The sport tires of absolute monarch athletes. He needs spice, duels. What would Anquetil have been without Poulidor, Prost without Senna, Federer without Nadal? Long unrivaled in biathlon, Martin Fourcade has been fighting for two years with Johannes Thingnes Bø. The Norwegian is the man who ended the ultradomination of the five-time Olympic champion. If the 2017-2018 season boiled down to a mano a mano between the two men, the Frenchman snatching his seventh World Cup in a row, with 89 small points ahead of his rival, the following edition was dominated by the Norwegian. Even crushed, as the youngest of the Bø brothers was untouchable, achieving the Grand Slam of biathlon: general classification of the World Cup and winner of the crystal globe in the four specialties (individual, sprint, pursuit and mass-start) , at the end of a season in which he has compiled 16 victories. Martin Fourcace’s record (14) beaten. The world championships which opened this Thursday in Antholz-Anterselva (Italy) should offer a new episode of the Fourcade-Bø match. The Norwegian fired first. His team won the mixed relay, far ahead of France, disappointing 7e.
The Stryn native, in western Norway, started winter 2019-2020 as he finished the previous one, on top. He won five times in the first seven individual events of the season. But after a full 2019, the World Cup title holder withdrew from the competition to witness the birth of his son Gustav, born on January 13. He returned to competition on January 23 at Pokljuka (Slovenia), the last meeting before the Worlds, after a month of absence. Conclusion: a victory over the individual and a third place over the mass-start. A resounding return which impresses Lionel Laurent, member of the staff of the France team. “It blew me away. I was amazed that he returned so quickly after a month without competition. It proves that he is extremely strong. “
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The French technician is impressed by the physical qualities of the Norwegian: “He goes very fast on skis.” An advantage confirmed by Kurt Haugli, sports journalist for the Norwegian daily Aftenposten: “Johannes has a huge physique. He is able to endure very large training sessions, in addition to competitions and numerous trips. He is hardly ever sick or injured, unlike his brother, who has often had bad seasons because of it. “
If he sometimes fired shooting in previous seasons, he now plays on equal terms with the best in the field. It has a 90% success ratio this year, compared to 85% in the last two years. It’s not as good as Martin Fourcade (92%), but it corresponds to the level of performance of the Frenchman, when he dominated the circuit without sharing, during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons. If its weak point “Remains the standing shot”, according to Lionel Laurent, there too he has progressed enormously: since last season, he has gone from 78% success to 90%. Performances which can be explained by the personality of Bø. “He is a cold and very calculating athlete, Kurt Haugli analyzes. Where his brother Tarjei can sometimes be fiery, Johannes keeps calm. ”
His strength also comes from those around him, according to the journalist specializing in biathlon. “I think the fact that he is a very balanced athlete is also linked to his private life. He married in 2018 to the one he calls the love of his life. He says having a family is a great inspiration. “ His serenity is also underlined by the staff of the Norwegian team. “Per Arne Botnan, the manager of the national team, has followed him throughout his career. For him, Johannes is much more mature now. ”
Holding the sprint title, Johannes Bø can look forward to a medal harvest in Italy. Associated with his brother, among others, he won the first Thursday under the benevolent eyes of their parents. “This is a very down to earth family. Their parents taught them to love sports and the outdoors, without ever pushing them to victory, says Kurt Haugli. Their mother, Aslaug, always says, “It’s fun when they win, but the most important thing is that they behave like good people.”