Tiril Eckhoff Speeds to Nove Mesto na Morave Sprint Win
Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff, after a prone penalty, shot conservatively, but clean in standing, then put the hammer down on the last loop, going from a 10.5 second deficit to victory in the Nove Mesto na Morave women’s 7.5 km sprint this morning. Eckhoff with just the single penalty finished in 18:48.4 for her fifth sprint win of the season Yulia Dzhima of Ukraine shot clean but finished second, 9.3 seconds back. Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi, also shooting clean, finished on the podium for the first time this season in third place, 15 seconds back.
Pleased with Standing Shooting
Eckhoff was quite pleased with her standing shooting. “Today was really tough. I used enough time on the shooting range. I really wanted to hit those targets. I am very proud on the last standing; took my time and managed to get the black one down.”
Regarding her last loop, “I got some good timing out there. I like these tracks really much, tried to do my technique as best as I could and I managed to win.”
Dzinara Alimbekava of Belarus also was perfect on the range, finishing fourth, 16.1 seconds back. Vittozzi’s teammate Dorothea Wierer, with one penalty finished fifth, 16.3 seconds back. Norway’s Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold shot clean in sixth place, 17.4 seconds back.
Blue Sky; Tricky Wind
Patches of blue sky punctuated by passing wispy clouds with the thermometer at 0C set the stage for the women’s sprint. Again, the at times tricky wind remained on the shooting range shifting from right to left. Under those conditions, most of the top women started in the first group, meaning the results would likely come in the top half of the field. Starter number 1 Preuss set the stage with a clean prone stage while Tandrevold matched Preuss but remained over 10 seconds back. Wierer made her presence known with an efficient clean stage to go ahead of the German. Eckhoff was as usual fast into the range but missed a shot, falling 23 seconds back. Dzhima and Vittozzi jumped into the fray and third and fourth positions with their own clean stages.
Eckhoff’s Standing Strategy
Tandrevold set the bar high becoming the first to go 10-for-10 to move to the top of the standings. Despite missing a standing shot, Wierer left the stadium with a 1.9 second lead. Dzhima came to the range faster than Wierer, cleaned quickly and moved into the lead with 2.5 km to go. Just after her, Alimbekava also added five perfect shots to her clean prone stage to move to second position, two seconds back. With the wind blowing hard, Eckhoff after the prone penalty, started her stage slowly, then dropped the middle shots in rapid succession before holding the last shot for 10 seconds. The strategy worked yielding a clean stage and fourth position, just 10 seconds from the top spot.
Fast Last Loop Secures Victory
Dzhima had a good last loop, gaining a few seconds on Wierer and Alimbekava, to cross with the early lead. Vittozzi was almost as fast, missing the lead by 5 seconds. Yet it was again the Yellow/Red Bib Eckhoff who had the fastest last loop of the contenders. The Norwegian moved from .9 seconds back with 900 meters to cross the line 9.3 seconds faster than the Ukrainian. . Vittozzi held on for third place, her first sprint podium since February 2019.
Dzhima Worried about Standing Stage
Dzhima surprised herself with her podium today and although she shot clean today, after watching the men’s relay yesterday was concerned about the wind. “I am very happy with my second podium of the season. I was a little bit surprised when I got all the targets (closed)…I watched the men’s relay yesterday and saw that when the men, in the third leg came to the standing position, the wind was so big and they had to stop. I looked at it and thought, ‘whoa, I think tomorrow will be a big problem.’ Then when I came to the standing position, I did not feel the wind, was focused and it went well.”
Believe in Yourself
Vittozzi, on the podium for the first time after a long struggle this season admitted that she never gave up. “I am really happy. I wanted to take a medal today. This season was very difficult. Today I closed the circle and everything went well. I am so proud of myself, because it was really fast…You have to stay motivated; don’t give up and believe in yourself. You have to do your best every day.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni