Biathlon is back! Who to watch in the 2018/19 IBU World Cup season
The wait is over for fans of biathlon.
The IBU World Cup season begins on Sunday 2 December in Pokljuka, Slovenia, with the first of nine stops.
The elite calendar also includes the World Championships in Oestersund, Sweden, taking place from 7-17 March 2019.
All eyes on Martin
Martin Fourcade will be the man to beat again after clinching the overall title for the last seven seasons.
By doing so the French star eclipsed Ole Einar Bjorndalen and Magdalena Forsberg's score of six crowns.
In 2017/2018, the 30-year-old stepped on the podium in 20 of 21 individual competitions that he started and recorded his fourth crystal sweep (total score plus the four discipline trophies), the third in a row.
At PyeongChang 2018, the 11-time world champion added three gold medals to his growing resume, becoming the most successful French Olympian in history with five.
A one-two race?
Johannes Thingnes Boe was the only man who could challenge Fourcade last season and even wore the overall leader's yellow bib for one event.
The 25-year-old Norwegian battled it out with the seven-time champion taking nine World Cup victories and conceded defeat only at the end, coming second in all the standings. The highlight for him came from winning his first Olympic gold in the 20km individual in South Korea.
Fourcade is under no illusions of the Norwegian's threat, telling Le Dauphine SkiChrono: "I will watch everyone, but except for a big surprise, he will be the most dangerous."
Boe, who just got married over the summer, will be Norway's biggest star along with his big brother Tarjei, following the retirement of 'King of Biathlon' Bjorndalen and Emil Hegle Svendsen.
There's also a bunch of Olympic medallists worth keeping an eye on.
Slovenia's Jakov Fak ended last season strongly and had a solid summer of training behind him.
Czech Republic's Michal Krcmar is looking to build on his PyeongChang 10km sprint silver, while Russian star Anton Shipulin - who placed second or third in the World Cup total score over the past four seasons - is recovering and will be back competing later in the season.
In the women's field, reigning overall champion Kaisa Makarainen and Anastasiya Kuzmina are expected to renew their rivarly.
The 35-year-old Finn took her third big crystal globe in the final mass start race of the season beating the Slovakian in Tyumen, Russia.
Kuzmina could find consolation with her first sprint and pursuit globes and in PyeongChang became the first female biathlete to win Olympic gold in three consecutive Games.
With the retirement of four-time Olympic champion Darya Domracheva, this could be the season for other contenders to shine, such as Olympic medallists Dorothea Wierer of Italy and Veronika Vitkova of Czech Republic.
Where is Laura?
Double-Olympic champion Laura Dahlmeier will miss the start of the season.
The 25-year-old has been fighting with injuries and illnesses and just recently resumed moderate training. She has ruled out competing in 2018.
The 2016/2017 World Cup champion hopes to find her form back later in the season and will probably focus on the IBU World Champs in March, where she aims to defend her five titles.
The 2018/19 IBU World Cup calendar:
- Pokljuka, Slovenia 2/12/2018-9/12/2018
- Hochfilzen, Austria 13/12/2018-16/12/2018
- Nove Mesto, Czech Republic 20/12/2018-23/12/2018
- Oberhof, Germany 10/1/2019-13/1/2019
- Ruhpolding, Germany 16/1/2019-20/1/2019
- Antholz-Anterselva, Italy 24/1/2019-27/1/2019
- Canmore, Canada 7/2/2019-10/2/2019
- Salt Lake City, USA 14/2/2019-17/2/2019
- Oestersund, Sweden (IBU World Championships Biathlon) 7/3/2019-17/3/2019
- Oslo Holmenkollen, Norway 21/3/2019-24/3/2019