Rastorgujevs and Hojnisz-Starega take the OECH individuals
Monika Hojnisz-Starega was definitely a big hope for the Polish team today. With one penalty from the first standing bout, she completed the 15km individual competition in 45:17.1 bringing the Gold medal to Poland. The men’s 20km individual competition offered also an exciting show culminating with the Gold medal for Latvia’s Andrejs Rastorgujevs. Despite a penalty in the first prone, the Latvian claimed the win in 52:04.7.
Anastasia Shevchenko of Russia placed fourth shooting clean, 33.5 seconds back. Ukraine’s Iryna Petrenko came in fifth, also shooting clean 2:11.1 back. Sweden’s Ella Halvarsson claimed sixth place, with one penalty, 2:14.3 behind.
Fast-skiing Hojnisz-Starega steals the show
The women’s 15km individual was quite exciting as the leader of the competition was not clear until the finish line. Hojnisz-Starega, the local favourite did not have the sharpest start. Earning one penalty at the first standing, she left the range in 8th position leaving the fans to wonder if she would find her way back to battle for the medals. Correcting the mistake at the third bout, the experienced Polish biathlete gained four places and left the range in fourth position. With the fastest skiing time on the next lap, she moved up and left the final standing stage in second. Giving everything on the last loop, Hojnisz-Starega managed to beat Ukraine’s Anastasiya Merkushyna, claiming the title of the European Champion.
🇵🇱 M. Hojnisz-Starega: "I tried to concentrate on each shot and to be focused on the shooting range. And I think I did it in a good way. I am really satisfied with this result. This medal brings me much more confidence and I am motivated before the World Championships."#OECH21 pic.twitter.com/aEzKtDVghf— IBU Cup Biathlon (@IBU_CUP) January 27, 2021
Lucky number 34
Having earned the Bronze medal in individual at the OECH in Duszniki-Zdroj four years ago, Merkushyna had her eyes on a shinier medal today. Starting with bib 34, the same number as four years ago, the Ukrainian showed great shooting stability throughout the competition. Clearing all the targets, Merkushyna placed first after the third and fourth shooting stages. With Hojnisz-Starega only 13.9 seconds back after the final standing stage, it all came down to ski speed. Competing against the fastest skier of the day, Merkushyna didn’t stand a chance, having to settle with Silver today.
Mid-field starter Larisa Kuklina of Russia shot clean and dominated the leader's position up to the second prone stage. Collecting one penalty, it was hard for the Russian to climb back to the top. The Russian hit all five targets at the final shooting, however, leaving the stadium only in third, 15.2 seconds behind Merkushyna and only a few seconds from Hojnisz-Starega. With the Polish showing excellent skiing speed, Kuklina was left further behind and crossed the finish line in third, taking the Bronze.
Silver and Bronze medals were claimed by the Norwegians. Erlend Bjoentegaard claimed the Silver medal with two penalties, 1:27.5 back. The Bronze medal went to Endre Stroemsheim, also with two penalties,1:41.4 behind Rastorgujevs.
Just missing a medal, clean-shooting Russia’s Said Karimulla Khalili finished fourth, 1:59.7 back. Norway’s Sivert Guttorm Bakken, with 2 penalties finished fifth, 2:03.5 back. Artem Pryma of Ukraine finished sixth, with missed three targets, 2:10.0 back.
57.4 seconds behind the leader, in 45th position after a first prone stage penalty, Rastorgujevs didn’t seem to have much of chance to earn a medal today. Taking back 35 places after the first standing bout, the chances suddenly played in his favour. With most of his closest competitors earning penalties in the second prone, the Latvian closed all the targets and pushed himself into second position by the end of the second prone stage, 26 seconds behind leader Filip Fjeld Andersen. With three penalties in the last standing stage, the Norwegian opened the door for Rastorgujevs to claim the win today. Keeping the lead after the last shootig, Rastorgujevs earned the title of the European Champion in men’s 20km individual.
🇱🇻 A. Rastorgujevs: "After the first prone, especially the last shoot that I missed, I just asked myself “why do I shoot so slow” because I’ve been stopping on the last shot. The next shooting range I just started to do 100% my job and the end result was very good." #OECH21 pic.twitter.com/864DkbUTwX— IBU Cup Biathlon (@IBU_CUP) January 27, 2021
While Erlend Bjoentegaard had a good start, cleaning the first prone to leave in sixth position, his luck turned in the first standing bout. Dropping to 35th after two penalties in the first standing. Bjoentegaard had to make sure that no more penalties would follow. Showing good ski speed, the Norwegian entered the third shooting bout on the 18th place. Closing all the targets, Bjoentegaard left the second prone in13th position, 1:41.7 behind leader F.F. Andersen. Closing the gap with excellent shooting in the final bout, Bjoentegaard left the range on course to claim the Silver. 1.27.5 back, he finished the competition in second place.
Fast skis secure the Bronze
The fight for the final OECH medal kept the excitement high until the very end. Second after the first standing, Stroemsheim earned one penalty in the second prone dropping to seventh position. Earning yet another penalty in the final standing stage, Stroemsheim gave Russia’s Khalili a great opportunity to claim the Bronze. Taking full advantage of the situation, Khalili cleared the final standing targets and left the range as third, 7 seconds ahead of the Norwegian. Beating Khalili in ski speed, Stroemsheim still managed to secure the Bronze, despite the penalties.
Photos: IBU/Igor Stancik