Gold for Irina Varvynets In IBU OECH Sprint
Irina Varvynets of Ukraine shot clean and flew around the tough Ridnaun tracks to win the IBU OECH Sprint Gold medal this afternoon in 20:54.1.Wednesday’s 15K individual champion Chloe Chevalier of France, with one penalty, won the Silver medal, 12.5 seconds back. Fuyuko Tachizaki of Japan made history with her Bronze medal, the first-ever international championship medal in biathlon for her country. The 29-year-old Japanese veteran with 201 World Cup starts shot clean, finishing shooting clean, 15.5 seconds back.
Fourth place went to Victoria Slivko of Russia, shooting clean, 17.6 seconds back. Karolin Horchler of Germany also shot clean but finished fifth, 24.6 seconds back, while Korea’s Anna Frolina , with one penalty was sixth, 25.7 seconds back.
No Wind; Varvynets in Control
The 110 women had similar conditions in the afternoon as the men had in the morning: absolutely no wind on a cloudy day with a very mild plus 4C temperature. With these perfect conditions, it seemed like clean shooting was the only path to the podium. The early leader out of prone was Oberhofer, to the delight of the local crowd. Then after more than 40 starters were on the tracks, Varvynets took control with her perfect five shots. Horchler matched but was seven seconds back. Then rather quickly, it looked like the French championships, with Julia Simon, 15K winner Chloe Chevalier and Enora Latuilliere at the top of the prone standings.
French Team Challenge
As the field proceeded to standing, Oberhofer was on the range first and missed once. The new mother was flying on the tracks, but that penalty was crippling to her podium dreams. Horchler cleaned again and had the lead. That did not last long as Varvynets shot very fast and clean, leaving 20 seconds ahead of the German. They crossed the finish line 1-2. However, the French team had a chance to be the spoilers. Latuilliere cleaned first, but was slower than Horchler. Simon had three penalties, putting her out of the picture. Chevalier missed her chance for the win with a single standing penalty, but was flying on the tracks and crossed the finish line ahead of Horchler, but 11 seconds behind the Ukrainian and dropping her teammate Latuilliere from the podium.
First Championship Medal for Tachizaki and Japan
The podium seemed set until Tachizaki cleaned prone, but was in 110th position. She took another step forward with clean standing stage, leaving in fourth, .1 seconds from the podium. She pushed all the way to the finish for Japan’s first-ever international medal in biathlon. They have won Asian Games medals, but never in a competition outside of Asia.
Huge Moment; “We Can”
Coach Ubaldo Prucker commented after talking to the shy Tachizaki. “In our meeting last night, we talked about focusing on shooting with the team, instilling in them the idea of ‘we can.’ After the race, she said that is exactly what happened (focused on shooting; clean for the second time ever), but she tightened up on her skis more than usual. She told me it was quite an emotional last loop.” He added, “This is a huge moment for our team; they are at times a bit intimidated by the big experienced teams, but now they know, ‘we can.’ This was a test today before our ultimate goal, the Olympic Winter Games. The whole team works very hard and they are good listeners; they just need the confidence that a moment like this brings.”
More than Clean Shooting
Varvynets admitted that her fifth place on Wednesday was not as disappointing as it seemed. “I was more disappointed with my skiing. Today, I just focused on the shooting. Still I knew that it would take more than that to win, with all of the other fast girls.”
More than Expected for Chevalier
Chevalier knew that her standing shooting was the key to the win. “I missed the first shot. I was nervous. But winning two medals here is more than I ever expected.”
Your top 3 of the women's sprint in #RID18— IBU Cup Biathlon (@IBU_CUP) January 26, 2018
Gold: Iryna Varvynets
Silver: Chloe Chevalier of @FedFranceSki
Bronze: Fuyuko Tachizaki
Follow the flower ceremony from the #OECH on https://t.co/8C6574JfeP shortly. pic.twitter.com/Cnb3ebBq45