Last Loop Heroics Bring Fourcade First-ever Pokljuka Win
Martin Fourcade of France shot clean in today's sprint to claim his first-ever victory at Pokljuka in 23:11.7, overtaking Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe with a spectacularly fast last loop. Boe, who was in the lead after the standing stage, also shot clean but finished second, 13.7 seconds back. Russia’s Anton Shipulin matched his rivals on the shooting range for his first podium of the season in third place, 15.1 seconds back. With this victory, Fourcade now has at least one victory at every World Cup venue where he has competed.
104 men battled for the podium on a warm sunny and windless morning in this opening competition at BMW IBU World Cup in Slovenia's Julian Alps.
It takes 10 out of 10 to Win
The windless conditions resulted in more than 20 men shooting clean; the top nine men all had perfect shooting days. Germany’s Benedikt Doll put some pressure on the big names in the first stage, but his three standing penalties took him out of podium contention.
Fourcade Spoils the Sweep
Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen had a slower start, but he compensated with a quick, accurate prone stage. His teammate Boe set the bar high for the rest of the field with fast skiing, combined with fast and accurate shooting in both stages. As clean-shooting Emil Hegle Svendsen crossed the finish line beating Bjoerndalen’s time, three Norwegians (Boe, Svendsen, Bjoerndalen) were atop the leader board. However, Fourcade closed the gap to Boe between the prone and standing stages. Leaving standing just .5 seconds behind the young Norwegian, Fourcade poured on the speed in a remarkable last loop to take the victory. Shipulin later came from fifth after the standing stage to slip ahead of Svendsen and Björndalen for the final podium spot.
Taking the middle winner's seat in the middle at the press conference, Fourcade smiled and said, “First time I take this chair in Pokljuka.” On his success, he added, “It was amazing, I waited for a long time to win here. Up until today, this has been the last venue I have never won in. This is a special day for me.”
His feelings at training dictated his strategy today. “When I came to training, I had a strange feeling on the shooting range. That’s why I decided to start slowly.”
On the battle with Fourcade, Boe said, “During the last loop I received the information of being very close to Fourcade. I accelerated, but this was not enough for first place today. I did not win today, but I am happy with this race.”
Shipulin was motivated by his teammate's performance in last Sunday's Östersund pursuit, “A win from my teammates (Babikov and Tsvetkov), motivated me today, I was very happy for them. I look at the result list and see the strongest athletes in the top ten. One thing I know for sure: the competition tomorrow will be tough and exciting.”