Irina Starykh Wins 15K Individual Gold at IBU OECH
Russia’s Irina Starykh was perfect at the shooting range on her way to the Gold medal in the women’s 15K individual in 44:24.7 today at the IBU OECH. Her teammate Svetlana Sleptsova with one penalty took the Silver medal, 1:03.8 back. Anastasiya Merkushyna of Ukraine also missed once with the Bronze medal, 1:05.0 behind.
Elisabeth Hoegberg of Sweden shot clean but missed the podium in fourth, 1:37.9 back. Another Russian Svetlana Mironova despite two penalties was fifth, 1:41.5 behind. The third clean shooter in the competition, Germany’s Karolin Horchler finished sixth, 1:41.8 back.
Good weather conditions prevailed during the women’s competition in the afternoon for the IBU OECH at Duszniki Arena, which resulted in a lot of perfect shooting in the first prone and standing stages. Horchler with bib number 3 was the early leader, cleaning stage after stage; she went 20-for-20 and set a high bar for the other contenders.
Merkushyna with bib 34 started the competition with a clean prone but a penalty at the standing, which put her in 8th place. Last season’s junior star Merkushyna, competing on World Cup this season led her team to third place in the Pokljuka relay; today she was very fast on the tracks, reducing the gap on Horchler with each split. The young Ukrainian cleaned the last two stages and confidently went for the final loop as a leader. But just few minutes later Sleptsova, who matched Merkushyna at each shooting, moved her on second by 1.5 seconds. While they were battling each other, late number 62 Starykh demonstrated perfect shooting on all stages, leaving the stadium with more than a minute advantage on her rivals; giving no one else a chance to fight for the Gold.
Until the Finish Line
On the last loop Sleptsova and Merkushyna showed almost equal speed, finishing in the same order with the same time result as after the final standing. Starykh, who finished first, despite a huge lead, was still working hard, “I knew I had a big advantage over the rivals, but I was working until the finish line even though it was hard. I know that everything can happen, so you have to fight until the end.” Regarding the clean shooting she added, “I was adjusting myself to shoot good and really glad I managed to do it.”
Sleptsova admitted that today’s Silver medal is not just making her comeback to biathlon almost complete, but makes her happy, especially after the battle at the final lap, “At the last competition in Arber I had almost the same situation, when I was battling for the podium place and where I won less than a second. When I was leaving for the final lap, I heard the information about the gap and understood that I have to work really hard, because Anastasiya is a very strong competitor. In the end I won this second, so probably the luck was on my side today.”
Did Not Realize
Merkushyna did not realize at first that it was her first senior championship medal, “When I woke up today in the morning, I thought that everything is possible, but probably it is too early for me, I have to wait a little bit and to grow up... But when I finished in top 3, I even did not understand what happened at first, but for me it is a big result!”