Martin Fourcade leads French Sweep in Kontiolahti pursuit
The retiring French star Martin lead French podium sweep in the final competition of his storied career, leading teammates Quentin Fillon Maillet and Emilien Jacquelin across the finish line. Fourcade, with three penalties took full control after the final standing stage in the men’s pursuit, crossing the finish line in 31:25.4. Fillon Maillet finished second with two penalties, 2.9 seconds back. Jacquelin in third place with four penalties finished 4.5 seconds back; the third place finish gave him the World Cup Pursuit Score title and the first small Crystal Globe of his career.
Dream, No Fans, First and Last World Cup Wins in Kontiolahti
Fourcade ended his career with a pursuit win in the same stadium where he claimed his first-ever World Cup win in the pursuit 10 year ago. He emotionally commented, “It was a big day for me as everyone knows. It was a dream for me, a heroic dream, doing biathlon for a bit more than 10 years. I could not dream about finishing another way; of course I miss he fans. You know when I started biathlon back in the forest in the Pyrenees Mountains in France, there were no fans. It was just that thought of biathlon and skiing. I am proud that I achieved all that I did and proud that I discovered myself along the journey. Today is just a beautiful way to finish it."
Happy to leave…tears from joy”
He continued, admitting that he was “passing the baton” to another generation. Although I did not dream about that Yellow jersey and that Crystal Globe for today, I think it is a good signal that Johannes is taking it…It is what is making me free to leave. Ten years ago back in Vancouver Vincent Defrasne gave me the relay and today I am proud I gave it to my mates Emilien. Of course Quentin was really strong. I hope they will give it to a young French biathlete in 10 years. I am pretty emotional…It has been a dream. I am proud and happy to leave; if there are tears, they will be from joy.”
Johannes Thingnes Boe, with four penalties, finished fourth, with four penalties, 8.3 seconds back, but scored enough World Cup points to take the Men’s World Cup total Score and the big Crystal glove for the second consecutive season.
Final Battle; Two Points
The Norwegian, thrilled with his second title, had a lot to say about the final battle with Fourcade. “It was too exciting, a big fight; the final fight with Martin for today’s victory but also the World Cup Total Score. He was quite fast on the skis today and pushed me quite hard on the shooting range. I fell off on my first standing and suddenly everything was in his hands. I do not know how I could find the targets in the last shooting but it was crucial. I finished in place number four. I knew I had to be in at least place number four today if he was winning. In the last loop, I saw Martin, okay he wins today, I need to be fourth. Crossing the finish line in fourth place and winning by two points is way beyond what I could handle for pressure. It was a great fight today.”
“Such Nice Words”
He reiterated his respect for his biggest rival. “It is so amazing to hear such nice words from this biathlon legend. Martin pushed everyone here on the start today to be a better biathlete. He pushed me not to be better in skiing but also the whole biathlon person, and he has given a lot to the sport. We just have to say a big thanks for everything he has taught us. We Norwegians have had great fights with Martin since Ole Einar, Emil Tarjei and now me for the last years. Our team and the Norwegian viewers will miss Martin.”
Arnd Peiffer, with two penalties, finished fifth, 14.1 seconds back while Boe’s teammate Erlend Bjøntegaard who shot clean was sixth, 15.6 seconds back.
Partly Cloudy; Johannes Leads
Partly cloudy skies greeted the men for their final competition of the season, with the temperature hovering at-5C and a stiff wind crossing the shooting range. As the men left the stadium, the focus was clearly on numbers one and two, Johannes and Fourcade, matching up for the final time in the French biathlon legend’s final time. The Norwegian went out at a steady pace, maintaining his margin on Fourcade and Jacquelin before the first prone stage. Johannes shot very carefully and cleaned while Fourcade shot much more rapidly than usual, also cleaning, cutting the gap to 7.9 seconds. Jacquelin matched, leaving on Fourcade’s heels. Christiansen was next, but 18 seconds back.
At the top of the Wall, the French duo was just 2.5 seconds in arrears, coming to the second prone stage. The trio traded shots with Jacquelin cleaning a bit faster than Fourcade while Johannes missed one shot, heading to the penalty loop. The sprint winner was now chasing, 22 seconds back, with the clean-shooting Peiffer next but 57 seconds back.
French Duo in Front
The leaders maintained their margin into the first standing stage. The leaders went shot for shot until missing one shot each. Johannes shot rather slowly; yet ended up with three penalties. The two leaders now had a 42 second cushion on third position Fillon Maillet, who after a prone penalty downed all if his first standing targets. Peiffer and Johannes trailed at 1:05 back.
Missed Shots; Fourcade Leaves with the Lead
Jacquelin set the pace as they covered the next 2.5 km; Fourcade was just on his shoulder until they topped the Wall, when the Yellow Bib took over. Nerves reigned, as Jacquelin missed three times and Fourcade, shooting slower missed twice. Fillon Maillet missed his last shot, while Johannes cleaned. Fourcade left the stadium in the lead for one last time, 14.7 seconds up on his young teammate and 21 ahead of Fillon Maillet.
Victory; Hands Held High
Everyone along the tracks were cheering for the retiring French star as he pushed his way around the final 2.5 km of his biathlon career. He was skiing with purpose but also easily. By the Wall, Johannes had moved back to second position with his two French rivals on his shoulder. The French teammates fought back, pulling into second and third in the final few hundred meters for a French sweep. Fourcade crossed the line as the sun came out with hands high, and then together in a gesture of appreciation.
Congratulations and a small Crystal Globe
Fourcade stayed near the finish line accepting handshakes and then was doused with champagne by his teammates. Among those who embracing him was his long-time friend Simon Schempp who offered words and a hug. At the Flower Ceremony, wearing his final Yellow Bib, Fourcade performed two of his victory jumps to close his career. Later he stepped to the podium one final time to accept the small Crystal Globe for winning the Men’s World Cup Sprint Score.
Photos; Christian Manzoni