Laura Dahlmeier Doubles Up with Pursuit Gold Medal
Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier became a double Olympic Gold medalist with her one-penalty pursuit victory tonight, crossing the finish line in 30:35.3, waving a German flag ad smiling broadly. Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia needed a finish straight sprint to claim the Silver medal by .2 seconds over France’s Anais Bescond. Kuzmina, with four penalties finished 29.4 seconds back while the one-penalty Bescond was 29.6 seconds behind Dahlmeier.
First Same Games Sprint/Pursuit Double
With her resounding victory, Dahlmeier became the first women to win Gold medals in the sprint/pursuit in the same OWG. Germany’s Kati Wilhelm won the sprint at the 2002 Salt Lake City OWG, but finished second in the pursuit. She later added a pursuit Gold medal four years later at the 2006 Torino OWG.
Norway’s Marte Olsbu, the sprint Silver medalist staged a comeback into fourth, 1:07.3 back after four penalties pushed her out of medal contention. Fifth went to last year’s IBU Rookie of the Year Hanna Oeberg of Sweden, with three penalties, 1:08.9 back. Dahlmeier’s teammate Denise Herrmann took sixth place, with three penalties. 1:19.4 back.
Cold, Windy; No Clean Shooting
One more cold and windy evening set the stage for the women, basically the same conditions as in the previous two nights of competition. The wind battered every one of the sixty starters with no one going 20-for-20 on the shooting range.
Dahlmeier admitted the conditions were harsh. “It’s not so easy because the temperatures are very low, but also the wind is strong and cold. It is hard for us to race in such conditions… but we spend a lot of time in the mountains, so I am probably used to it.”
Dahlmeier in Front; Adjusting for Wind
Dahlmeier led the first loop and cleaned before Olsbu on lane two fired a shot. The Norwegian had a penalty while Vitkova cleaned and left in second. Kuzmina taking advantage of her ski speed moved up into the third spot with a matching clean stage. Only seven of the top 8 women shot clean, with the group spread out over almost a minute. With the wind gusting, Dahlmeier clicked several times, adjusting her rifle sights but still had a penalty as did the now in second place Kuzmina. Only Bescond up to fourth from 19th, Marie Dorin Habert and Irene Cadurisch in third cleaned out of the top group. Once back out on the tracks, Kuzmina quickly passed the sprint Gold medalist as they headed towards the first standing stage.
The Slovak star shot the quickly and picked up two penalties, while Dahlmeier cleaned to return to an unchallenged lead, with Kuzmina now 37 seconds back. Vitkova, back in fifth before this first standing stage, cleaned to move back into medal contention, but 49.1 seconds back, with Bescond after a penalty loop in fourth, 59.6 seconds back. Dahlmeier held her lead to the final standing, with Kuzmina unable to close the gap this time.
The German was confident of her ability on the shooting range versus Kuzmina’s ski speed. “Anastasiya was very strong in the 3rd loop; I followed her... I am very confident about my shooting, so I focused to hit the center of the targets and I did it.”
Five Shots Seal Gold Medal Number Two
The German star closed the final five targets with ease headed towards her second Gold medal. Kuzmina comfortably in second missed her first shot but dropped the next four and headed to the penalty loop. Bescond responded with a fast clean stage to leave in the Bronze spot, .8 seconds behind Kuzmina. These two battled over the next 2K, with Kuzmina staying just a step ahead and the French veteran battling to stay with her. Dahlmeier skied into the stadium comfortably, grabbed German flag and crossed the finish line with a huge smile on her face.
Kuzmina and Bescond
Almost 30 seconds after Dahlmeier’s triumphant finish, Kuzmina and Bescond entered the stadium. The two women fought right up to the finish line for the Silver medal, with the visibly tired Slovak taking the Silver with a lunge at the line, just .2 seconds ahead of Bescond. Kuzmina punched the sky emphatically with her ski pole, a feeling of relief and joy after missing a sprint medal. She commented, “Today was very hard. The shooting was the most deciding, but I knew that I had very good skiing. I know that Laura is very good, so I tried to do the best that I could.”
Second Pursuit Silver Medal
Kuzmina’s Silver medal is her second in Olympic pursuit competitions. She also won the Silver medal in Vancouver, finishing second to Germany’s “Golden Girl” Magdalena Neuner, who Kuzmina had topped in the sprint.
The Vancouver and Sochi Sprint Gold medalist was visibly moved by this Silver medal. “This is a very special feeling to have medals in the 3rd Olympics in a row. Almost everyone was waiting for me to win the sprint because of Sochi and Vancouver. It did not happen, but I am so happy I could defend the Silver medal I had in this event eight years ago.”
Bescond’s Bronze medal is only her second individual medal in a major championship. She previously won a Silver medal in the 15K individual at the 2016 IBU World Championships.
The 30-year-old turned her experience from last year in Pyeongchang into a medal today. “I thought about what happened last year. It was never granted that I could repeat last year when I went from 9th to 3rd; this time I was 19th! But I remembered the feeling from back then. It was very hard to not compete at the IBU WCH in Hochfilzen, so I wanted to do my best in the Olympics. I was disappointed after the sprint, so I did think about how I channeled that feeling last year and tried to do my best. It was not perfect, but it was very good. Very, very good!”