Season-Opening Pokljuka Single Mixed Relay to Norway
The Norwegian duo of Thekla Brun-Lie and Lars Helge Birkeland won the season-opening single mixed relay this afternoon at Pokljuka, using just four spare rounds in their 38:26.7 win. Second place went to Austria, with five spares, 8.5 seconds back, while Ukraine finished third, with the best shooting of the competition, one spare round, 20.7 seconds back.
Pokljuka Single Mixed Relay
Fourth went to France, 30.3 seconds back. Sweden followed in fifth, 35.5 seconds back while Canada finished sixth, 37.8 seconds back.
The season’s first competition, with 25 teams on the starting line kicked off under mild weather, with partly sunny skies and the temperature sitting just at freezing. The wind was very light, which made for excellent shooting conditions. In the first women’s leg, five of the top 11 teams shot clean, with Ukraine' at the top of the standings at the exchange and all within 21 seconds. The men shook things up, with only Ukraine remaining clean with more excellent shooting by Artem Tyshchenko, by the second exchange. France’s Antonin Guigonnat led much on the loop going into the men’s standing stage, but struggling, picked up a penalty, putting his team well of the pace of the Norwegians with Birlkeland who had a 2.2 second gap on Ukraine as they tagged the women.
The second go round for the women found four teams in contention, with Brun-Lie holding the lead after prone, with a small gap on Ukraine’s Anastasiya Merkushyna, Germany's Franziska Hildebrand and Austria's Lisa Theresa Hauser. The Austrian pushed the pace into standing but used a spare, threw the advantage back to Norway at the final exchange. Austria and Germany followed but 5.2 and 7.2 seconds back, respectively, while France was now back into fifth position.
Perfect last shooting from @NSSF_Biathlon's Lars-Helge Birkeland -- can he carry it home into the finish area? #POK18— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) December 2, 2018
Stick around for the last loop on https://t.co/Z1cUg2llYh pic.twitter.com/sKytvtbqbf
Final Standing Decision
The final men’s leg would determine the podium, namely the final standing stage. Austria's Simon Eder aggressively attacked on the tracks, setting up for the final standing on lane one, with Birkeland alongside on two and Tyshchenko on three.Birkeland dropped the five targets quickly while Eder, out of character shot slowly to match, leaving 7.2 seconds back while Tyshchenko was another 3 seconds in arrears. The Norwegian’s fast clean stage gave him a clear advantage and the victory.
Birkeland, “Have to Deliver”
Birkeland commented on his final leg. “When I took over in 1st position, I felt I would have to deliver. I came in with Simon on the last standing which was quite a challenge. I know he is really fast and I had to perform my best to beat him.”
Birkeland's teammate Brun-Lie added, on their win. “I was very nervous, but now am very happy with my first ever World Cup relay. I got good experience and will take that through the season.”
Fun to Compete with Simon
Hauser, with her sixth single mixed relay podium (fifth with Eder) commented, “Simon and I are a really good team; I train a lot with him, we have a good relationship and it is really fun to compete with him.”
The happiest person on the podium was Merkushyna, bubbling with enthusiasm.
“I am really happy, I have not words. First race and already on the podium; I am really satisfied. It was really great, I really enjoyed it; a lot of sun a lot of fun maybe a perfect day!”