of success and room partners Arnd Peiffer and Erik Lesser are now following the World Cup circus as a joint ARD expert duo. Doll is now all the more in focus. For the former world champion, as for national coach Mark Kirchner, "the season opener and the other World Cups are the focus for the time being. I am happy that we will have the home World Cup in Oberhof in February 2023," said the 32-year-old, "even if they are now is not yet so present."
In any case, the top favorites will initially be different. Among the women, the three-time Olympic champion Marte Olsbu Röiseland from Norway, who was missing at the start, is to be expected, followed by the Swedish sisters Elvira and Hanna Öberg, among others. The German men will have to measure themselves against the four-time Beijing winner Johannes Thingnes Bö and Quentin Fillon Maillet, defending champion in the overall World Cup.
That's another reason why Kirchner is trying "to put the topic of the World Cup further back. The start of the season is always a position determination," said the 52-year-old. "Everyone is excited to see what it's enough for." But the goal is clear: by February at the latest, the top spots for Herrmann-Wick, Doll and Co. should be within reach.