Oberhof Sprint Win for Julian Eberhard
Julian Eberhard of Austria won the men’s sprint today in 26:57.5 with one penalty for his first victory of the season and the second in his career. Czech Republic’s Michal Slesingr finished in second, with one penalty10.5 seconds back . Third went to Dominik Windisch of Italy, also with one penalty,40.3 seconds back.
Windisch's teammate Lukas Hofer shot clean but finished fourth, a mere .1 seconds from the podium. Germans Erik Lesser and Simon Schempp, both with two penalties finished fifth and sixth, 41.2 and 46.2 seconds back.
The 106 men started today's Oberhof sprint in close-to-extreme conditions: heavy snowfall, cold temperatures and strong winds at the shooting range. With Yellow/ Red Bib Martin Fourcade wearing number 23 started, the question of the day was whether he would take the fourth sprint in a row. After a clean prone stage, he picked up three standing penalties that doomed him to ninth place.
Shooting was a challenge for everyone, with only three men shooting clean; Hofer, Benjamin Weger of Switzerland, and the surprise of the day: In-Bok Lee of Korea, who brought his nation its first-ever World Cup points.
Eberhard benefitted from his usual fast skiing, improved shooting and small errors by others to claim the win. Teammates Windisch and Hofer had a tight battle for third. Hofer was close to Windisch, but a dropped ski pole as he left standing cost him precious second and possibly the podium spot.
Eberhard admitted that he had worked on his shooting during the holidays. “I saw in December that I had excellent ski times, so I spent some time over New Year and Christmas on the shooting range, focusing more than usual on my shooting.”
Regarding today's tough conditions, he added, “Conditions today were very difficult: a lot of snow, a lot of fresh snow and a lot of wind. It was a difficult but a really good day for me.”
Slesingr said he felt the pressure was off compared to Nove Mesto. “I felt more relaxed and didn’t feel any pressure today, I didn’t feel really like it was a real race, it felt more like going around the stadium.”
Windisch was worried about Hofer's challenge on the last loop. from Hofer. “I watched the competition from the changing room. When I saw on the screen that his time was close, I thought he would beat me. I am happy he didn’t, but I am also happy about all team. It is a good day for Italy.”