Braisaz-Bouchet: “After my wedding day, the best day of my life” Braisaz-Bouchet was beyond elated with the win, but especially with her perfect, very fast, confident shooting. “After my wedding day, the best day of my life was today. I just enjoyed it; one of the most emotional wins we had, and I had personally. It was wonderful!” Continuing on the importance of the victory, “The head coach told us that it was a longtime that we did not win a relay, three years or more. We had big ambitions; I am so happy for all the team.” Teammates: “love relays” First leg Bescond added, “I always love relays, so today was pretty amazing!” Chevalier-Bouchet called the win, “full of pleasure; as very good race for me.” Simon was equally pleased, “It is always something special to be on the relay, lot of pressure of course, but I am really happy with my shooting. I took this race with a lot of pleasure.
Norway, with one penalty and seven spares finished fourth, 1:09.8 back. Germany matching France on the range finished fifth, 1:26.8 back, while Italy, with a penalty and ten spares finished sixth, 2:58.3 back.
The first women’s relay of the season with 23 teams at the start, kicked off the last competition day in Oestersund under again cold, very wintery -14C temperatures on a virtually windless afternoon that put shooting at the forefront. The field stayed tightly packed over the first 2 km loop into prone; thirteen teams left within 10 seconds with twelve going 5-for-5. Russia, Switzerland, and Norway set the pace heading to the standing stage. Russia’s Reztsova cleaned standing with ease to retain the lead, with Lisa Vittozzi despite a second spare round in second, 1.3 seconds back, closely followed by Czech Republic’s Jessica Jislova. The trio exchanged in that order, with Germany and Sweden next, only 8 seconds back
Midway through the first loop of the second leg, Denise Herrmann took over the lead as a tightly packed group of five, with Tiril Eckhoff bringing Norway into the mix as they headed to the prone stage. Mona Brorsson and Anais Chevalier-Bouchet cleaned in five to lead the still close group of five teams out of the stadium, but Chevalier-Bouchet moved to the front before the standing stage. Dzinara Alimbekava cleaned in five as did her French rival; they headed to the exchange 1-2 while Eckhoff ended up on the penalty loop. Brorsson’s two penalties dropped Sweden from the leaders.
Chevalier-Bouchet tagged Simon first at the second exchange with the Elena Kruchynkina less than a second back and Hettich in third, but 46 seconds back. Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold trailed 1:07 back. Simon needed a single spare to clean prone, taking a 31 second lead over her Belarusian foe, with Janina Hettich remaining third. Simon cleaned standing spectacularly fast to extend her lead to 53 seconds over Belarus, with Hettich and Ingrid landmark Tandrevold now 1:18 and 1:30 back.
Simon tagged Braisaz-Bouchet with a 1:08 bulge over Hanna Sola, while Hanna Oeberg took over for Sweden in third, 1:20 back. Olsbu Roeiseland followed with Preuss, another 13 seconds in arrears. The leader cleaned prone in six shots as did Sola and Oeberg. Olsbu Roeiseland went 5-for-5 to get within five seconds of Oeberg in third. Like Simon, Braisaz-Bouchet was spectacularly fast in closing her last five targets sealing the victory. Sola opened the door for her rivals with extra rounds. Olsbu Roeiseland used one and Oeberg two, fourteen and eighteen seconds out of second place. Sola commented on her shooting struggles, “I tried to do the maximum, maybe it did not work out the best with the spare rounds, but I am really satisfied with the result.”
Braisaz-Bouchet cruised to the win crossing the line with a huge smile, waving the French flag while Sola brought Belarus home second. The Norwegian and Swedish foes battled for the last podium spot over the last 2 km loop with both leading at times. A half second separated them with 400 meters to go. Oeberg came off the final hill and sprinted hard to grab third place.
Brorsson emphasized the strength of the Swedish team, coming back to take third place. After struggling with two penalties herself, “I am so happy that I managed to ski well and did not lose too much time run away from me. We have really fast girls in the last two loops so it was no problem…We know that we do not have to be prefect but we want to do better than this, but we have a really strong team and that gives us a lot of confidence when you have such good skiers in the final loops, so it will be an interesting winter. Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni