BEIJING, 4 February (BelTA - China Daily). - The battle for gold in the Beijing 2022 biathlon competition appears to be wide open after a host of talented athletes produced promising performances this season.
Among the champions from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games looking to retain their Olympic titles later this month is Hanna Oberg. The Swede, who will again go for gold in the women's 15-kilometer individual race, finished second at the 2021 Biathlon World Championships in Slovenia, but currently sits fifth in the overall World Cup standings.
On the men's side, Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway is a major medal contender despite some inconsistent form of late. He won the relay and mixed relay titles at the 2021 worlds as well as the overall World Cup title, in both 2020 and 2021. He has yet to find his top form this season, however, and is currently placed fifth in the overall World Cup standings.
Other gold-medal winners from the 2018 Games have also seen their form fluctuate.
Sweden's Sebastian Samuelsson was placed fourth in the overall World Cup standings, an improvement on last season's sixth place. He won silver in the pursuit race at the Pyeongchang Games and was a member of the gold-winning relay team.
Quentin Fillon Maillet, a veteran French biathlete, currently tops this season's World Cup standings. His teammate Emilien Jacquelin sits the second in the World Cup standings, making Team France a formidable force despite the retirement of five-time Olympic champion Martin Fourcade.
Team China could spring some surprises with former top biathletes Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway and Darya Domracheva of Belarus the head coaches of the men's and women's teams respectively. China has secured a total of eight places for the Games.
A number of contenders have no Olympic experience but boast strong World Cup results this season, including Jake Brown and Paul Schommer of the United States.
Two Belarussians, Dzinara Alimbekava and Hanna Sola, have taken turns on the podium this season and promise strong performances in Beijing.
Elvira Oberg, Hanna's younger sister, has shot to prominence this season with impressive ski speed and shooting accuracy. She took gold in both the pursuit and mass start races in France this season and currently sits third in the overall standings.
Russia's Said Karimulla Khalili won bronze in the relay at the 2021 worlds to give him confidence for his debut Olympic Games in Beijing. "It is a good step before the Olympics. It will be important that I can assure myself that I can fight for good places," he said after securing his first World Cup podium spot in Antholz, Italy.