Furious Finish Gives Tarjei Boe Victory in Östersund Sprint
Norway’s Tarjei Boe, starting with bib number 94 put on a furious finish in the closing meters of the men’s 10K sprint to claim his first victory since 2013. His tine of 22:40.6 was just .7 seconds ahead of France’s Martin Fourcade. Third place went to Germany’s Erik Lesser, 3.7 seconds back. All three men had a single penalty.
Boe’s teammate, Emil Hegle Svendsen finished fourth, 13.3 seconds back, with one penalty, while Lesser’s teammate Simon Schempp was fifth, 15 seconds back, also with a single penalty. Switzerland’s Mario Dolder shot clean to finish in a personal best sixth place, 16 seconds back.
For the first time this week, the temperature at the start was above freezing, at +1.5C, with once again, a light wind pushing the wind flags in a variety of directions, just enough to be a bother at times.
Lesser Sets The Bar High
Erik Lesser had a blazing fast clean prone stage to set the bar high putting him 10 seconds of Svendsen who matched him but was slower on the range. Despite skiing a fast first loop, Johannes Thingnes Boe, wearing the Yellow Bib for the first time missed his first three shots, effectively putting him out of contention for a top spot. Just before him, Fourcade had missed a prone shot, leaving him 26 seconds behind Lesser. Svendsen, had a standing penalty, but he stayed within 10 seconds of the lead with a fast tour of the tracks. Fourcade pushed the second loop, then cleaned standing to take the lead, until Lesser matched another very fast range time, but picked up. These two were locked in a battle for the top spot.
Fourcade Skis into the Lead
In the last loop, Fourcade was just a bit faster at each split, grabbing a 1.7 second lead with 400 meters to go. On the final downhill, the French star added another 1.3 seconds to take the lead at the finish. While these two were battling, Dolder and Lindström had two clean stages, but could not match the ski speed of Fourcade and Lesser. Schempp was one of the last men to take a run at the podium. Like Lesser, he had an impressive clean prone, but stumbled slightly with a standing penalty. He left the stadium in fifth; although skiing well, he could not gain much time on the leaders, only moving fourth by the finish.
Tarjei’s Push to Victory
Yet, Tarjei, starting with number 94 wanted to have a say in the results, with his rapid-fire style, he dropped all five prone targets, and left the range in the second spot. With a light drizzle in the air, the tracks were getting a bit faster, taking the lead just before standing. He missed on shot, flew around the penalty loop, heading out on the final 3.3K loop, 7 seconds ahead of Fourcade. With 1300 meters to go, Tarjei had a 3.1 second advantage on Fourcade. With just 400 meters to the finish, the lead was down to .9 seconds. Pushing hard with a maximum effort, he crashed across the finish line for his first World Cup victory since a sprint win at Oslo on February 28, 2013!
Mental Game: Keep Pushing
Tarjei described his road to victory: the last few minutes on the tracks. “It was totally blackout after the finish line, it was an incredible fight with Martin and when I was on the lap I saw his last 500m so I knew I had to push. It was a relief to see I was on top after I woke up from the dead there… On the track they informed I had a second advantage before the last 500m, but you can never trust those guys on the track, you could be behind when they tell you it's just one second lead. It's a mental game for them as well to keep you motivated… I kept telling myself that after the next uphill there was the finish line for every uphill. I was so tired, but I had to tell myself to keep pushing. It was a mental game, but it's always a mental game when you compete with big athletes like Martin.”
Never Give Up
The winner has struggled with health issues since winning the World Cup Total Score title in 2011. Still he never gave up. “It was really tough, in 2016 I thought I was back in the game and going somewhere, but then again last year it was like a punch in the face. This season I tried not to push too hard in the summer and keep the flow: it seems like its working fine and honestly this win is a relief after all these problems. As all you know, I struggled with so many health issues and my weak side is that I easily get kicked down by just a cold... for me it's been a series of small issues, but I always can count on my strong sides too, like I always comeback and I never give up.”
The Quipster, Even with Johannes in Wins
Throughout his career, Tarjei has always been quick with a quip; Johannes was his target today. “Finally, I am equal again with Johannes in terms of wins: when a younger brother becomes better than you, it's nice to beat him every now and then!”
Fourcade was philosophical about losing by such a small margin. “It was a good biathlon competition today… I think I lost many times by less than 1 second, but I also won many times as well... yet you never get accustomed to such small margins. Tarjei beat me by 0.9 four years ago, so I think this is not new to me.”
Martin Always Wins
Lesser realizes he is an underdog when he goes head-to-head with Fourcade. “I had a fight with Martin, but he always wins those fights. I tried to keep focused on my skiing and I am very happy about this podium, because I never was on a podium of a sprint.”
He sees a small advantage on the shooting range in tomorrow’s pursuit. “Tomorrow will be very tough, it is almost a mass start tomorrow: I look forward to the prone because I think I have a little advantage there, but also for a better standing than in the last year.”