Johannes Thingnes Bö crossed the finish line, wiping sweat beads from his brow symbolically. Yes, it was required of them. Marte Olsbu Röiseland, his teammate, ran up to him, spread her arms, and threw herself around his neck as soon as he crossed the finish line. Norway has won yet another gold medal. However, it was not just one of many Norwegian gold medals at the Oberhof Biathlon World Championships. It was Bö’s fifth appearance at this event and Röiseland’s 13th – and a special one at that.
Marte Olsbu Röiseland has been the world champion for the longest time. The Norwegian replaced German biathlon legend Magdalena Neuner by winning the single-mixed relay in a duet with Bö. Neuner, 35, a mother of three, has held the women’s record with twelve titles since retiring in 2012. At the time, the single-mixed relay format had not yet been invented. It has only been going on since 2019. A new high? “I had no idea until I heard it after the race in the mixed zone,” Röiseland explained. “Magdalena was a fantastic biathlete, and it feels great to have surpassed her.”
At this World Cup in Thuringia, Röiseland, the wife of Germany’s women’s assistant coach Sverre Olsbu Röiseland, performs as she is known. But it was not expected that she would be able to perform her skills like this again – or at all. It’s a rebirth for this woman who vanished after winning nearly everything there was to win.
Röiseland becomes infected with Corona and develops shingles, delaying her return.
Röiseland had three great sporting years: in 2020, she won medals in all seven races in Antholz, five of which were gold. Two years later, she added three Olympic gold medals to her collection in Beijing. She was the undisputed world champion in biathlon at the time. She had put a lot of strain on herself and her body. Then something happened. The coronavirus infected the 31-year-old just a month after the games in Beijing, which were meticulously guarded.
He was said to have recovered at first. But this was only partially correct. Röiseland repeatedly complained about discomfort and pain. Despite this, she began preparing for the 2022/23 season, only to become ill with herpes zoster in September 2022. As a result, her return was repeatedly postponed. She did not compete in the World Cups in Kontiolahti, Hochfilzen, Annecy, or Le Grand-Bornand.
Sverre, her husband, hinted at how she was doing at the time. “She was frequently alone and had to work alone,” he said. He also made minor allegations against the Norwegian association, which he felt did not support the athlete sufficiently. His wife “didn’t get the help she should have gotten from the association,” according to her husband. She levelled an accusation. It a bit “it feels like I’ve been left out”.
Neuner hands over the record to Röiseland.
Oberhof now has two gold medals and one bronze. It was as if nothing had happened. The mass start and relay will take place later. Röiseland is now 32 years old, and it appears that she will soon be able to add “most successful athlete at the Oberhof World Championships” to her long list of accomplishments. Magdalena Neuner will no longer obstruct her. The Wallgauer is displeased with the Norwegian’s new title record. “Marte replacing me isn’t a problem for me. Time does not stand still, and I am delighted for her “Neuner stated. “She is a fantastic athlete who fully deserves the title.”
Of course, a Norwegian also holds the men’s record. “Mr Biathlon” Ole Einar Björndalen will remain in Oberhof, but he will not be able to add to his 20 World Championship titles. He’s now starting as a TV expert, completely unarmed. The situation is different for Röiseland’s teammate Johannes Thingnes Bö, who now has 17 titles after his fifth gold in Oberhof and is the first biathlete to win six (or even seven) gold medals in a row.
Röiseland can still win four World Cups this year. Few would have believed her capable of such feats just a few months ago. As expected, her body reacted to the stress only shortly before Christmas. She’d told Björndalen’s employer, TV2, about it. “I was very excited when my body started working again,” Marte Olsbu Röiseland said as if she had known what she would soon be able to do again.
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