Christiansen’s trio of clean-shooting days
Christiansen who shot clean in three consecutive competitions including last week’s Kontiolahti pursuit where he finished fifth, thought it was an all-around perfect day. “It was the perfect day. I mean the weather, the tracks were perfect,; the amazing crowd here in Estonia and me finishing it off with a 20-out-of-20!...It was great to hear the crowd cheering with every shot in the last shooting. It is something you dream about as a child. It is not always about the results but about feelings and it was one of these great feelings…The second in a row for me. You dream of shooting 20 once per year and now I have done it twice in one week so it was the perfect, perfect day. I am so happy!” “I just went for it!”
Regarding his last loop, he added, “I knew if you want someone to chase you on the last loop, it is not Quentin Fillon Maillet! He is the best biathlete in the world right now. I knew he could catch the seven or eight seconds I had. I tried to ski fast but not kill myself immediately because I knew if I had some power left in the legs at the top, I could be pretty good in this last sprint because it is almost 500 meters completely flat. I know how to sprint and had some confidence there. When he was two or three seconds behind at the last split time, I just went for it!”
Fillon Maillet’s teammate Antonin Guigonnat, the only other man in the field to shoot clean finished fourth, 30.5 seconds back. Germany’s Erik Lesser, also with one penalty finished fifth, 38.6 seconds back. Italy’s Lukas Hofer with two penalties finished sixth, 46.4 seconds back.
Fillon Maillet reached his stated pre-season goal with his second place finish; securing the Men’s World Cup Total Score title. The second place boosted his point total to an insurmountable 870 points to teammate Emilien Jacquelin’s 625 points.
Fillon Maillet, “My goal…was to win”
Never one to give a half effort, Fillon Maillet related a story about taking the World Cup Total Score. “Yesterday someone told me you must just finish the mass start or finish under the top 20 (to win the Total Score). My goal was not to finish in the top 20. It was to win, for sure. I was confident about the overall but I wanted to fight for the overall in the mass start. I was happy to fight for the win today.”
A clear, sunny +3C day for the next-to-the-last men’s mass start of the season, with the shooting range flags lying flat and the tracks very fast. The perfect shooting conditions resulted in 19 men all going clean, leaving within 20 seconds. At the front of the pack were Bakken, Claude, Simon Eder, Fillon Maillet and Emilien Jacquelin, all shooting very fast in the perfect conditions.
By the 4.3 km split, the Yellow Bib was setting the pace, with the big pack sitting tightly behind him in a long train, all jockeying for the lead. Bakken in the second prone stage again cleaned faster than anyone with Christiansen, Fillon Maillet and German teammates Doll and Lesser just a step behind. The big pack of perfect shooters dwindled down to a dozen with Benjamin Weger in 12th, but a mere 10 seconds behind Bakken.
The Norwegian trio of Bakken, Christiansen and Filip Fjeld Andersen controlled the pace with Fillon Maillet sandwiched between them as they headed to the first standing stage, with no one was letting up or showing signs of weakness. Fillon Maillet on lane one was lightning fast, but missed his last shot, while Jacquelin, Christiansen and Guigonnat all were just as quick but cleaned, leaving together as the only men at 15-for-15. Fillon Maillet and Hofer both with a single penalty trailed at 18 seconds back.
Christiansen powered past Jacquelin before the 10.3 km split, moving four seconds in front of his French rival. At the same time, Hofer and Fillon Maillet moved up to third and fourth. The Norwegian skiing effortlessly came to the last standing alone. Five brilliant shots and it seemed to be over, but Fillon Maillet was just as spectacular, heading out for the last 3 km loop, trying to chase down Christiansen’s 7.4second lead. Bakken and Guigonnat left in third but 16 seconds in arears.
At the 13.3 km split, Christiansen’s lead was down to four seconds and he seemed to be faltering with Fillon Maillet and Bakken closing in. The Yellow bib continued to work hard even on the downhills, but the Norwegian remained in control, crossing the line pointing at the crowd in celebration. Fillon Maillet, after a fruitless chase, finished second with Bakken taking the last spot on the podium.
Bakken’s first BMW IBU World Cup podium took some special effort to achieve. “It feels great. I was just focusing on doing great races earlier this season. Since me and Filip went into the World Cup at the same time and he got the two podiums. Of course, I wanted one as well. I knew with a good race, I was capable of doing it, but I knew attacking and making mistakes all the time was not the way to do it. So, I just had to stay calm and shoot good; stay focused on the track and do not use all that energy. In the end I had quite some energy left in the last loop in a duel with Antonin. I saw Quentin was too far, but was satisfied with third place.”
Photos: Hendrik Osula