As the Biathlon World Cup series moves into its Christmas hiatus, it is an ideal time to review the state of play.
The third round of the World Cup has been run and won with some very interesting results in both the men’s and women’s competitions.
The beginning of the season promised to be the most open in some years. Tora Berger (Norway) has featured on the podium in most races so far. Berger leads the overall World Cup point score with 388 points.
Second in the points tally is Gabriela Soukalova (Czech Republic). Soukalova, who finished 93rd in the World Cup last season, is proving to be a bit of a dark horse this season with three podium finishes including her maiden World Cup win.
Miriam Gössner of Germany is in third. Gössner has surprised with her ski speed which has allowed her to stay in touch with the leaders despite indifferent form on the rifle range.
Andrea Henkel (Germany) and Darya Domracheva (Belarus) round out the top five.
The Russians have shown very patchy form but are traditionally slow starters. I wouldn’t write off Olga Zaitseva or Olga Vilikuna just yet.
Kaisa Mäkäräinen (Finland) has shown good speed across the snow but has struggled in the shooting and is currently in 12th.
Krystyna Palka (Poland), Nadezhada Skardino (Belarus) and Marie Dorin-Habert are knocking on the door of the top five.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Martin Fourcade (France) leads the tally with 392 points.
Fourcade was blistering in the opening rounds but faded to finish with two third places and a fourth in the third round. The time off could not have come at a better time for Fourcade.
Emile Hegler Svendsen (Norway) is in second place on 307 points with Andrea Birnbacher (Germany) third on 293. Evgeny Ustugov (Russia) and Jakov Fak (Slovenia) complete the top five.
A number of the pre-season favourites are struggling, but with six rounds to go there is time for a late season recovery.
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (Norway) has started to recover some of his magic, which was missing last season, although currently in 19th he is showing enough form to be encouraging. He is chasing his 94th World Cup win.
The next World Cup round kicks off in Oberhof, Germany on January 3rd with the Women’s 4x6km relay.