Sturla Holm Lægreid is definitely the discovery of this year’s biathlon season. The 23-year-old, who will turn 24 on Saturday, competed in the IBU World Cup for the first-time last year, and this season is his first when he is a permanent member of the Norwegian national team at the major international competitions.
The new World Champion in the longest race of the IBU World Championships Biathlon in Pokljuka is on fire this season. At the highest level of IBU competitions, World Cups and World Championships, he has competed three times in the individual race so far and each time reached the top three: he became World Champion and recorded one victory and second place in the World Cup.
He competed in the Norwegian Cup last season, and his good results at the European Championships in Minsk gave him the opportunity to start in the IBU World Cup in Czech Republic, where he replaced the ill Erlend Bjøntegaard. Thanks to good results, he earned an invitation to the senior A team after last season.
He grabbed the opportunity with both hands and won medals in the World Cup in the individual race as well as in sprint and pursuit. He was on the podium in Kontiolahti and Anterselva, twice in Hochfilzen and three times in Oberhof. He crowned everything with the World Champion title in Slovenia, and at the same time received a small crystal globe for the overall World Cup victory in this discipline.
He stood on the winner’s podium of this year’s individual race in Pokljuka together with his national team colleague Johannes Dale, with whom they not only share their year of birth but also live in the same street in Lillehammer. “We have been competitors and teammates for well over ten years. It is completely sick that Johannes and I took World Championships medals together,” Sturla told Verdens Gang.
Sturla, who put nanotechnology studies in Trondheim a bit on the side-lines for a sporting career, shot extremely cold-bloodedly in the individual race. Meditation helps him with this: “I have different methods of meditation. In one I just try to focus on breathing, it helps me to train my focus. The other is visualization, where you put yourself in the situations like this.”
In 2018, Sturla faced major health problems. Due to infectious mononucleosis, he missed as many as eight months of hard training. He could not be physically active during this time, so he devoted himself mainly to shooting training. “After I was diagnosed with kissing disease, I took a blood sample every six weeks, to see if it was safe to start up again. I never felt bad, and thought it would go away right away. But when 2-3 months passed without exercising physically, it became important to focus on something else so I wouldn’t lose the motivation completely. I decided to immerse myself in the shooting position. I chose to copy one of the big ones. I studied Martin Fourcade and saw how he shot,” Sturla told tv2.no. He was fast and precise on the range and was one of the few who managed to cover all 20 targets in Wednesday’s race.
The role model and French biathlon legend Martin Fourcade was one of the first to congratulate the Norwegian at the finish line. The French did not hide his admiration of Sturla, who succeeded him at the throne of the World Champion in the individual competition. Fourcade won last year in Anterselva. “I am impressed with the way he handles the pressure. I see similarities between him and me on the shooting range, but those similarities are from the 2020 version of Martin Fourcade. Not from Martin Fourcade in 2010, when he entered the World Cup and was 21 years old. On the shooting range, Sturla behaves as if he is a 30-year-old experienced biathlete. He is already mature,” Fourcade could not praise him enough for Norwegian television NRK.