Julia Simon claims First Career Victory in Kontiolahti pursuit
France’s Julia Simon cleaned the last standing stage this afternoon and skied to her first-ever World Cup win, waving the French flag as finished in 30:43.5. Simon with two penalties finished 17.3 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Selina Gasparin with four penalties in a season-best second place. Lisa Vittozzi of Italy also with four penalties finished third, 20.9 seconds back.
Simon was almost speechless after her big victory. “I do not realize this; today was crazy. I do not know about the last shooting. I just saw all the targets go clean. It was amazing. I do not know what to say.” She said Fourcade’s win was an inspiration. “He is amazing, a great guy. He gave everything to the sport and French biathlon. It is incredible to do my first win just after his last win."
Home Stadium Finish Line for Kaisa
Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen, with four penalties finished fourth, 28.2 seconds back in the final competition of her career. The three-time Women’s World Cup Total Score winner spoke tearfully about her last day in biathlon that happened in her home stadium. “I did not expect that it would happen here in my home stadium. But we cannot choose all the steps in our life and finally I am happy that it happened here.” She will miss “my friends all these years that competed here with me. It is a special biathlon family. I will miss them the most.”
Respect the Globes
In trying to choose a her best memory, she added, “It is hard to pick out any one special thing. For sure all the globes that I won I will respect them maybe more now after the career than what I have during my career.”
Monika Hojnisz-Starega of Poland, with two penalties finished fifth, 39.9 seconds back, while Mona Brorsson of Sweden finished sixth, with one penalty, 42.8 seconds back.
Wierer’s World Cup Total Score Win: “Just Amazing”
Italy’s Dorothea Wierer finished eleventh, with five penalties, 57.8 seconds back, just one place behind Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff. That small one-place difference was just close enough for Wierer to hold off Eckhoff for the Women’s World Cup Total Score title. Wierer in claiming her second consecutive big Crystal Globe scored 793 points to Eckhoff’s 786 points. Eckhoff won the Women’s World Cup Pursuit Score, while Wierer also won the Women's World Cup Mass Start Score.
The bubbly Italian, feeling drained by the hard competition and the pressure commented on her win. “I can’t still realize it. I was sure today that I could not do it because I was really a lot of seconds behind and I had not really a great shooting today so it is just amazing.”
“Fight and Give Everything”
As for defending the title, a feat not recorded since Magdalena Forsberg won her last of six World Cup Total Score titles in 2002, Wierer said, “Yesterday was the worst race for me with three mistakes. I will be second but that is also good. But my coaches told me to just fight and give everything because it is the last race. I gave it all that I had inside because I was really tired; the head and body. It is really, really great for me and my team also…Last summer I did not think it would be a season like this. For sure, I need a lot of time to realize everything. It was really intense, a lot of pressure. Today was hard on my mind and body. It is just great (to win)!”
Sunny for Final Competition
The sun was out and it was down to -6C as Denise Herrmann left the stadium in the final competition of the 2019/2020 BMW IBU World cup season. The German star shot slowly in the windy conditions, but still ended up with two penalty loops in the first prone stage. Yet, Franziska Preuss cleaned to take the lead by 30 seconds over her teammate and Vittozzi who had a single miss, with Simon and Marketa Davidova five seconds farther back.
Davidova Takes Over
Herrmann fought back over the next 2 km loop, closing the gap down to 20 seconds by the second prone stage. With the wind blowing in their faces, Preuss and Herrmann both had four penalties. Davidova cleaned to jump into the lead, 22 seconds up on Vittozzi and Simon. Half a dozen others including Eckhoff and Wierer were in the next group, all within 14 seconds.
Davidova used her skiing prowess to add a few seconds to her margin before the first standing stage, while Eckhoff moved to fourth with a big pack on her heels. The leader picked up two penalties, while Simon had one. Behind them, Eckhoff shooting confidently cleaned to surge into the lead with Simon next with Hojnisz –Starega in third 9 seconds back, just 3 seconds ahead of Vittozzi.
Clean Last Standing and the Lead
The speedy Eckhoff pushed hard into the final standing stage to give herself a bit of breathing room on the windy shooting range. The young Simon shot alongside Eckhoff as the Norwegian waited for the wind. Simon, taking no prisoners fired fast and cleaned to leave with a 30 second lead over Vittozzi who had a single penalty. Gasparin also cleaned to leave in the third podium spot, 37 seconds back and 7 seconds ahead of Hojnisz-Starega.
Waving the Flag
Simon was in total control of the last loop. She picked up a French flag, waving it in joy as she finished with her first career victory. The veteran Gasparin found some extra power to get ahead of Vittozzi and finish second. Going up the Wall, Kaisa Mäkäräinen after leaving the last standing stage in sixth made a bid for the podium but ran out of time, eventually finishing fourth. Carrying the French flag across the finish line, according to Simon was, “amazing. When I did my last shoot I wanted to cross the finish line and share with my teammates, just amazing.”
Photos: Christian Manzoni