Pokljuka was chosen by the IBU to host the 2021 World Biathlon Championships back in the fall of 2018. Happiness was indescribable. Who knew how our lives will change in 2020 with the pandemic touching every single sphere of our being.
It was the eagerness of the local enthusiasts, genuine bond of nature and man, incredible landscape of the Triglav National Park, romantic image of this sport encircled with ancient forests, fresh and clean air – this is what convinced the jury to choose this venue among other strong contestants. Pokljuka is hosting the second championship in history, exactly 20 years after the first one. In between those years biathlon has climbed to a great level of success in the country – in 2012 we got the title of the world champion with Jakov Fak and in 2014 Teja Gregorin added an olympic medal to the collection. A few other medals followed afterwards, mostly achieved by our main star, Jakov Fak, he was born in Croatia, but decided to compete for Slovenia. Even in 2021 all eyes are on him.
The athletes had to follow strick rules and limitations with the pandemic beeing a constant threat . But at least they can practice and compete and that is all that matters!
For the record – in Slovenia we didn’t have such a thick snow blanket for 42 years. It feels like winter decided to reward us and offer us comfort in these harsh and surreal times. If the organisers were worried about the snow at the beginning – they have now more snow than they actually needed it. It truly is a winter wonderland. The spruces are all decorated with snow – according to an old belief they say for as long as the snow stays on the trees, it will stay on the ground as well.
Untill February 5th we were allowed to be on Pokljuka for recreational purposes and we took advantage of that. We hiked, cross-country skied, snowshoed and sledged. Due to covid-19 all of our ski fields were closed when the big snowfall came. Us, Slovenians, avid skiers, we searched for a solution right away. The year 2021 saw a rise in backcountry skiing and there was a difficulty purchasing cross country skis – new or old – they were all sold out. Going cross country skiing you could giggle when observing people – they brought out whatever they have found in their attics and some skis would be better off in a museum than on the fields. But it was the idea to get out and do it, that mattered this year more than anything else.
Pokljuka turned into a sports bubble, closed to general public until almost the end of February. If you wish to explore our beautiful high plateau be sure to check out our virtual tour or click on to any of the sports channels that cover biathlon or check the official web site of the championships. It will be on from February 9th until 21st. There will be 44 cameras, 30 km of cable, 150 people involved in production and 19 hours of TV programmes all working to bring this Championships to over 150 million viewers around the globe. It would be much different if covid-19 wouldn’t dictate how we live. For Slovenia it would be one of the biggest sports events in the last couple of years. But life is not always fair and we will just have to take it as it is.
And for those who don’t know biathlon yet: it is probably one of the hardest sports there is. It is a combination of cross country skiing and rifle sharpshooting. It is a race where contestants ski through cross country trail, the distance is divided into shooting rounds. The shooting rounds are not timed, but depending on the competition, missed shots result in extra distance or added time to final result. Complicated? A bit. Extremely difficult? Indeed. Fascinating? Very much.