Photo Finish Mass Start Victory for Martin Fourcade
Martin Fourcade of France won his first-ever Olympic Mass Start Gold medal in a thrilling photo-finish over Germany’s Simon Schempp in 35:47. Fourcade overcame a first prone penalty to end up in a heated battle in the final loop with the two battling until the final meters when both crashed in a finish line lunge. The now double Olympic Champion in these games had two penalties, to Schempp’s one, with both receiving the same time. Sochi Mass Start Gold medalist Emil Hegel Svendsen, with two penalties won the Bronze medal in a similar tight finish over Germany’s Erik Lesser, 11.2 and 11.6 seconds back, respectively.
With this win, Fourcade now has three mass start medals: Silver in both Vancouver and Sochi, plus his Gold today.He also owns an Olympic title in the individual and pursuit.
Lesser finished fourth; his teammate pursuit Bronze medalist Benedikt Doll, with one penalty was fifth, 18.8 seconds back while Austria’s Julian Eberhard was sixth, with three penalties, 30.7 seconds back.
Mild Conditions; Fourcade in the Lead
Just like the women yesterday, the men were treated to very mild conditions: minus 2C temperatures and a very light wind. The wind flags were completely flat.
Fourcade set the tone immediately, taking the lead right off the starting line and leading up to the first prone stage. He missed a shot and went to the loop, also crashing as he exited, falling 30 seconds back. Timofey Lapshin led a group of fourteen men, who cleaned, with Fak hot on his heels and Doll, Dominik Windisch, Jesper Nelin and Fredrik Lindström in close pursuit. Just after the pack left the stadium, Doll took the lead, setting the pace until just before the second prone stage, when Samuelsson took lane one. Doll and Lesser shot extremely fast and were out in the lead, four seconds ahead of Lindström and Erlend Bjoentegaard with Schempp and Fak right in the mix. Fourcade cleaned and was up to eighth, now 9.4 seconds off the pace. Now, only eight men in the field of 30 were still perfect on the shooting range. The biggest casualty was Johannes, who had three penalties, leaving him 1:04 back.
Fast, Clean; Back in the Lead
Heading to the first standing, the German trio of Doll, Schempp, and Lesser led the pack, with Fourcade tucked just behind them. Fourcade shot very fast and clean, regaining the lead. Schempp, Lesser, Eder and Moravec all matched, heading out within 13 seconds of the French star. This group of five now was separated from the rest of the field by almost 15 seconds.
Last Standing Penalties
Fourcade surged several times as they covered the next 3K loop, with Schempp holding tight to his shoulder and Lesser a second back. Moravec and Eder fell off the pace, now more than 25 seconds back. Lesser jumped into lane one and had two penalties, while Fourcade and Schempp had just one; they left the penalty loop virtually side-by side. Doll, Svendsen, Lesser left in a small group, 20 seconds back.
Fourcade/ Schempp Photo Finish for Gold
Schempp let Fourcade lead as they left the stadium; little changed with 1400 meters to go. At the same time, the second group remained in a battle for the Bronze medal. With 500 meters to go, Fourcade tried to pull away, but Schempp held on. Coming to the final 100 meters, the two good friends were locked in a huge battle, with the French star holding a slight lead until the final meters. Schempp surged as they crashed across the finish line in a photo-finish. Fourcade banged his ski pole, thinking he had lost, but the photo showed he had won by half a ski boot. Moments later, they embraced, with Fourcade elated and Schempp dejected. Just behind them, Svendsen and Lesser were in a similar tussle, with the Norwegian lunging for the Bronze medal, both in the same time.
Finish Line: No Regrets, Proud and Humble
The winner described his feelings at the finish line and the last loop battle. “I was sure that Simon did it. It was because 4 years ago in Sochi Emil did me the same. I thought history was repeating itself. I tried to be faster than Simon in the first part of the loop, but he stayed with me; I gave everything. I know that Simon is a great sprinter, while it is not one of my best points. Finally I found some strength in the last meters: I closed my eyes and told myself to regret nothing. I am so satisfied because I was 2nd both eight and four years ago. I am very proud, but I also was in Simon’s place four years ago, so I will stay very humble.”
Sprints with Martin
*This was not Schempp’s first photo-finish, so he knew how to react in the closing meters as he and Fourcade battled, just as they did earlier this season in the Hochfilzen pursuit. “I have a lot of experience in sprints with Martin, like in Hochfilzen this year. I chose my corridor very late here. I know that if he sees where I am going, he will choose it and I will lose a lot of speed. Today, sadly the finish line was 5 meters too close.”
Happy to Get One Medal”
Schempp’s Silver medal was the first individual Olympic medal of his career. He previously won a relay Silver medal at Sochi in 2014. His reaction to the finish was joy. “First of all I was so happy to get a medal. I did not know who was in front of whom, but to me it was not too hard to wait because I was just so happy to get one medal!”
Svendsen: Medals in Three Consecutive OWG
Svendsen now has medals in three consecutive Olympic Winter Games: individual and relay Gold, plus sprint Silver at Vancouver; mass start and mixed relay Gold from Sochi to go along with his Bronze medal today. He was moved by finally making it to the podium. “This medal means a lot, because the Games were going very bad for me, so when I got in the position to get a medal I fought very hard for it. To share the podium with these guys is a great feeling.”