Winter sports: Biathlon boom at its peak: Neuner’s special home World Cup

winter sports
Biathlon boom at its peak: Neuner’s special home World Cup

The German biathlete Magdalena Neuner runs past a sea of ​​flags during a race in 2012. photo

© Martin Schutt/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa/Archive image

The last Biathlon World Cup in Germany is all about Magdalena Neuner. She’s supposed to go for gold – and she does it. But a bad circumstance does not allow the home game to end as hoped.

Magdalena Neuner hasn’t watched every biathlon race for a long time. But the memories of the hype she once triggered with the climax of the gigantic home World Cup in 2012 in front of more than 215,000 spectators in Ruhpolding, she still has very clear memories.

“I was mentally prepared for a normal World Cup, of course the home World Cup and the big focus on me – but I could handle it well,” said the record world champion of the German Press Agency.

Biathlon Home World Championships in Oberhof

Eleven years later, Germany’s greatest hope for a medal, Denise Herrmann-Wick, is also hoping for a positive effect from her own audience at the World Cup home game in Oberhof, which begins on Wednesday. “You can always see pressure with two faces, positive and negative. If you are at peace with yourself, you can convert pressure into something positive,” said the 34-year-old. A “cool atmosphere” in Thuringia can do a lot, “so that athletes also grow beyond themselves. And everyone should approach it that way”.

The expectations will not be as extreme as they were eleven years ago in Bavaria at Neuner. Neuner was omnipresent, everyone just looked at “Gold-Lena”. Especially since it was clear that the then 25-year-old would end her career after that season. The exceptional performer did not feel the pressure as a burden. “It depends on how you approach the matter. You can prepare well for such situations and I believe that you can draw a lot of positive energy from a situation like a home World Cup,” said Neuner.

It was great to know that most of the fans support the German team. “I found it extremely motivating in Ruhpolding. The great atmosphere, if you can absorb it and draw something positive from it, it can be very inspiring,” said Neuner, who is only called that for the public. Her name has actually been Magdalena Holzer since her wedding in 2014.

“Outside influence” took a lot of strength

Even then, the two-time Olympic champion was one of the first to work with a mental coach. And it started out as hoped. She started with bronze in the mixed relay, followed by her triumph in front of tens of thousands of euphoric fans with gold in the sprint, and then she took silver in the pursuit. An additional 7.01 million people watched this race on German television – this is still a record outside of the Olympic Games. At that time, ARD and ZDF reached an average of 4.57 million TV viewers per race. Numbers that are now likely to be difficult to repeat.

But things didn’t go well for Neuner in the second week of the World Championships, 23rd in the individual, in the relay gold she was anything but in top form with one penalty loop and six spares and in the final mass start she missed six times in tenth place. The reason? The radiant woman of German winter sports was not prepared for one scenario – death threats against her. “From that point on, it was very, very difficult for me,” recalled Neuner, who thought at the time that the civilian police officers assigned to her were generally there for the German team.

“Then there was something from the outside that I didn’t even have in mind – that cost me a lot of strength. I couldn’t go into the stadium as freely and relaxed as before. And when you look at the pictures, you can you can also see relatively clearly when the time was when I ran out of strength,” Neuner said in retrospect. She no longer slept well, constantly had “funny thoughts”, and the extra ones for the dedicated bodyguards didn’t change anything.

Neuner is critical of social media

If someone made a joke, it was “really a bad one. And I’m glad nothing happened. The person probably already had a plan to throw me off the hook. He might have done that a bit , but not quite,” said the now three-time mother. The investigations came to nothing.

Unfortunately, it is now part of being a professional athlete that things like this could happen with a certain level of awareness. Back then, Neuner was the face of her sport, the biathlon boom at its peak. “I’m a bit sensitive there, so I’m glad that we didn’t have things like social media back then,” said Neuner, referring to hate comments on social media.

In Oberhof, before the start of the World Cup with the mixed relay on Wednesday (2.45 p.m. / ZDF and Eurosport), the eyes are now mainly on Herrmann-Wick. A maximum of 27,000 spectators can be there on the nine days of competition with a total of twelve title decisions; the numbers in Ruhpolding in 2012 were even higher. It will be difficult to achieve that – just like the medal yield of five times precious metal (2x gold, 1x silver, 1x bronze).


source site-2