All eyes on biathlon queen Dahlmeier at PyeongChang 2018
Laura Dahlmeier’s stunning 2017 performance may well be the prelude to multiple victories at PyeongChang 2018. The German world number one was in a class of her own throughout the year, becoming the first female biathlete to win five gold medals at the IBU World Championships and claiming the overall IBU World Cup title.
“It’s important to go back to a place where you’ve had a good feeling,” said Dahlmeier, speaking in March 2017 at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre, where she laid down a marker for PyeongChang 2018 by winning the sprint and the pursuit without missing a single shot.
The German’s two victories tightened her grip on the IBU World Cup and she made the large crystal globe hers a week later, recording her tenth victory of the season in the pursuit in Kontiolahti (FIN). Dahlmeier also pocketed small crystal globes for the individual and the pursuit, completing a treble that marked her out as her country’s successor to the great Magdalena Neuner, who retired in 2012 after claiming a third overall World Cup title.
Gold medal collector
The German tasted yet more success at the 2017 IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen (AUT), becoming the first biathlete to win five golds at a single worlds. Victorious in the mixed relay, pursuit, women’s relay, individual and mass start races, she was only denied a clean sweep by Gabriela Koukalova of the Czech Republic, who beat her to the line in the sprint.
Having won five medals in Oslo-Holmenkollen a year before – a haul that included her maiden individual gold, in the pursuit – Dahlmeier is now the proud owner of 13 world championship medals in total, seven of them gold.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” she said after collecting her mass start gold in Hochfilzen. “It’s like a dream come true. I try to give my best in every race. The world championships were really great. It’s amazing to win five golds and a silver and it’s also the 11th medal in a row. I wasn’t expecting it.”
Born in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on 22 August 1993, the petite Dahlmeier is blessed with exceptional stamina. She took up cross-country skiing at the age of seven, dividing her time with Alpine skiing over the next two years before deciding to devote herself exclusively to biathlon.
Dahlmeier scored a number of significant wins in her teenage years, not least at the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Liberec (CZE) in 2011, where she won gold in all three races on the card (10km individual, 6km sprint and the mixed relay). She left school that year and joined the national customs service club, which allowed her to focus all her energies on biathlon.
The German was 19 when she made her IBU World Cup debut in the 2012/13 season. That same winter, she won three medals at the Junior World Championships in Obertilliach (AUT), in the individual, sprint, and relay events. Her first taste of the Olympics was at Sochi 2014, which she described as a “brilliant” experience, recording a best performance of 13th in the individual.
In Neuner’s ski tracks
A keen hiker and climber in her free time, Dahlmeier very quickly followed in the tracks of Neuner, the winner of two Olympic gold medals and 12 world championship golds before her retirement at the age of 25. The Garmisch-born biathlete scored her first World Cup win in February 2015, in the sprint at Nové Město na Moravě (CZE). Building on that success, she won races in all formats before becoming world No.1 at the age of 23, on the back of her outstanding 2016/17 season.
Dahlmeier’s power on skis and her accuracy with the rifle make her the perfect anchor in relay races, proved throughout that glorious campaign. Even when she began her leg with a deficit to make up or missed a shot, she always managed to overtake her rivals, ensuring that her team went unbeaten all season. The German also knows when to conserve her energy and chose to sit out the World Cup meet on home snow in Oberhof in early January 2017. That deserved breather did not stop her from winning the crystal globe for the individual, an event in which she went unbeaten all winter.
Laura Dahlmeier was unable to compete in the first part of the 2017-2018 World Cup in Östersund because of a cold. But that just gave her more time to get into her stride, starting with a relay victory in Hochfllzen, again skiing the final leg, followed by all the steps of the podium at Le Grand-Bornand (France) from 14 to 16 December, just before the start of the Olympic year: second in the sprint, first in the pursuit and third in the mass start.
A build-up leading straight to the Olympic biathlon stadium in Alpensia as of 10 February, where she is set to be one of the stars of these 2018 Winter Games. She will have a chance in all six of her events, and if she shows the same form in the Republic of Korea that she did in 2017, she will be unbeatable.