Tiril Eckhoff Wins Antholz Sprint
Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff, whose season-best sprint result before today was 52nd in Östersund, reversed her fortunes today with a clean-shooting 21:05.3 victory in the
Antholz sprint. Starting with bib 72, the Norwegian took the lead after standing, pulling away to a 12 second win over Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier. Veronika Vitkova of Czech Republic finished third, 20.6 seconds back. Both Dahlmeier and Vitkova matched Eckhoff’s clean shooting.
Darya Domracheva, with one penalty finished fourth, 23 seconds back. Anais Bescond of France and Ekaterina Yurlova-Percht of Russia were fifth and sixth, 26.6 and 39.4 seconds back respectively. Both shot clean.
Vitkova and Dahlmeier in Perfect Conditions
Right on schedule, after some snow and wind at times over the last couple of days, the sun came out this afternoon. At the same time, the wind was non-existent, with the wind flags hanging limply; perfect conditions in Antholz’s Winter Wonderland. Even with the excellent conditions, only few of the first 15 starters escaped without a penalty or more. That changed quickly when Vitkova and Dahlmeier both closed all five targets, tying for the top spot after prone. Not long after, Fialkova cleaned to jump a few seconds ahead in the standings. Domracheva made a run at the top spot, cleaning and leaving less than 2 seconds behind early prone leader Paulina Fialkova. At this stage of the prone shooting, 10 women were separated by less than 12 seconds.
Dahlmeier Moves into Lead
Vitkova and Dahlmeier continued their duel in standing with the Czech biathlete cleaning first to grab the lead. The German star responded with equal perfection and was only 2.4 seconds back with 2.5K to go. Bescond and Yurlova-Percht matched on the shooting range to slip into the next spots. Domracheva missed the second shot, but was only 11 seconds back heading into the last loop. With 1100 meters to the finish, Dahlmeier took the lead and stretched it to 8.6 seconds over Vitkova by the finish. Bescond was faster on the last loop and moved into third place just ahead of the Russian. Domracheva was on fire, closing down to 8.9 seconds back at the 6.4K split, just behind Bescond. The Belarusian slipped just past Bescond by the finish to move into third position with 70 more competitors still out on the tracks. Hildebrand made a podium run with two clean stages and was ahead of Bescond as she left the shooting range, but fell back on the last loop.
It's a fantastic performance from @TirilEckhoff of @NSSF_Biathlon who bounces back in spectacular style - and there are only a few left on the tracks who could challenge her.— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) January 18, 2018
Join us for the deciding phase of this exciting women's sprint: https://t.co/Z1cUg23KzH pic.twitter.com/SclJjPfAMb
First Clean Shooting of Season and Victory
Eckhoff and Wierer started well back in the field with bib numbers 71 and 72. The prone targets closed quickly for both; Wierer took a 3.9 second lead on the field with the Norwegian 9.4 seconds back. Both flew around the next loop, skiing easily while passing other competitors. Eckhoff cleaned for the first time this season to move ahead of Vítková. Wierer missed a shot, falling 19.3 seconds back and then slowed. Eckhoff continued to push to her first podium and victory of the season.
Important to Shoot Clean
Eckhoff's coach and brother Stian commented on the clean shooting. “You get quite emotional; finally! She has been struggling this season. She has been working very well since Christmas, but then she was sick in Oberhof…I saw some signs of this in the relay last week in Ruhpolding; it was good. It was very important to shoot clean today."
Hit Some Targets
The winner commented, “I am very happy. I have had a very bad season so far. I hit some targets today…I think I have made it (shooting) too complicated and today Stian made it simple.”
Dahlmeier is an Antholz fan. “I really like this place; I like the atmosphere. It is beautiful to race in the mountains; we have the good weather, the snow conditions and the shooting range had no wind so it was perfect for me.” She watched Eckhoff’s standing stage on television. “I saw her and thought, ‘perhaps one mistake,’ but it was zero-zero, a really good race.”
Best for Vitkova
Vitkova had her best-ever day at this venue. “I am happy to be here (one the podium). I do not like high altitude; this is my best result here.”