2018 Starts with Oberhof Sprint Win for Martin Fourcade
Martin Fourcade of France started 2018 exactly where left off in 2017, with a victory, again shooting clean to win he Oberhof sprint in 25:03.3. Second place went late starter Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway, also shooting clean, 8.1 seconds back. Third went to Svendsen’s teammate Johannes Thingnes with two penalties, 10.2 seconds back.
Fourth went to Tim Burke of the USA, also shooting clean, 20.1 seconds back. This was Burke’s best result since his third place in the 2013 Östersund sprint. Tarjei Boe finished fifth, with a single penalty, 26.9 seconds while Italy’s Lukas Hofer, with one penalty finished in a season-best sixth place, 46.7 seconds back.
Warm, Wet and Soft
The strong wind of Thursday dropped off for the men, but was still strong enough that clean prone shooting was at a premium. At the same time, the snow remained soft with a warm plus 3C temperatures and a light drizzle falling. In the latter stages of the competition, the snow became very deep and slow.
Fourcade in Control after Prone
Like the women, most of the top men started in the first group due to the soft snow and the possibility of the tracks slowing. Fourcade took the early lead with his typical cautious but clean prone stage. That gave him a 20 second lead on Johannes who had two prone penalties. The big early surprise was Tim Burke who cleaned and was just 2 seconds behind the Yellow Bib after prone. Just behind were Anton Shipulin and Fak who also dropped all five prone shots. Fourcade’s lead did not last long as Tarjei topped his prone shooting by three seconds.
Johannes and Burke
Johannes came to standing first and quickly cleaned. His lead lasted only until Fourcade shot with a quicker tempo than normal to head out for the last loop with a 13.6 second lead over his Norwegian rival. That looked like the big battle for first and second, but Burke had a say in this, jumping 6 seconds ahead of Johannes after his second clean stage of the day. Both slowed on the last loop, but Burke could not hold his lead, allowing Johannes to move into second at the finish behind Fourcade. These three had a solid hold on the top three spots, as Tarjei’s missed standing shot blew way his chance for a top three. Fak cleaned standing but slowed on the last loop also, clearly affected by his missed time due to illness over the break.
Starter number 58 Svendsen was the man to challenge Fourcade. The Norwegian veteran tied Fourcade with a strong prone stage. He stayed close, cleaned standing with confidence and left in second position. However, he was unable to gain any time on the Yellow Bib in the slow deep snow. Although he slowed in the last loop, Svendsen crossed ahead of Johannes for second, knocking Burke from his spot on the podium.
Svendsen admitted it was a hard last loop. “That last loop was really tough. I missed the last month with sickness, so did not know what to expect here. I had no expectations, just wanted to come back and get some good feelings…I did feel a bit rusty on the skis after the lack of competition.”
Nine Podiums; Perfect Shooting
With this victory, Fourcade now has been on the podium in every competition this season, nine in a row. Although he won, he felt the day was perfect in only one place. “I had a perfect day at the shooting range, but I did not pick the perfect skis…It was not too hard to shoot clean today; the wind was challenging but not as bad as yesterday for the women. I took my time to secure clean shooting today.” Regarding the conditions, he added, “This is my 9th year and 25th competition at Oberhof; 24 of those times were the same as today!”
Faster in Prone
Johannes with missed two prone shots commented on what went wrong. “I worked on getting faster in my prone shooting over Christmas. Before then, I was not so fast. I wanted to change this a little bit, but today I was going too hard for a fast shooting. It was good for the first three, but then I should have been a little bit more safe; that is easy to say after! I was a bit too focused on shooting fast.”