Norwegian Gold: Johannes Thingnes Boe Wins Men’s 20K Individual
Johannes Thingnes Boe brought Norway its first biathlon Gold medal of these Olympic Winter Games winning the men’s 20K individual, despite two penalties, in 48:03.8. Johannes’ victory was no assured until the closing stages of the competition. Silver medalist Jakov Fak of Slovenia made a late run with clean shooting and a gritty last loop, but finished 5.5 seconds back. Dominik Landertinger of Austria, also shooting clean won the Bronze medal, 14.2 seconds back.
*Johannes’ Gold medal was his first-ever Olympic medal. He became the fourth Norwegian to win the Olympic 20K in the past five Olympic Winter Games: Halvard Hanevold previously won in 1998, Ole Einar Bjorndalen in 2002 and Emil Hegle Svendsen in 2010. *
Describing his victory was hard for Johannes. “It’s a great feeling, to describe it with one word: amazing, but you can use any nice word you can find.”
Fourth place went to pursuit Silver medalist Sebastian Samuelsson of Sweden, with one penalty, 29.1 seconds back. Martin Fourcade of France, with two penalties was fifth, 42,4 seconds back, while Benjamin Weger of Switzerland, with one penalty was sixth, 48.6 seconds back.
Good Conditions; Fourcade in Control
After the women enjoyed a daylight competition, it was back to the darkness and bright lights of nighttime for the men. Yet the conditions remained good, with the temperature dropping below freezing, with the same moderate wind conditions. Although Arnd Peiffer, Lindström, Moravec and Erik Lesser cleaned before him, Fourcade quickly stepped to the top of the standings in the first prone stage with a typically slow, focused tempo to clean the first prone and take the lead.
Clean Shooters Dwindle
As usual the first standing took some of those who cleaned the first prone out of the mix. The list of 51 names with a zero was down to less than a dozen rather quickly. However, Fredrik Lindström and Ondřej Moravec both cleaned as did Tarjei. Johannes, trying to make up ground after a first stage penalty, matched them to jump up into the top 6. Fourcade came to standing next. This time, he shot faster but very much in control to remain in the lead. Starter number 51, Samuelsson equaled the French star with his own 5-for-5 to into second after the first two stages, just 8.9 seconds off the leader’s pace. However, Fak, Nelin and Landertinger were lurking not far behind, with their own error-free efforts.
Later Starters Move into Contention
The second prone stage further dwindled the number of clean shooters, but Lindström and Moravec stayed perfect. Johannes continued his charge, with his second 5-for-5 to move into first position. That was, until the pursuit Gold medalist came in and once again, very unhurriedly closed all five targets. He left very much in control. A short time later, Tarjei became his main contender, moving into second, 29.4 seconds back after a matching clean stage. Numbers 61 Jesper Nelin, 57 Fak and 38 Landertinger surged into contention with clean stages, well after Fourcade and Tarjei shot, moving into second, fourth, and seventh respectively.
Penalty for Johannes; Fak, Samuelsson and Landertinger Clean
As usual, fatigue set in for the last and deciding standing stage. Lindström ended his perfect day with a one-minute penalty as did Moravec and Johannes. Still Johannes was the man at the top of the standings. Lesser cleaned fast and was suddenly back in the mix. Fourcade seemed very collected and confident as he came to the range; then uncharacteristically missed two shots. That opened the door, as he left 41.4 seconds behind Johannes with a 4K loop to go. As the French star was chasing Johannes, Weger, coming back from an early penalty hit all five targets to slip 11 seconds ahead of Fourcade heading out for the last loop. Landertinger then cleaned and was in the lead by 8 seconds. Samuelsson had a penalty but was in the mix, leaving in fourth. Then Fak cleaned, leaving 3.9 seconds behind Landertinger.
Tears of joy for @7ohannesbo #nor after two difficult events in #PyeongChang2018 he has just won the biggest title of his career: he is the #Biathlon individual Olympic champion! pic.twitter.com/yOWxJY0mdR— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) February 15, 2018
Johannes Waits: Landertinger and Fak Surge to Podium
Johannes finished first with his name on top of the standings. Then he waited to see what his rivals would do. Fourcade, after the two penalties, tried to close the gap over that last loop on his Norwegian rival, but to no avail and was in second for a while. The young Norwegian commented, “It was a gift from Martin, because if he only missed one, he would be the winner. But you know, some miss one at time and some miss the last two…We both had to misses today. I was a little faster than him and that is what saved the day for me.”
However, the medal’s battle was on behind him. Landertinger slowed down over the final 4K but held on to move ahead of Fourcade. Samuelsson jumped into the top three with a strong last loop, but Fak, the Vancouver sprint Bronze medalist was still on the course. The Slovenian pushed trying to hold his top spot, sprinted down the last 100 meters, but fell just short of Johannes but well ahead of Landertinger, leaving the Austrian with the Bronze medal and Silver for the Slovenian.
Still Landertinger was pleased with his day. “The running was very good for me today, though I don’t feel like I am at 100% of my skiing form. For that reason I focused 100% on my shooting. I had amazing skis, shot zero, and did it quickly. I am very happy about this and getting a medal!”
Fak and Pyeongchang
Fak’s climb to the OWG podium was hard-fought. Since he won his first-ever Championship medal, Bronze in the 20K individual on this same venue at the IBU World Championships in 2009, the Slovenian has come back from a series of illnesses and serious injuries. His biggest injury was severely frostbitten fingers that almost cost him his trigger finger in 2011. Recently illness including viral pneumonia kept him out for half of the 2015-16 season and all of last year.
The enormity of his medal was not lost on Fak. “It is like a fairytale, but also a dream comes true. In Sochi I was sick before the Games and I thought until the last race I would get a medal, but I was 4th in the mass start. It was a struggle for me in the last two seasons, being sick. To come back this whole season has been already a victory. At the beginning of the season I had some great results, but then it was not so good. Today it is a great satisfaction to get a medal.”
2009 Medal, Back Surgery and OWG Medal #4
Landertinger, like Fak won his first-ever senior Championship medal: mass start Gold also at the 2009 IBU WCH here in Pyeongchang. The Austrian’s medal is an amazing feat, considering that he missed the early part of this season after having major back surgery in early November. He opened his season at Oberhof with 51st place in the sprint. Now six weeks later, he has his fourth OWG medal!
The Austrian veteran described his journey. “It was a very hard time for me, I started having troubles one and half year ago, and then I went for surgery in the autumn. Because of that, I lost 2.5 months of training and felt like my shape was not coming. Now it’s the first time I really felt good and I feel like my comeback is on the right way...it was an amazing race!"