Pursuit Sweep for Belarus: IBU OECH Gold to Sergey Bocharnikov, Elena Kruchinkina
The home team, Belarus ended the IBU OECH with a sweep of today’s pursuit competitions, putting them atop the medal standings with three Gold medals and one Bronze medal. Sergey Bocharnikov started the sweep by taking control of the men’s 12.5 km pursuit after cleaning the first prone stage and storming to his second IBU Open European Championships Gold medal, crossing the Raubichi finish line with just two penalties in 35:03.9.
Just two hours after Bocharnikov’s victory, teammate Elena Kruchinkina took the lead after the last standing stage with her first-ever 20-for-20 shooting to win the women’s 10 km pursuit in 29:21.1.
Bocharnikov was at a loss for words after his victory. “It is a home Championship and I have two Golds…The finish with the national flag; I was so happy to do this…when I took the flag, I did not know what to do. I see many athletes do this; it was an amazing feeling. I do not know what else to say.”
Emotions and Shooting
Kruchinkina was just as emotional on the finish line as her teammate. “I was very happy coming to the finish with the flag; a special moment.” Regarding her perfect shooting today, “I have been working very hard with my shooting coach. This is only my second clean shooting in 10 years, so I am very happy.”
Norway claims Second, Third and Fourth in Men's Pursuit
Aleksander Fjeld Andersen of Norway, with four penalties, finished fourth, while Adam Vaclavik of Czech Republic, with one penalty was fifth; both were 37 seconds back. Said Karimulla Khalili of Russia, with three penalties, finished sixth, 52.1 seconds back.
Clouds and Pesky Wind
Clouds and warm temperatures marked the last competition day at the IBU Open European Championships. The pesky wind remained on the shooting range, bothering most of the competitors at times, but not the Gold medalist who was perfect until the last rushed standing shots. Eliseev and Rastorgujevs led the first loop with Bocharnikov moving up to third. The two leaders both had penalties, one for the Latvian and two for the Russian. Bocharnikov cleaned very carefully to take the lead. He came to the second prone stage 13 seconds ahead of Rastorgujevs, cleaned again and left with a 27 second lead over Khalili and Andersen, both of whom were perfect.
Bocharnikov’s Fast Standing Shooting
By the first standing stage, the Belarusian’s lead was up to 33 seconds. This time, he shot fast and was gone before any of his rivals fired a shot. Andersen missed twice to fall from contention. However his teammate Laegreid closed his five targets, while the young Russian picked up a penalty. They went out second and third, but 58 and 1:01 behind the local the super sprint Gold medalist. The leader maintained his gap on the field into the stadium. He shot quickly but missed two shots, but was off the loop with a 29-second lead over his Norwegian rival who picked up a single penalty. Bakken also had a penalty but was clearly in third.
Bocharnikov seemed to struggle in the last 2.5 km, with the Laegreid closing, but his lead and the Gold medal were safe, He crossed smiling broadly and waving the Belarusian flag as the crowd roared with approval.
Women’s Pursuit to Kruchinkina
Behind Kruchinkina’s Gold medal performance, Russia’s Kristina Reztsova, with two penalties, won the Silver medal, 17.6 seconds back. Sprint Gold medalist Elisabeth Hoegberg, with three penalties, won the Bronze medal, 35.1 seconds back.
Caroline Colombo of France, with one penalty finished fourth, 55 seconds back. Anastasiya Merkushyna of Ukraine finished fifth, with two penalties, 55.8 seconds back. Iryna Kryuko of Belarus, with three penalties, finished sixth, 1:12.4 back.
Light Rain: Hoegberg Leads
By the time the women started two hours after the men; light rain was falling. Hoegberg skied into the prone stage with a comfortable lead, cleaned and was gone before any of her rivals shot. Kryuko and Ida Lien matched, leaving in second and third but 23 and 27 seconds back. The sprint winner hit her first four shots in the second prone, but missed the last, opening the door for those behind her. However Kryuko also missed a shot while Valja Semerenko cleaned to jump to second ahead of Kryuko.
The leader got back on track with a fast clean first standing, leaving her with a 23 second gap to now second Reztsova. Kryuko went for penalty loop and Kruchinkina moved into third with five perfect shots, 38 seconds back. In the last standing stage, the Swedish leader who missed her second and last shots, later admitted, “The shooting felt good all day. I Knew I could miss one, but I think I was a bit nervous and then missed the last shot.” The Russian also missed a shot, but Kruchinkina responded with five perfect shots to go 20-for-20, taking a 6.7 second lead over the Russian; 16 seconds ahead of Hoegberg.
The three headed into the last 2 km well ahead with podium spots secure, Kruchinkina pulled away, coming into the stadium with her hands high waving the flag and giving Belarus a sweep of the pursuits.
Photos: Christian Manzoni