Norwegian Tora Berger is seeking golden finale in Sochi
A fixture on every podium at the 2013 IBU Biathlon World Championships and the winner of a stunning World Cup grand slam the same season, Norway’s Tora Berger is one of the big favourites for the women’s biathlon events at Sochi, where she is hoping for a gilt-edged finale to a glittering career.
Tora Berger made a little bit of history in winning the 15km individual event at Vancouver 2010, becoming Norway’s first Olympic women’s biathlon champion in the process and securing the country’s 100th Olympic Winter Games gold medal. Norway, which hosted the 1952 and 1994 Winter Games, is the first country to achieve that milestone.
Though she had recorded a handful of IBU World Cup wins in the previous three years, Vancouver 2010 marked the start of a period of domination for Berger, one she is looking to continue at Sochi 2014.
“I started competing in cross-country when I was seven years old,” she explained. “When I was about 18 I started to think that I could have a long sporting career. I started to practise shooting more seriously, more than once a week. I wasn’t very good at it before, but I got a lot better. I’ve also become a little bit stronger on the tracks too, which has increased my chances of success. All of a sudden I don’t need to shoot clean all the time.”
It was during the 2010/11 season that the 32-year-old from Ringerike began to enjoy sustained success in the sprint, pursuit, individual and mass start events. The younger sister of biathlete and cross-country skier Lars Berger, she raised her game even higher the following season to win the 12.5km mass start and 15km individual titles at the IBU Biathlon World Championships in Rupolding (GER).
The Midas touch
The best was yet to come At the 2103 World Championships in Nove Mesto (CZE), she made it onto the podium in every event she entered, winning gold in the 15km individual, pursuit, 4x6km relay and mixed relay event and landing silver in the mass start and the sprint. During the same season she secured nine World Cup victories, to emulate French biathlete Martin Fourcade’s historic grand slam in the men’s World Cup and bag all five FIS crystal globes on offer.
“I’ve got one goal left to achieve and then I’m going to call time on my biathlon career,” she explains. I’m trying to get even better this winter and I’m putting a lot of time into it,” she added. “The Olympic Winter Games are on my mind the whole time. Sochi is my goal this season.”
To help with her with that task she can count on the support of her young Norwegian team-mates, with whom she has been sharing her vast experience: “I feel like I’m getting younger!” she enthuses. “We have a lot of fun together. I’m trying to help them reach the top.”
As motivated as she has always been, the hard-training Berger will again be a genuine contender for honours in every event she enters at Sochi 2014.