Magdalena Neuner wins overall World Cup at age 21

16.03.2008, Holmenkollen / Tom KLEIN, productions
Never before has a biathlete this young won the overall World Cup. At just 21 years of age, Magdalena Neuner arrived at the Olympus of World Cup Biathlon. Ninth place in the season-ending Mass Start sufficed for the speed queen from Germany to secure the big crystal ball, the trophy that comes with winning the overall title. She also received two smaller trophies for her victories in the Sprint and the Mass Start disciplines.

When Neuner arrived at the finish, she followed her routine of getting out of the bindings – not a trace of any exuberant jubilation here. The young German who made her World Cup debut only two and a half years ago, had hoped for the race to proceed a little differently than it eventually did. But the nervousness before the race was almost palpable: ""I don’t even like the tension... and the race started kind of like the last race last season."

However, the stress abated somewhat as the race went along. Neuner was even up in third place before the final shooting session: "I was not afraid of the final shooting session. I knew that the gap between Sandrine and me was relatively big."
Sandrine Bailly was Neuner’s last remaining rival in the fight for the overall title, but the Frenchwoman was unable to muster enough power today and finished only three spots ahead of Neuner – not enough to make up her 20-second deficit. That was just a little bit too much", said Bailly. "I am a little sad, but Magdalena has the great advantage that she can have a lot of penalties and still be good."

In the final shooting session, though, Neuner was also "really tired, and that had an effect on my shooting. I did my best on the last lap."

Uwe Muessiggang, the coach of the German womens’ team, showed his respect: "I take my hat off to Magdalena about ten times today."

Neuner herself will need a bit of time to come to terms with the recent events: "I think I will need a while to understand all of this – especially winning the overall World Cup. A next highlight would definitely be a medal at the next Olympic games. But there is still quite a bit of time until then."

Pictures by Christian Manzoni