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New year, new opportunities!

I ended 2023 spending Christmas with my boyfriend, brothers, and parents in Livigno, and then competing at the Biathlon Team Challenge auf Schalke, which is a show race inside the Schalke 04 football stadium. The event was an amazing experience and I'll never forget the electric atmosphere created by having so many spectators so close to the arena. The entire concept is exciting and it was a wonderful way to finish the year. 

On New Year's Eve I was in Oberhof as it is the site of 2024's first world cup races. I traveled there immediately following the event in Schalke to get settled into a good rhythm before starting the world cup circus again. In Oberhof I raced the sprint and the pursuit, finishing 22nd and 26th respectively. My shape was good, especially in the pursuit, but I couldn't quite get the targets to fall on the shooting range. The plan is to work on some small details with my rifle, which weren't quite right, towards the next races. Overall, I'm satisfied with my weekend, though not necessarily the results. Oberhof has never been my favorite track, so taking this into consideration there are positives that I'll take with me to Rupholding and Anterselva, two tracks that suit me a bit better. It was nice to experience that the training I did after catching corona in Lenzerheide was working and that the body has responded well, especially because much of my recovery took place at high altitude in Livigno.. So far it seems like everything has turned out positively!

At the time of writing I am on my way from Oberhof to Rupholding for the next round of world cup races--hopefully the next blog entry will include some good results!

Biathlon auf Schalke. Photo: Kevin Voigt

Altitude camp and Belgian championships

After 5 and a half weeks on tour I am back in Lillehammer. I started this year's "summer holiday" with a successful altitude camp in Bessans, France. The first ten days were under the national team management, after that most of the athletes extended their altitude stay with a couple of days, and the last week I spent alone. In total, I stayed 'high' for 25 days. It was very instructive to see how my body reacted to altitude training. I experienced how important it is to go slow enough during training and to check feeling and pulse with lactate measurements. It took me approximately a week to get accustomed to the altitude, I could verify this with HRV measurements, my resting pulse and pulse on training normalized, and I felt more "fresh" in everyday life. Then we could train normal again and start with harder sessions. Bessans is located right next to the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps, the Col de l' Iseran (2770 m). We had many trips up there, both on roller skis and bicycles, with low and high intensity, perfect for working on one of my weaknesses, the V2 skate technique.

On my way up to Col de l`Iseran

After 25 days in Bessans, I stayed 5 days in beautiful Les Contamines-Montjoie to re-acclimate before a new training camp and the Belgian Championships.

We started the camp in Elsenborn with the Belgian championship which consisted of two days of competitions, sprint on Saturday followed by mass start on Sunday. The French B- team also participated and gave us a good fight until the finish. This was the first test this year to put together what we have been training for all summer, and for me there were many positive answers. I ended up taking home the victory and becoming Belgian champion. We were in Elsenborn just over a week before it was time to go home and recharge the batteries for the last training period before the season starts!

Belgian champion!

Summer update

Soon we are approaching the middle of July and the training season is well underway. A big change for my training this season is that the Belgian team is offering many more training camps throughout the whole training year. This will help to build team spirit and create a cohesive training philosophy all the way from the base training period into the race season! We are working hard towards building up the women's team, and the goal is to compete at the Olympic relay in Anterselva in 2026. One step along the way is to hopefully participate in a relay at the world cup during this upcoming season. I am very excited to be an active part in building something new, and I am grateful for the opportunity that the Belgian federation has given me and the other women on the team to achieve something never done before for our country. 

We have already completed two training camps, one in Belgium and another in France, which is also the destination for our next camp right around the corner. This time we will be going to Bessans, France, for the first altitude camp of the year. This season I will include altitude training in my plan, and I will stay in Bessans for three weeks. I’m looking forward to adapting to the thin air and to putting in the hard work needed these upcoming months!

Practice, practice and practice at the shooting range

The season 2022/23

Another eventful season has come to an end. It is time for a summary.

After very good training in the spring, summer and autumn, I felt well prepared for the start of the season. Admittedly, I caught a cold close to the “sesongstart” at Sjusjøen, so I only did one race there to carefully build up my body for the World Cup opening instead. I came in third at Sjusjøen, which exceeded all expectations and gave me the confirmation that the work I had put in this year was good.

