U.S. Biathlon's Deedra Irwin skis on the Oberhof course during training on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Nordic Focus)
The calendar has turned to 2021 and the second trimester of the BMW IBU World Cup circuit begins Friday in Oberhof, Germany. As the U.S. Biathlon team arrived in the familiar World Cup host city this week, they were greeted by two unfamiliar scenes…a winter wonderland and changes to the Oberhof courses.
Known as a wet and foggy location, Oberhof has been transformed into a marshmallow world for this week’s races.
“I’ve never seen Oberhof looking so wintry and frosty,” noted two-time Olympian Susan Dunklee.
“It is so wintry here,” added Clare Egan, who enters the event ranked 20th in the World Cup standings. “Lots of snow, trees all covered in a thick layer of white icy snow, and of course the typical fog around the venue. Very often the thermometer creeps above freezing here and the resulting precipitation is ghastly. I welcome the heavy snow in lieu of the alternative.”
Changes have also been made to the layout of the Oberhof courses that are set to host the 2023 IBU World Championships.
“The courses are a hybrid of the former courses and the future ones which will be used for the world championships,” said Egan. “These are not full new loops but small adjustments to the stadium layout, hills, curves, etc. I think the changes make the course safer, and maybe even harder. It was already arguably the most challenging course on our tour.”
As with this season’s earlier World Cup events in Finland and Austria, no fans will be allowed at the Oberhof venue and strict COVID precautions remain in place for teams.
“It’s a real bummer the fans won’t be here this year because usually, the atmosphere in Oberhof is awesome,” said Paul Schommer.
“As you can probably imagine, it’s a relief and privilege to know that you and all the people you interact with do not have COVID,” added Egan about the bubble the teams are required to maintain this season. “We are lucky to have a stringent accreditation and testing protocol which removes the stress of not knowing who has it.”
The next two weekends in Oberhof will feature relays, including the first mixed relays of the season this Sunday. Because of that, the U.S. team spent a fair amount of relay practice during its training in Ramsau, Germany, over the holiday break.
“One of our final workouts in Ramsau was a single mixed relay session with the men's and women's team taking part together,” Jake Brown said. “We did two single mixed relay races for the workout. That was a fun way to add in some intra-team competition and prepare for the pressure of the relays.”
“These are our first mixed events of the season and our only chance to practice them before Worlds so I think we are hoping to get a quality rehearsal in,” Egan added.
The BMW IBU World Cup events in Oberhof run Jan. 8-17, with the following schedule (all times Eastern):
Friday, Jan. 8
5:30 am – Women’s 7.5km sprint
8:15 am – Men’s 10km sprint
Saturday, Jan. 9
6:45 am – Women’s 10km pursuit
8:45 am – Men’s 12.5km pursuit
Sunday, Jan. 10
5:30 am – Mixed relay
8:40 am – Single mixed relay
Wednesday, Jan. 13
8:30 am – Men’s 10km sprint
Thursday, Jan. 14
8:30 am – Women’s 7.5km sprint
Friday, Jan. 15
8:30 am – Men’s 4x7.5km relay
Saturday, Jan. 16
8:45 am – Women’s 4x6km relay
Sunday, Jan. 17
6:30 am – Men’s 15km mass start
9:00 am – Women’s 12.5km mass start
All events will be streamed live on Peacock with some events on the Olympic Channel and NBCSN. Find full schedule HERE.