First World Cup Victory for Denise Herrmann in Östersund Sprint
Germany’s Denise Herrmann, in just her 12th BMW IBU World Cup start outran a single standing penalty to win the women’s 7.5K sprint in19:54.8. Herrmann, in her first-ever World Cup victory, finished 15.2 seconds ahead of France’s Justine Braisaz, who shot clean. Third went to Juliya Dzhyma of Ukraine, also shooting clean, 19.6 seconds back.
Just missing the podium, but claiming the Yellow Bib with her fourth place was Norway’s Synnøve Solemdal, shooting clean, 24.3 seconds back. Just .2 behind her was Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi, also 10-for-10. Sixth went to Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen, with one penalty, 26 seconds back.
Another Cold Windless Evening
The final evening competition of the week was similar to the last three, cold, dark and windless. It was a bit colder than last night for the men’s 20K individual, keeping the tracks firm and fast while the wind flags were completely motionless.
Braisaz and Dzhyma
The lack of wind meant a lot of clean prone shooting; 52 women hit all of the prone targets. Olympic Sprint Champion Anastasiya Kuzmina set the bar high with quick clean stage, giving her a five second gap on the field early in the competition. Yet among the early starters, her lead was short-lived with two standing penalties dropping her back, despite some very fast skiing. Braisaz looked like a winner, with two clean stages and equally fast skiing, putting her atop the early leaderboard at the finish. She was chased by the next woman in the start order, Dzhyma who matched her on the shooting range and crossed just 4.4 seconds later. However, there were plenty of fast women ready to challenge.
Hermann’s Superior Track Skills Equal Victory
Herrmann, the ex-cross-county skier won the second IBU Cup sprint last week in Sjusjøen, with single penalties in both stages. Today, she cleaned prone and flew around the tracks, setting up a challenge for the young French star. In standing, the German had a penalty, but her superior skills on the track basically negated the trip around the loop. She left 3.6 seconds back and by the 7.1K split, had a 12.8 second lead. Just behind her, Vittozzi made a challenge, going 10-for-10 to take the lead after standing. However, she could not match Herrmann’s torrid pace, falling more than 20 seconds off the pace with 400 meters to the finish. The new German star crossed the finish line more than 15 seconds ahead of the field, with her first-ever World Cup victory.
Focus on Shooting
Even with her fast skiing, Herrmann admitted the tracks were not her main focus. “I was really focused on the shooting today. I tried to stay clean, but on the second standing (I missed). But on the track, it went really well. Just like the individual, I tried to keep more speed on each lap.”
Solemdal’s Challenge Nets Yellow Bib
Late starter number 81 Solemdal also took a run at the lead. After cleaning prone, she gambled with a very fast standing stage, cleaning to move within 5.8 seconds of the lead, but slowed in the last loop, just missing the podium. Still her effort was enough to grab the Yellow Bib from Belarusian Nadezhda Skardino for Sunday’s pursuit here in Östersund.
The first-time winner beamed on her special day, commenting, “It feels perfect in this moment... I knew that if I had good shooting, everything could happen with this cross-country shape. I had a dream that this day could come, but it feels amazing.”
Herrmann admitted the transition from cross-country to hitting targets while skiing fast was a quite tough. “Last year I think I came from sprints in the cross country skiing and I was pushing too hard and so I had problems on the shooting, but now I changed my tactics and it is paying off… My first shooting was in 2012 at Ruhpolding when I was invited by the federation to try. It felt very interesting, but the change took some time, then last year I said, ‘now or never’ and now I am here.”
Finger Problems for Braisaz
Braisaz overcame a few problems today that she faced in the 15K individual. I had problems during the individual, but it was my fault, because I cut my fingers before zeroing and with the strap put by with my physiotherapist, I could not use the glove. After skiing 1,5 hours in -12°C without my glove, two fingers were frozen. But today it was okay.” With a laugh, she added, “My goal for the year is to find myself (laughs), I have to get to know how my body work in order to make everything easier. Shooting is often a problem, but not if my mind is there, because then it becomes easy.”
Need for Speed
Dzhyma, with her second podium in a row knew she had to be faster today than she was in the individual on Wednesday. “After the individual I was looking at the speed of my competitors and I knew that I had no room for a mistake. That is why I knew I had to shoot clean and it's what I did…Today it was just about the speed and I tried to go much faster than on Wednesday until the very end.”