The first race in the World Cup was the Individual in Kontiolahti and here I managed the feat of shooting 20 hits and with that my first top 10 result was a fact! A big goal this season, so it was very rewarding to manage to do so this early in the season. In the next World Cup round in Hochfilzen, I delivered a career best in the sprint race with 15th place and a short way up to the best. Here I also felt that my shape was becoming a lot better, and I had high hopes for the pursuit. Unfortunately, I cracked on the first standing shooting and was very disappointed. At the same time, there have not been many occasions that I could enter the shooting lanes this far to the right during a pursuit. Probably felt a bit of pressure.. The last weekend before Christmas offered very strange conditions on the track in Le Grand Bornand, which I was not quite able to solve well enough. This left me as the first substitute for the mass start. But no one chose to pass, so unfortunately no mass start for me. Small margins..

During the Christmas break, I first had a good rest at my grandparents' in Belgium before I went to Lillehammer to put in a strong training period.

In the new year, the World Cup started again in Slovenian Pokljuka. As expected after a lot of training at the end of the Christmas break, I wasn't in my best shape yet. But, race by race, my body gradually got better, which meant that I had high hopes and expectations for the remaining World Cup rounds before the WC. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving in Ruhpolding, I fell ill and tested positive for covid-19. This was a hard candy to swallow and I was uncertain for several weeks whether my body would be able to return to its old good shape this season.

I tried to focus on the things I could do something about and opened the world championships in Oberhof beyond all expectations. 21st place in the sprint was my best position this championship and I am very proud of that achievement. During the championships I quickly felt that my body did not respond as normal both during and after the competitions, so the last races were hard, both physically and mentally. But all in all, I was just happy that I had made it to the start again.

After a short trip home to recharge the batteries as best as possible it was time for the last trimester of the season. In Nove Mesto, my body was still unrecognizable and after talking to the coach, we decided to try out a different training method at the end of the season to see if this could have a positive effect on my shape. And it did, so on the last sprint in Holmenkollen I finally had the feeling that I could push my body again over a longer period. And that feeling continued when I participated in the Norwegian Championships in Alta a week later. But, it can be like this in biathlon: when the physical part starts to loosen, the shooting doesn't quite fit anymore, so in terms of results, my performance wasn't quite perfect. In any case, I will take with me the feeling of a growing physical shape into the season break in April.

Photo: Kevin Voigt

World Championships Oberhof - week 2

All of a sudden the season’s big goal, the World Championships, is over. It has been two very nice weeks filled with a good atmosphere in the Belgian team, action filled and hard competitions, the best family encouraging me all the way, and an incredible ambience alongside the tracks. The German audience sure knows how to cheer us athletes on!

Week two of the World Championships was sportively not a good experience for me. In the individual race I immediately felt that my body didn't respond as I wanted and that hit me as soon as I started up the Birxsteig, the biggest hill on the course, for the first time. But, knowing that the shooting has a big impact on the result, I tried to push the pain aside and focus on hitting targets instead. Unfortunately, I missed three on the first standing shooting and knew that my hopes of a good result were over. I was very shaky in the standing position, something I get quite often when my body is not feeling so well physically. So, the race ended up being a fight with my thoughts the last three laps as I have never been so close to not finishing a race as I was at this moment. However, I have never quit a race before and I was too stubborn to do it at the World Championships, so I just persevered to the finish line. I didn’t have long to be down about the result afterwards, because the next day I was racing again in the single mixed relay.

Single mix is a very speedy discipline, both at the track and at the shooting range. I absolutely felt all of this speed, especially with all of the audience creating an atmosphere that ensured the adrenaline level was at the maximum. Luckily my body felt a bit better than the day before, and at the shooting range I only used three spare shots. Quite happy with that as I really focused on increasing my shooting speed. Because the laps are so short in the single mixed relay, shooting time makes up a bigger part of the total race time and it really pushes you to go into attack mode on the range. I managed to clean my last shooting in 20 seconds, which is one of my fastest ever in competition – it’s a really good feeling to finally do so in a race and not only in training. My teammate, Florent, was not so lucky at the shooting range and had to visit the penalty loop, and in the end we finished in 17th position. 

And with that it was time to bid adieu to Oberhof as the World Championships were over for me. Of course I am disappointed that I could not qualify for the mass start, but thinking of how my shape was during corona only a few weeks earlier, I can’t be too hard on myself. I now need to refocus, give my body a bit more time to recover, and get ready for the last trimester of the World Cup season!

Photo: Kevin Voigt

World championships Oberhof - week 1

14th, 21st and 35th place are the results of the first week of the world championships. Quite happy with those.

