Anastasiya Kuzmina Strikes Mass Start Gold with Wire-to-Wire Win
Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia took the lead immediately after leaving the starting line in the women’s 12.5K mass start and never relinquished it. The now Olympic Gold medalist in three consecutive Olympic Winter Games, with just a single penalty on her last shot crossed the finish line in 35:23. The silver medal went to the Sochi mass start Gold medalist Darya Domracheva of Belarus, with one penalty 18.8 seconds back. Tiril Eckhoff of Norway won the Bronze medal for the second consecutive OWG, with two penalties, 27.7 seconds back.
Three Gold Medals, “Incredible”
With her victory, Kuzmina became the only women in Olympic Biathlon history to win a Gold medal in three consecutive Olympic Winter Games. She now has a Gold medal and two Silver medals in these OWG. “When I came here, I thought I wanted to defend my sprint title three times. When this didn’t happen, I was sad and nervous. But it happened in other competitions. It is an incredible feeling!”
Fourth place went to Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi, with two penalties, 45.6 seconds back. 15K individual Gold medalist Hanna Oeberg of Sweden finished fifth, with one penalty, 46.5 seconds back, while Dorothea Wierer finished sixth, with one penalty, 47.3 seconds back.
Wind Flags Flat
This evening was cold but not as cold as the previous competitions, with the thermometer reading minus 6C. The best thing was the lack of wind, with the flags hanging almost motionless, to the relief of everyone.
Right to the Front for Kuzmina
Kuzmina immediately took the lead after the women left the stadium and held up to the first prone stage. She cleaned with ease and was the first out of the stadium, with Oeberg, Wierer, Denise Herrmann, Marte Olsbu and Domracheva, all clean and within 10 seconds. Eighteen women cleaned, with Laura Dahlmeier the biggest casualty with a single miss, 34.7 seconds back. By halfway through the second loop, Domracheva moved into second, but still about 5 seconds behind Kuzmina. The Slovak star cleaned the second prone with ease, leaving 7.9 seconds ahead of Domracheva who also cleaned. Oeberg, Wierer, Vitkova and Herrmann all matched, following within 20 seconds. At this point, only 10 women remained clean.
Wierer Up to Second; Domracheva Falls Back
The top two women remained separated by about 8 seconds, opening up 15-second a gap on the rest of the field as they approached the first standing stage. Kuzmina shot slowly and cleaned easily before Domracheva fired her first shot, which failed to close. Wierer cleaned with her usual quick tempo and left in second, 28 seconds back, with the also-clean Vitkova now in third, ahead Vittozzi and the Belarusian. The group behind Wierer was closing in on Wierer by the 8.4K split, but remained but still 10 seconds back, as Kuzmina’s lead approached 40 seconds on them.
Four Down, a Penalty; Gold Secured
Coming into the last standing stage, the two-time Silver medalist in these Games was in control; the battle would be for the Silver and Bronze medals. Kuzmina had a 50 second lead when she settled on the mat, hitting four before hesitating on the last shot which failed to fall. Domracheva cleaned while Kuzmina toured the penalty loop. Despite the penalty, the Gold medal was secure as Domracheva was 24 seconds behind with Eckhoff, who also cleaned in third, but 10 seconds behind the Belarusian. However, Oeberg, Olsbu, Vittozzi and Wierer were within just a few seconds of the third spot, with 2.5K to go.
Gold-medal Smile Lights up the Night
Domracheva clawed back 7 seconds by 10.9K, but gained no more time. Eckhoff remained more than 10 seconds back. Kuzmina showed no signs of slowing down and headed to the third Olympic Gold medal of her career. She grabbed the Slovak flag coming down the final hill and with a smile to light up the night crossed the finish line; the flag waving just at her side. Domracheva crossed next punching the sky and likewise beaming. Eckhoff followed her to the podium, both with Games-redeeming medals.
Kuzmina recalled the first big success of her career, also in Pyeongchang. “During the 2009 IBU World Champs here, I won the first medal for Slovakia, a mass start Silver. I wanted to repeat this success nine years later.” She added a dedication, just like she did after the 15K individual. “The first medal was for me, second for my brother. The third medal I dedicate to Slovakia, for my team and to the many people who have been supporting me in hard times.”
Pressure for Domracheva
Domracheva commented on the situation of not winning a medal before this and the pressure. “Before this race I thought about Kaisa, I knew she was in the same situation as me, and about Tiril. There was a company of the girls, who were strong and have been having bad luck during the Games. When you do your best, but something goes wrong in the previous races, there is pressure. It was important to overcome this situation and start this race with a clear head.”
Five Olympic Winter Games Medals
Domracheva’s Silver medal gives her five OWG medals in three consecutive Games, adding to her 15K Individual Bronze in 2010 and Pursuit, Individual and Mass Start Golds in 2014.
Matching Mass Start Bronze Medals
Eckhoff’s Bronze medal matched the one that she won in the Sochi mass start four years ago. She was relieved to get back on the podium. “I was lucky today to take a medal, but I trained all year for this. It is hard for everyone, especially because of the conditions. I am very happy to be on the podium today.”