Martin Fourcade Carries France to Mixed Relay Gold
Double Gold medalist Martin Fourcade became a triple Gold medalist in Pyeongchang with a sterling anchor leg, carrying his French team of Marie Dorin Habert, Anais Bescond and Simon Desthieux to the Gold medal in the mixed relay this evening. The victorious French squad used just four spare rounds in their 1:08:34.3 victory. Norway, with one penalty and eleven spares came back from an early deficit of more than 1:20 to claim the Silver medal. Italy’s Dominik Windisch outsprinted Germany’s Arnd Peiffer for the Bronze medal, finishing with seven spares, 26.9 seconds back.
Most Gold Medals for France
Fourcade’s Gold medal made him the most decorated French Winter Olympian in history, with five Gold medals. That total also puts him in second position on the all-time list for biathletes, trailing only Norway's Ole Einar Björndalen with eight Gold medals. Fourcade downplayed the five medals, graciously deferring to his team. “Tonight is not about personal number, it is a team adventure that began in the 2009 IBU World Championships. It’s very emotional for the whole crew; the emotion of an Olympic medal is amazing, but it is much more incredible to share it with your teammates.”
Germany in fourth had a penalty and seven spares. Surprising Belarus , with just three spare rounds finished fifth, 55.5 seconds back while Finland, also with three spares was sixth, 1:02.9 back.
Twenty Teams; Italy Leads First leg
The twenty teams in the mixed relay had good conditions once again, just like on the weekend with light winds and temperatures hovering around freezing. Olsbu led the pack over the first loop, but Lisa Vittozzi shot clean first to take the early lead, while the Norwegian used two spares and was back in 17th position leaving he stadium. The Italian cleaned standing rapidly, carrying the lead to the exchange to Dorothea Wierer. Laura Dahlmeier took over for Germany just 2.2 seconds back, closely followed by France, with Anais Bescond. Norway trailed in 9th, 32.5 seconds back.
Vittozzi was thrilled with the medal and her lead at the exchange. “It is so nice to compete with these guys. It was one of my goals to be part of this team and for me it is so important. I was pumped at the start and I wanted to do my best to allow the team to go for gold. To change in the lead was pretty great.”
Dahlmeier Takes Over; Penalty for Eckhoff
Wierer cleaned prone faster than Dahlmeier to take the lead heading to the standing stage, with Bescond holding third, 13.5 seconds back. The speedy German moved up to the Italian’s shoulder within a few hundred meters, eventually moving to the front. Dahlmeier cleaned with a spare while Wierer needed three spares but held second, while Bescond also need three spares, falling to fourth, behind the clean Darya Domracheva, with a single spare. The German extended her lead to almost 30 seconds when she tagged Erik Lesser. Lukas Hofer left in second, with Belarus in third and Desthieux in fourth, 48.9 seconds back. After Tiril Eckhoff’s penalty, Norway was in a big hole, 1:23.4 back, with Johannes tasked to close the gap.
Big Lead for Germany
Lesser’s rapid-fire style closed all five prone targets with ease and was gone before Hofer shot. The Italian matched, remaining 33 seconds back. Johannes cleaned, gaining about 15 seconds by the standing stage. The German needed a spare, but still had a 42.5 second lead over the now closely bunched Hofer, Bocharnikov and Desthieux leaving the stadium for their last loop. Johannes now as in fifth, 57.5 seconds back. He hunted and closed the gap with each stride over the next 2.5K loop. Lesser tagged Peiffer safely with 32.6 second lead with Dominik Windisch, Fourcade and Emil Hegle Svendsen in a pack.
Peiffer and Fourcade
The chase pack closed in on Peiffer as they came to the prone stage. The German needed two spares, while Fourcade cleaned, with the gap now down to six seconds. The Italian and Norwegian both needed a spare and were 16.4 seconds back in a battle for third. The French double Gold medalist passed his rival before the top of the long climb out of the stadium, continuing to pull away over the loop.
Fourcade Cleans; Svendsen into Second
Fourcade cleaned standing with ease, heading to another Gold medal with a 34 second lead. Peiffer had a penalty, opening the door to Svendsen who cleaned with one spare. Windisch needed two spares and left .1 seconds ahead of Peiffer, setting up a Bronze medal battle.
The last 2.5K loop was a victory loop for Fourcade, crossing waving the French flag, with Svendsen following.
Windisch Outsprints Peiffer for Bronze
Peiffer and Windisch were back and forth over the last loop, with the German in the lead until the last downhill. The sprint Bronze medalist took a slight lead at that point; he sprinted like a man on a mission to take the Bronze medal with a ski pole thrust skyward. He was quickly greeted by Wierer who jumped into his arms in jubilation.
After the finish, a protest was filed, suggesting that he cut Peiffer off. The protest was dismissed by the competition jury. Windisch explained, “It happened really fast, as we came down from the downhill. I was convinced to have done the right thing, as I was in front of Peiffer. The jury had a long meeting and they decided for us, I think they had their reasons, and I am happy for Italy.”
Won Anyway and a Dedication
Windisch continued, “Peiffer told me that I would have won anyway, so next time I should avoid changing line!
I was very nervous, because they did amazing and I didn't want to ruin it all. I want to dedicate this medal to our girls, because they deserved a medal in individual competitions and came close to it a few times.”
Second Mixed Relay Bronze for Italy
The Italian Bronze medal was their second consecutive Bronze in the mixed relay; they finished behind Norway and Czech Republic in 2014. Windisch emphasized the importance of this second Olympic medal.“It is very important to us, we know we have really good women, so it is an important race for a whole team. We are happy to have the Bronze medal again, like we did in Sochi.”