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PREVIEW: Magdalena Neuner set for last hurrah at home worlds
By John Bagratuni Feb 28, 2012, 9:07 GMT
Berlin - The biathlon world championships will be a giant farewell party for Magdalena Neuner, who aims to medal in every race at the home event in Ruhpolding before heading into retirement.
Neuner said early in the season there is a life beyond the sport twinning rifle shooting and cross-country skiing and that she looking forward to leading a quiet life in her Bavarian village of Wallgau.
The decision raised eyebrows, given Neuner's age of 25.
For her, knitting, playing the harp, being close to family and friends, and perhaps passing her expertise on to promising youngsters is a highly desirable prospect - although rare in the glamorous and ambitious world of sport.
Neuner could be chasing all the records in the biathlon books, having already won two Olympic golds, 10 world titles, every World Cup trophy on offer and 32 World Cup races.
She can raise her numbers in the nine remaining races, six at the world championships which run from March 1 until March 11 and three more at the World Cup finals March 16 to 18 in Khanty Mansiysk.
While other athletes have cracked under pressure of competing at home in a big event, even more if it their last one, Neuner appears to be different in this respect as well.
She has won eight races and earned 15 podiums since announcing her retirement and nothing seems to suggest that she will miss out on silverware in Ruhpolding.
'I am not really thinking about the farewell, I am living in the present. Three exciting weeks are ahead of me, and I am really looking forward to it,' Neuner said.
'There could be no better place for my farewell. There will be many people in the attendance who are important and close to me.'
Neuner says she is 'aware what I will be facing' on and off the slope and shooting range, and head coach Uwe Muessiggang names her 'cool and relaxed.'
'Her self-proclaimed goal of aiming for a medal in each of the six races shows how confident she is,' said Mussiggang.
Neuner-mania will see more than 200,000 fans attend the 11 races bringing together some 400 athletes from 40 countries as Ruhpolding hosts the worlds a fourth time.
Out to spoil the Neuner-party are Belarussian Darja Domracheva, Sweden's Helena Ekholm, Kaisa Makarainen of Finalnd, Norway's Tora Berger and German veteran Andrea Henkel in the frame.
Neuner was just five years old when Ole Einar Bjoerndalen started his World Cup career in 1992, and by the time she joined the World Cup in 2007 he had already bagged five of his six Olympic golds and seven of his 16 world titles.
The eternal Norwegian is still around at age 38, possibly not as sharp as in the past, but not to be counted out in an open men's field featuring the French Fourcade brothers Martin and Simon, Bjoerndalen's compatriots Tarje Boe and Emil Hegle Svendsen and German hopes Arnd Peiffer and Andreas Birnbacher.
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