I had the honour of racing the first leg at the mixed relay, and was able to do the job at the shooting range  as I didn't use any spare shots. I really like to race relays but it is not often that I have run a first leg in the best company, since we do not have our own girls' team and have only run a few mixed relays. That's why I was quite nervous, in addition to the fact that it was the first competition in the world championships. But the body responded rather well and I was able to enjoy the atmosphere along the tracks.

The day after the mixed relay, there was no competition, and I really appreciated that. My body still needs time to recover, so the day after the relay was spent mostly in bed and with a little bit of training, to recharge the batteries for the sprint race the following day. And fortunately my body had recovered quite well and I ended up obtaining this season's second best sprint result! Hit all the targets and fought my way through, to finish in 21st place. Definitely beyond all expectations after the troubled run-up to these championships, it meant a lot! That also confirmed that I have made good plans and decisions during the training phase after covid and that my body is starting to get back in business again!

The good sprint result gave me some expectations for the pursuit race. Unfortunately not my day as I both struggled to see the targets properly in the fog, chose the wrong ski's and my body didn't feel so fresh. Crossing my fingers I've collected all the bad performances in one competition and am now charging up for week two here at the world championships in Oberhof, with the individual race coming up on Wednesday and the single-mix relay on thursday. And maybe I can qualify for the masstart on Sunday, depending on my result at the individual. 

Openingceremony. Photo: Kevin Voigt

A little Bump in the Road

Unfortunately, following the first Belgian top 10 in a mixed relay, I soon after began to feel sick upon arriving in Ruhpolding. A quick test later and I was met with the bad news that I had caught the coronavirus. As soon as I began to feel well enough to travel, I did just that and traveled to Lillehammer to rest and recover.

 At the time of writing, I have been slowly increasing my training volume and intensity, building up after the time I was away from training, and listening to my body to determine how quickly the legs and lungs are coming back after the virus. It still isn’t training as normal, but the body has been feeling good during training which is good news! However, I notice that I need to focus on recovery outside of training sessions as I can certainly feel that the energy levels are lower than normal given my training load.

While my physical training load isn’t fully at 100% yet, I’ve still been able to improve myself as an athlete and to focus extra on the small things that will help me become a better biathlete. The reduced training hours have allowed me more time to train with my rifle, as well as to perform balance exercises and technique training drills that will hopefully pay off once the body is firing again on all cylinders 💪

I’ll do everything I can to get back into racing shape by the World Championships, but I must be patient and take the time that it takes to overcome this virus and get back to my best. Cross your fingers for me that this has blown over by the time my toes touch the starting line next Wednesday, but no matter what, I’ll give it everything I’ve got!

Looking forward to wearing a bib again. Photo: Kevin Voigt

Belgium top 10 in mixed relay

So wow, what an achievement! We had the last bib (24) because we haven't been able to participate in the mixed relay for a long time, and ended up in 10th place. And that with a big accident along the way when Thierry Langer fell and broke his rifle (fortunately it went well with him), which meant that we lost a lot of time on the final result.

In total, the whole team only used 2 spare shots and was the best team of all at the shooting range. A perfect performance before the WCH in Oberhof!

Photo: Kevin Voigt fotografie

Christmas break

And just like that the first trimester was over and the christmas vacation well underway. A short summary of the first trimester: a lot of good and stable races, solid shooting performances and world cup points in every race. I have not been in my best physical shape but I am trying to find it for the new year. Sadly I missed the masstart in Le Grand Bornand with 1 poor point, talk about margins..
The first week of the christmas break was spent in Belgium with my family. Here I could train well, but without snow, so went back to the basics and autumn training. Now I have traveled to Lillehammer and winter for the last preparations before going back to racing again. 

Photo: Kevin Voigt Fotografie

The party has started!

After a long break it is absolutely time for an update here, and the goal is to keep you a bit more updated in the upcoming months :)
Because now the season has started, and I am on my way to Le Grand Bornand for the last competition week before the christmas break. The start of the season has been awesome, managed to hit 20/20 and get a new personal best result with a 10th place at the very first race of the season in Kontiolahti. That gave me the self confidence that I needed and the confirmation that my training this year has been good and that I have become better. I also achieved a new personal best in the sprint in Hochfilzen with a 15th place. Which gave me a very good start position before the pursuit, and with 10/10 in prone it looked very good. Unfortunately it was not my day at the shooting range in the standing position, where I missed four already on the first shooting.. Shit happens.. That's why I am very motivated and ready to take my revenge on the next race. Friday it begins for me, with a sprint race in France, cross your fingers and follow it!

Photo: Nordicfocus