Pokljuka hosts Biathlon World Cup as prologue to 2021 worlds
Pokljuka, 23 January - A Biathlon World Cup meet will be held at Pokljuka between Thursday and Sunday which could decide the overall winner of the competition. It will also serve as a test for next year's Biathlon World Championships, which is expected to be the largest winter sport event in the country ever.
The venue, located on a high plateau in the Triglav National Park in north-western Slovenia, will be the sixth stop in a total of nine meets in the Biathlon World Cup caravan this season.
It is expected that the French and Norwegians, who account for eight out of the top ten competitors in the current men's competition standings, will continue their battle for World Cup primacy.
The top three ranked competitors are France's Martin Fourcade (447 points), Quentin Fillon Maillet (436) and Simon Desthieux (435), followed by Norway's Johannes Thingnes Boe (374), who is returning to competition after a father's leave.
The Slovenian team is looking to make progress, especially in the men's relay. Only Jakov Fak is doing well in the individual ranking, but even he is not satisfied with the current 15th place overall.
In the women's competition, Norway's Tiril Eckhoff (501 points) and last year's winner, Dorothea Wierer of Italy (459), are expected to continue their fight for first place, with the remaining competitors lagging far behind.
Slovenian female competitors are still looking to score their first points, which will be difficult to achieve even at the home venue, as they are not projected to finish among the top 30 in any of the events.
The four-day festival will start on Thursday with a men's 20km individual competition, followed by a women's 15km individual event on Friday.
Saturday is reserved for a single mixed relay and a 4x7.5km mixed relay, with the meet wrapping up on Sunday with a men's 15km mass start and a women's 12.5km mass start competitions.
Slovenian team head coach Uroš Velepec said that the "first individual event could be our flagship discipline, as we have excellent shooters."
Women's team coach Andreja Mali added that "the girls are also ready for the fight". "They have had some very good performances. Friday's event is a shooting event and I would like to see them a bit more accurate than so far."
The meet will be the last chance for competitors to test their form ahead of the World Championships in Italy's Antholz-Anterselva on 12-23 February, and a test for the organisers at Pokljuka for the 2021 World Championships.
While some 15,000 to 20,000 people are expected to show up this week, next year's World Championship at Pokljuka, to be held on 11-21 February, is expected to attract 130,000 spectators.
Returning to Slovenia after 19 years, it is expected to be the largest winter sport event in the country ever.