Late Starter Martin Fourcade Takes Men’s 20K Individual

Late Starter Martin Fourcade Takes Men’s 20K Individual

Martin Fourcade of France, starting near the back of the field, claimed victory this morning at Pokljuka in the men’s 20K individual, shooting clean and crossing the finish line in 47:09.2. Johannes Kuehn of Germany with his first career podium finished second, 4.2 seconds back, while Austria’s Simon Eder finished third. 19.7 seconds back. Both Kuehn and Eder also shot clean.

Pokljuka Men's 20K Individual

Fourth went to Slovenian local hero Jakov Fak, with one penalty, 43.4 seconds back. Kuehn’s teammate Simon Schempp finished fifth, also with a single penalty, 38.6 seconds back, while Ukraine’s Sergey Semenov finished sixth, shooting clean, 45 seconds back.

Late Starter Martin Fourcade Takes Men’s 20K Individual

The fog and clouds of Wednesday gave way to sunshine today, with a few clouds hanging in the forest, almost perfect conditions for the men; with the temperature hovering just at freezing and virtually no wind. This made for excellent shooting conditions, with 57 zeros in the first prone. Most of the top men started in the second group or later, with Fourcade well in the back of the 110-man field at number 87.

Big Mistake
Fourcade later admitted that his late start number was not one of the best decisions of his career. “It was a big mistake. We expected snow during the night; that is why I took a late start. When I got to the stadium and saw the frozen rain, I knew it was the worst decision I could have taken, but you cannot draw again.”

Good Shooting

Several men popped up at the top of the leader board in the first stage until Johannes Thingnes Boe took control with a 10.5 second gap on the field. Not far behind were a group of Germans including Simon Schempp and early starter Johannes Kuehn, 16.6 and 32.3 seconds back. Further back, Semenov cleaned to begin his day. Fourcade was extremely cautious, shooting clean and slowly (38.7 seconds) leaving in 10th position.

Schempp at the Top
The Norwegian squandered his lead with a missed shot in the first standing stage, dropping him back to sixth while the two Germans cleaned again with Schempp moving into the top spot and Kuehn back at 11th. Fourcade led into the shooting range for his first standing, hit four shots quickly but held the final shot for a long time, finally cleaning and moving up to fourth, just 7.2 seconds back.

Late Starter Martin Fourcade Takes Men’s 20K Individual

Kuehn Leads; Fourcade Moves Up
As fatigue started to set in for the second prone stage, the standings started to jumble further. Schempp and Kuehn cleaned again to put them at 1 and 3. Eder cleaned for the third time to move up to fifth, but 48 seconds off the pace. Fourcade continued his march up the standings to second position with his third, and again slow clean stage, 17.9 seconds back

Late Starter Martin Fourcade Takes Men’s 20K Individual

Aggressive Shooting and Victory
As usual in this longest competition in biathlon, the last standing stage was the true decision time. Kuehn continued his excellent day with another zero to grab the top spot, while Schempp missed once. Number 42 Eder matched Kuehn to leave 5 seconds back, with clean shooting Semenov and local hero Fak, with one penalty both 30 seconds back. The fog was rolling back in as Fourcade came to his last standing stage. The top man in the sport, shot quite aggressively, cleaning for the fourth time and left with a commanding 16.3 second lead. Fourcade slowed on the last loop, with the tracks softening but prevailed to defend his Yellow and Red bibs, for his fifth straight win at Pokljuka.

With the late start and slow tracks, Fourcade relied on his shooting for the victory. So I had to fight with my ammunition. I am really glad I succeeded on the shooting because I knew it was my only option…the track got worse and worse…I am really happy I won today.”

Podium Surprise
Kuehn, whose previous best was fifth at Antholz admitted surprise at his second pace but was realistic relative to Fourcade. “It is always a surprise to be on the podium; I knew my skiing is okay. I was lucky and good at the shooting range, and in the individual, the shooting range is what counts…I could have not been better. I was very satisfied with my race, but he won and that is it!”

Late Starter Martin Fourcade Takes Men’s 20K Individual

Hit the Targets
The veteran Eder admitted like his rivals that shooting was the key. “I am really satisfied that I hit the targets; that is most important.”