There will be four events at the Les Tuffes venue in Prémanon between 11 and 15 January: the individual, the sprint, the individual mixed relay and the team mixed relay. Johanna Puff is one of the eight biathletes in the German team, which will consist of four men and four women. Number one in her age category in her country, she is hoping to do well in all the events and if possible win medals.
Biathlon is a national sport in Germany, and the World Cup competitions attract thousands of spectators to Ruhpolding and Oberhof each year. On the women’s side, the history of this sport is marked by great names like Uschi Disl, Kati Wilhelm, Magdalena Neuner and Laura Dahlmeier, all of them multiple Olympic and world championship medallists. At the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), Franziska Preuss won three events in Innsbruck in 2012 (sprint, relay and mixed relay) and is now part of the German World Cup team. Bavaria’s 17-year-old Johanna Puff is Germany’s number one in her age group, and is hoping to follow in Preuss’ footsteps. Here, we speak to a young champion who is hoping to be on the podium in Prémanon!
How did you start biathlon?
My whole family are very sporty. I tried lots of different sports, and at the age of seven, I started cross-country skiing. Then at 14, I moved to biathlon. It wasn’t easy to make the transition, as the shooting part is complicated. There are two very different aspects to the event: once you get to the shooting range, you have to concentrate and get your breath back!
What have your best results been?
This year, I won the German national championship in my age category. I train at Ruhpolding, one of Germany’s top biathlon venues, and I belong to the Bayrischzell SC ski club in Upper Bavaria, close to the border with Austria. I was 17 on 2 July.
Do you have any role models or heroes?
Yes, Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bø. He’s great at both skiing and shooting! He inspires me, and I’d like to achieve the same results as him.
You’re going to be taking part in the Lausanne YOG. What does that mean to you?
It’s a great honour. My goal this year was to qualify for Lausanne 2020. It’s really great, and now I’m going to do my best in my races and represent Germany the best I can. It’ll be a fantastic experience, and I’m going to try to do well in all the events. We’ll see how that goes, but a medal would be really great!
Plus it’s your first big world event…
It’ll be great to meet athletes from all different countries, compete against them in my sport and discover other sports!
Is there a particular biathlon event that you prefer?
I prefer the sprint, as there are only two shooting rounds. Shooting is still an issue for me. But I also like the direct competition, like in the pursuit or the mass start.
Who do you see as being your main rivals?
I think the Norwegians and French will be very strong, as they always are. But I don’t really know much about them. At international level, I’ve so far taken part in the Alpen Cup with athletes from Switzerland, Austria and Germany. I’ve not yet competed against biathletes from other countries.
What are your goals for the future?
My main aim is to have fun doing my sport. Apart from that, I’ll finish school next year, and I’d then like to join the Police sports team. There’s a whole support system, with coaches, and many German athletes take this route to train.
Can you see yourself at the World Cup and the Olympic Games?
I think it’ll be very difficult to get that far! In the meantime, I’m very grateful to my family and all my coaches, who always help me achieve the best possible results.
Do you follow international results?
Of course. I watch the World Cup. I saw Benedikt Doll win the sprint at Le Grand Bornand on 19 December, and I was very pleased for him. He’s a great guy, and I really like him! I don’t know the other biathletes in the German team personally, but I follow their careers.