Justine Braisaz Brings French Team a Victory in Mass Start
Justine Braisaz gave the thousands of French fans in Le Grand Bornand a reason the cheer by winning the women’s 12.5K mass start, with one penalty in 37:19.4; ; the first World Cup victory in her career. Irina Kryuko of Belarus matched her on the shooting range to finish second, 11.2 seconds back; her first-ever World cup podium. The Belarusian held off Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier, who finished third, with two penalties, 19.9 seconds back.
This week’s sprint winner Anastasiya Kuzmina, wearing the Yellow Bib for the first time in her career finished fourth, with four penalties, 25.5 seconds back. Dahlmeier’s teammate Vanessa Hinz, with one penalty finished fifth, a season best, 28.4 seconds back. Also with season best France’s Anais Chevalier, with one penalty, finished sixth, 30.1 seconds back.
First Mass Start of Season, Huge Crowds Again
Good conditions prevailed once again for the final day and the first mass start of the season in Le Grand Bornand with the temperature just below freezing and virtually no wind. As on Saturday, the tracks and stadium were packed to maximum capacity with enthusiastic fans.
Ten Women within 10 Seconds
Kuzmina led the first loop, pushing hard and paid the price with two penalties. Ten women left the stadium within 10 seconds, all shooting clean, led by Braisaz, Denise Herrmann and Kaisa Mäkäräinen. Both Semerenko sisters and Juliya Dzhyma gave Ukraine three women in the initial top 10. Dahlmeier and Herrmann came in on lanes one and two for the second prone stage; Dahlmeier missed a shot while her teammate cleaned, but slowly. In the meantime, Vita cleaned very quickly as did Dorothea Wierer. They left with the field behind them, with now only five women within 10 seconds.
Penalties in Last Standing
As they came to the first standing stage, Braisaz had moved up; she and Herrmann were one-two. The German shot much faster than usual and cleaned, leaving 23.4 seconds ahead of Dahlmeier in second. Wierer and Braisaz, both with penalties, led a group of seven including Kuzmina that followed. As is usually the case, the top spots would be decided in the final standing stage. The ex-cross-country skier skied within herself, all alone in the lead as the others tried to close the gap. Braisaz and Dahlmeier followed her into the final standing. Hermann had three penalties, while Dahlmeier picked up a penalty loop.
20-for-20 and a Flag for Braisaz
The young French star won the battle of shooting range nerves, dropped the final five targets, making her 19-for-20 and left a 15-second advantage on Kryuko with Dahlmeier at 24.7 seconds off the pace and Kuzmina another 8 seconds back. Braisaz was unchallenged, with plenty of time to grab a flag as she entered the stadium as the winner. Dahlmeier worked to close the gap on the Belarusian, but she held off the multi-World Champion for the second spot on the podium.
Amazing Victory at Home
Elation was an understatement when describing the 22-year-old Braisaz’ feelings after the first World Cup win of her career. “It is my father’s birthday today and it’s amazing to have a first victory at home. I am just so happy! ... I did not want to believe it. Then I saw my wax man with the French flag; I took a breath and yes, it is for me today. It was a very nice feeling to share it with the crowd and all of the French people. It was just like a dream, but the reality is actually better.”
Hoping for Flowers
Kryuko had low expectations before the competition but made it to the podium for the first time in her first-ever mass start. “It is a nice feeling…I really did not have many expectations. I really just wanted to cross the finish line, but am happy to be on the podium. After shooting clean and leaving in second, I knew there were some really fast girls behind me. I was just hoping to get some flowers!”
Three Times on Podium
The German star ended the week with her third podium. “I was on the podium three times so it was a good week. Today was also a really good race for me. Having some good races before the break is good for your mind…I think my shape is getting better and better.”