Gabi Delights Home Crowd with Mass Start Win
Gabriela Koukalová of Czech Republic thrilled the home crowd with her victory today in the women’s mass start; the first podium for the Czech team this week and her second win of the season. Koukalová had a single penalty in her 34:42.1 win. Fast-closing Laura Dahlmeier of Germany finished 3.1 seconds back with two penalties in second place. Third went to Dorothea Wierer of Italy, with one penalty, 9.7 seconds back.
Dahlmeier’s teammate, Vanessa Hinz finished fourth, with one penalty, 15.5 seconds back. Marte Olsbu of Norway finished fifth, with two penalties, 21.6 seconds back, while a third German Franziska Preuss was sixth, also with two penalties, 26.8 seconds back.
Modified Course; Hauser Leads Early
The women’s mass start was modified and shortened to 12K due to the snow conditions, so the first loop was 4K and after that, the loops were 2K instead of the normal 2.5K. That long loop did little to separate the field before the first prone stage. Dahlmeier had two penalties and fell 51 seconds back, while Lisa Theresa Hauser cleaned quickly cleaned and took the lead. Preuss went our second with Puskarcikova just behind her, as 12 women cleaned and left within 20 seconds. When they came to the second prone, Koukalová had moved into second behind Hauser. The Austrian cleaned very quickly to remain in the lead with Hinz, Tatiana Akimova, Anais Chevalier and Nadezhda Skardino also clean, while Koukalová had a penalty and fell 32 seconds back.
Koukalová Comes Back
The pace picked up over the next 2K as Akimova moved into the lead just before the stadium. Koukalová had come back to the lead group by the shooting range.
She later complimented her service team. “I would like to say thanks to our service guys as my skis were super fast and I am grateful I could find my fast skiing and it reminded me of Sochi.”
The Russian and Hauser had penalties, allowing the clean-shooting Koukalová, Wierer and Dorin Habert to take control of the top three spots heading for the final standing stage. Koukalová had a slight lead as she set up for the last standing; she shot deliberately but effectively. The crowd roared with glee as Koukalová cleaned and left ahead of Wierer who matched her with a clean stage. The Czech star powered up the first hill to pull away from the Italian. With 500 meters to go the lead was up to 7 seconds over the fast finishing Dahlmeier who was ahead of Wierer.
Dahlmeier thought she had a chance, “After the last shooting I thought the podium was still possible and I started catching one after the other. My skis were perfect and this was the key for this second place.”
Wierer, who tangled skis with Dorin Habert early in the competition and fell, was still pleased with her day. “I am really happy to go on the Christmas break with 2 podiums.”
Kisses to the Crowd
Coming down the finish straight with a solid lead, Koukalová blew kisses to the fans and crossed the finish line smiled broadly with her second win of the season. Dahlmeier and Wierer followed.
Koukalová was full of emotion before and after her victory. “I was so nervous before the race so it was amazing... I have so many emotions; it's even more emotional than at the Olympics. I would like to say thanks to all the spectators and I hope I was able to make a nice Christmas present to all of them.”