“Alter Schwede!”: Samuelsson takes gold in the mass start

“Alter Schwede!”: Samuelsson takes gold in the mass start

With the last shot, Johannes Thingnes Boe missed the sixth gold medal in the mass start of Oberhof, but still wrote sports history at the BMW IBU Biathlon World Championships 2023.

Never before, a biathlete has been that successful at a World Championship than the mass start Olympic Champion from Beijing. Five times gold, once silver and now bronze in the final race at the “Rennsteig” – a crazy result. Seven medals in seven starts, that has never happened before. In the duel of the 30 best athletes in the World Cup so far and at the World Championships however, two Swedes were better in front of 23.500 enthusiastic spectators in the sold-out “ARENA am Rennsteig”. The DSV athletes missed the top ten clearly. Justus Strelow landed on 3th place as the best German.

From the start, Sebastian Samuelsson who won already three times bronze at these World Championships, and Martin Ponsiluoma  were in the front of the field. Samuelsson had already shot clear three times when they approached the final shooting, Ponsiluoma had to go twice into the penalty loop up to that point. The Boeminator as well missed once at each prone shooting, however kept on sprinting towards the front of the field in the following laps to become again one with his weapon at the first standing shooting and showed one of his famous rapid-fire shootings at the right time. His team mate and defending champion Sturla Holm Laegreid could also bring himself into position with only one penalty loop up to the final shooting.


Showdown in the fourth shooting

And that was the duel in the final shooting: two Swedes against two Norwegians. Johannes Thingnes Boe shot again fast, but of all times the disk at the final shot remained white. Laegreid as well hat to do 150 extra metres. The skiers in the blue-yellow outfits did a better job. Samuelsson stayed also in his fourth shooting clear, Ponsiluoma as well. The fight between four quickly turned into a fight between three on the last lap. Boe went with a backlog of about seven seconds to the Swedes on the final loop. Samuelsson and Ponsiluoma kept up the pace and unleashed skied towards their double-victory.

The Norwegian superstar, who already had to compensate two penalty loops compared to Samuelsson could not close the gap to the Swedes and even had to let them go further. Samuelsson, who had 300 metres less in his legs, could shake off his compatriot quickly and secured his first ever World Champion title and with that his fourth medal in Oberhof. Ponsiluoma finished 9.6 seconds and took after the second place at the Olympic Games in Beijing in the mass start, silver in the same discipline at the World Championships in Oberhof. The German coach of the Swedes, Johannes Lukas, could barely put his luck into words: “It is indescribable what is happening here. I have no words”, he says with truly raspy voice.

“Johannes Thingnes Boe did not look that strong anymore on the final lap. I said from the beginning, that we want to keep up the pace”, the strong skier Sebastian Samuelsson revealed his tactic afterwards. “I noticed that the others missed target and caught up to me. I wanted to do my own race, hit all targets. That way I still had enough energy at the end”, says the new mass start World Champion. “This was the best race of my career.” And a very good strategy: “I skied very fast in the first laps and then could not give any more when Sebastian was speeding up. At the same time, I was under pressure because Johannes came behind me”, analysed the fellow Swede Ponsiluoma the race.

Johannes Thingnes Boe already made peace with the bronze medal in the final phase of the race and ran home the third place with a gap of 38.8 seconds. He can now take home all colours  that a set of medals has to offer. Whether he would see himself in a league with Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, he was asked afterwards. “No, we are still biathletes, you cannot compare that”, says the friendly Boeminator with the usual modesty.

Justus Strelow, maybe the most constant German at the World Championship commented his 13th rank: “The race was hard. The speed was high from the start, at least for me. This miss at the final shooting is annoying. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a theme.” Roman Rees finished with two misses on 18th place. Johannes Kühn (5) and Benedikt Doll (6) had too many penalty loops and finished in place 21 and 26.