First Career Win for Tatiana Akimova
*Russia’s Tatiana Akimova claimed her first-ever World Cup by taking the Nove Mesto sprint in 21:58.9. Her only previous victory was in the IBU Cup sprint at Obertilliach last season. Anais Chevalier of France also had personal best in second place, 43.seconds back while Susan Dunklee of the USA matched her personal best in third, 5.1 seconds back. All three women shot clean. *
Fourth went to Laura Dahlmeier of Germany, with two penalties, 16.5 seconds back. Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen matched Dahlmeier’s shooting in fifth place, 18.2 seconds back, while Justine Braisaz of France, also with two penalties finished sixth, 18.4 seconds back.
The women’s sprint faced similar conditions to what the men faced on Thursday; temperature at minus 2C and a massive loud crowd, but the wind was gusting from the left at times, making shooting tricky at times, especially in standing.
Dahlmeier and Dunklee
Early on, Braisaz looked like the winner. She shot clean in prone, but had two standing penalties. Yet an amazing last loop moved her to the top of the standings until number 22 and 23 started: the Yellow Bib Dahlmeier and Dunklee. Dahlmeier shot clean in prone, but was rattled a bit as the crowd cheered for Koukalová on the other side of the shooting range. Dahlmeier had two penalties and seemed far from the podium. Yet another blazing last loop put her in the lead. Dunklee was just behind the German coming into standing and topped her by dropping all ten targets. Now, she was 30 seconds ahead of Dahlmeier and even with Dahlmeier’s fast finish, the US biathlete crossed the line more than 10 seconds ahead of her German rival.
Dunklee was happy despite her near miss today. "I am very happy about this 3rd place. Last week I crossed the line in first place and finished 11th with clean shooting and today it is a great improvement".
Akimova Takes Over
Dunklee also looked like the winner after local favorite Koukalová had three standing penalties to drop out of contention. Then unheralded Akimova, who was 29th and 30th in the two previous sprints this season shot clean in prone, matched that in standing to leave with a lead of 3.1 seconds. She powered up the big hill, gaining a bit of time and crossed the finish line 5.1 seconds up on the field. However the competition was not over at that point; Chevalier matched the Russian on the shooting range, left standing with the lead, and maintained through 6.3K. However, her turnover slowed in the final 1200 meters and she missed the win.
Akimova, the IBU Rookie of the Year last season was thrilled with her win. “"Of course I didn't expect I would win today and I am very excited about this victory. As usual I wanted to do my best and it's great I could do it". She continued, “"This is a very important result for the women's team, but we are also very happy when the guys win because we are a team all together".
Second place Chevalier, who spent most of last season on the IBU Cup circuit was happy to see a change in her fortunes after a slow start this season. "I changed a lot of things after a difficult start to the season when I did not expect such bad results. I am so glad I shot clean today and I am so happy now."