Jaeger and Bendika claim OECH sprints
The women’s 7.5 km sprint in Duszniki-Zdroj ended with yet another triumph for Latvia. Baiba Bendika, despite collecting one standing penalty, won the women's sprint Gold medal in 22:00.7. Competing in snowfall, Martin Jaeger of Switzerland won the Gold medal in the men's 10 km sprint closing all the targets in his 27:19.2 victory.
One penalty and 11.9 seconds back, Larisa Kuklina of Russia finished fourth with one penalty; 11.9 seconds back while her teammate Valeriia Vasnetcova finished fifth, also with one penalty, 12.3 seconds back. Norway's Emilie Aagheim Kalkenberg, shooting clean, finished sixth, 16.2 seconds behind.
Second Gold medal for Latvia
Bendika was off to a good start; cleaning prone, she took the lead and kept it to the standing stage. With Anastasia Shevchenko entering standing 9.4 seconds behind, the Latvian had to close all targets in order to keep the leading position. Nevertheless, she missed once, giving Shevchenko a chance to leave the range with hopes of claiming the Gold. With an 8.4-second gap to Shevchenko and Erdal after the standing, Bendika left the stadium in third, with the Russian in th lead. However, showing the best ski time of the day, the Latvian managed to pass both Erdal and Shevchenko on the final loop, claiming the win.
🇱🇻 B. Bendika: "Today I just woke up and I knew that I’m going to be the European Champion. I have been fighting a lot for this in the last few years. I knew that I can do this, that I am strong enough, good enough. It feels great to finally do it."#OECH21 pic.twitter.com/mIvXLF5GE7— IBU Cup Biathlon (@IBU_CUP) January 29, 2021
In eighth position after a perfect prone, Erdal managed to pull back six places by the end of the standing stage. Showing stable shooting, the Norwegian left standing in second, only 1.2 seconds behind Shevchenko. Proving to be better on skis, Erdal passed Shevchenko on the final loop. Bendika's speed being out of reach for the Norwegian, Erdal claimed the Silver medal.
Shevchenko after shooting clean and in the lead after standing had to surrender to faster skiers on the final lap. At the finish, she was third, taking her first-ever senior medal.
Haavard Gutuboe Bogetveit finished fourth, after missing a standing target, 28.9 seconds back. France’s Eric Perrot, also with one penalty finished in fifth place, 30.6 seconds back. Artem Pryma of Urkraine came in sixth, one penalty and 32 seconds back.
A Swiss surprise
In sixteenth position before the prone stage, Jaeger took back 14 places with his clean shooting. Leaving the first bout 11.4 seconds behind the leader, Semen Suchilov of Russia, the Swiss athlete was in the fight for a medal. While Suchilov lost his chance for a medal after three standing penalties, Jaeger secured a good position after also cleaning standing. With Russia’s Khalili in the lead after standing and Jaeger second with a mere 3.8 seconds in between the two, the Swiss veteran relied on his legs and ski speed to top Khalili and win the Gold medal.
🇨🇭 Martin Jaeger: "I am very happy about this win. It is a surprise and a success in one. It is the second time in my career as a biathlete when I finish a race with 10/10. It is very nice to do it on the European Championships."— IBU Cup Biathlon (@IBU_CUP) January 29, 2021
📸 Stancik/IBU#OECH21 pic.twitter.com/AHpuWzbVqO
Despite excelling in prone, Khalili was in fifth position after the first stage, 19 seconds behind the leader and teammate Suchilov. With Suchilov's bad luck in standing, Khalili played the odds to his favour. Closing all the standing targets, Khalili left the range in the lead. Slowing on the last lap, Gold medal slipped from his hands, while Jaeger’s fast last loop pushed Khalili back to the Silver medal spot.
With Khalili and Jaeger far ahead, the competition behind them was all about the Bronze medal. One penalty in prone and another in standing made it seemingly impossible that Kuehn could make a run for a medal. Twenty-fifth after prone, the German continued to fight. Fast skis saved the day; Kuehn with the best ski time, despite two penalties won the Bronze medal.
Photos: IBU/Igor Stancik