Germany and Norway Strike Gold in Youth Relays
The German team of Hendrik Rudolph, Darius Lodl, and Hans Koellner won the Gold medal in the youth men's relay this afternoon, with five spare rounds in 1:01:50.6 at the IBU YJWCH in Osrblie. The Silver medal went to Slovenia, with a penalty and five spare rounds, 40.9 seconds back while Italy claimed the Bronze medal, with five spares, 41.3 seconds back. Kazakhstan finished fourth, missing a medal by a mere.2 seconds.
Later in the afternoon, the Norwegian team of Maren Bakken, Marte Moeller and Anne De Besche won the Gold medal in the youth women's relay, using three spares on the way to a 57:19.2 victory. Germany won the Silver medal, also with three spares, 17.7 seconds back, while France won the Bronze medal, with six spares, 1:25.4 back.
Lodl Built Deciding Lead for Germany
German leadoff leg Rudolph was happy with the first lap and his prone shooting but then found himself in a very uncomfortable position in standing, missing two targets.
“Fortunately I managed to get out of the troubles just before I needed to go into penalty loop,” said Rudolph who tagged Lodl onto the tracks six seconds behind leading Ukraine and Norway. With amazing skis as both his teammates had and one spare round, Lodl gradually distanced himself from the rest of the field. He was the difference maker, finishing his leg with a comfortable 46 second lead, sending anchor Koellner into the last three loops with a lots of confidence.
Koellner praised his teammates. “I need to thank my teammates for the great work they did before my exchange. Darius built a big lead and I was happy to have the comfort of not being rushed on the shooting range. I also need to reconfirm Benedikt’s and Darius’ praise for the skis, they were super fast. All in all it has been a really great day, sharing such great moments just adds to that feeling.”
Dramatic Last 50 Meters for Slovenia, Italy and Kazakhstan
Going into the last exchange there was only thirteen seconds between second place Kazakhstan and fifth place Slovenia with Italy and Norway in between. Alex Cisar of Slovenia brought Slovenia up to third place after prone but Vladislav Kireyev for Kazakhstan and Italy's Didier Bionaz kept pushing hard, simply refusing to go down without a fight. Making matters even more complicated. Cisar lost his pole during the last lap and just after the last turn he managed finally to catch up.
Cisar, competing with great merit in the IBU Junior Cups this season commented on that last loop. “In the last 50 meters I just gave it my all not thinking of anything. When I overtook Vladislav, I thought good, at least we have a medal. Then I felt Silver might be within the reach. I have no idea how I managed but I did. It took me five minutes to catch a breath.”
Equally satisfied was Bionaz who held on to a .2 second advantage over Kireyev for Italy's bronze. “I just tried to stay calm throughout my exchange and it worked out well. It is a team effort, a medal is great,” said Bionaz.
Norway in Wire-to-Wire Women’s Relay Win
The Norwegian team skied and shot with great confidence and authority to win the youth women 3x6K relay ahead of Germany and France to wrap up a beautiful winter day in Slovakia.
Norwegian leadoff leg Bakken needed two spare rounds in standing but still gave Moeller a relatively comfortable 15.1 seconds lead. “I was nervous before the start,” said Bakken. “The relay is a team effort and you want to bring your teammates a good position. That is why I am really happy to have managed my exchange well.”
Moeller, who added 22 seconds to the lead commented, “Maren brought me a nice lead and just wanted to do the same for Anne. I have used one spare bullet but I think that is very good effort for really when emotions are higher than usual." After that, it was up to De Besche to safely bring the hard-earned first place across the finish line, shooting clean to ensure the Gold medal. “I didn’t feel nervous at all. I saw how Maren and Marte performed and I knew I just need to keep focus and go about my business. Sure, I have seen German girl coming closer and closer but I felt I controlled the race well.”
The German team matched Norway on the range using the same three spare rounds. Lisa Maria Spark shot clean in the first leg but was surprised how fast Bakken has started.
“I am satisfied with my performance today, especially with my shooting,” commented Spark who sent Mareike Braun looking a podium place after the first exchange. “I spent two spare bullets but still managed to get to second place. I felt the pressure from Polish girl, but just kept going,” Braun said. Hanna-Michelle Hermann took the final tag, knowing how difficult is to build a lead and how easily it can disappear. She used just one spare round, closing in on the leader De Besche. Seventeen seconds stood between them at the finish, stood between but Hermann was still happy. “It is Silver, it is team effort and it feels great."
Trailing Poland by almost 57 seconds in third place France's Paula Botet, upset after her seven penalties in the individual, took over from Coline Pasteur in the hunt for the Bronze medal.
“I just wanted to perform well, to shoot better, much better than in my individual race,” said Botet, currently seventh in the IBU Junior Cup Total Score. “I missed just once, caught the Polish girl and finished third. Shared joy is a great joy; I am so happy for this medal.”