Elvira, “I felt anything was possible”
Elvira really wanting to get back on the podium; her standing shooting keyed the victory. “It was so much fun. The fans were really great today. They were cheering for us the entire track, every lap. The Estonian fans have been amazing…I have really been wanting to get back up on the podium. With the latest individual races, I have not been fully satisfied; they have been okay but nothing more. I really wanted to do a really good race today. When I missed only one in prone, I felt anything was possible. My standing shooting has been amazing pretty much the entire season so I feel so confident there. That was the key today.”
Fans “gave me energy”
Although she pulled away in the last loop, Elvira said it was no easy win. “It was a tough final loop, since I knew who I had directly behind me. The fans were really, really good today. I think they helped me on that final lap; they gave me a little bit of energy to push on those uphills.”
Elvira’s teammate Linn Persson, with one penalty finished with her best result of the season in fourth place, 5.9 seconds back. Germany’s Franziska Preuss, leading into the last standing stage had her only penalty there and finished fifth, 8.1 seconds back. Her Clean-shooting teammate Vanessa Voigt, finished sixth, 13.8 seconds back.
Nothing but more blue skies and sunshine on an almost spring-like day for the women’s mass start a couple of hours after the men. With nothing changed, it was obvious that perfect or near-perfect shooting would be the key to victory. The Oeberg sisters jumped into the lead going up the steep incline out of the stadium. By the time they reached the first prone stage, Braisaz-Bouchet was in front. Like the men, the first prone was special with 20 women going clean, leaving within 18 seconds. Olsbu Roeiseland, with Elvira, Preuss, Elisa Gasparin and Wierer led the train out on the second loop.
The Yellow Bib, Persson and Preuss all cleaned the second prone stage within a second of each other. Hauser matched and Hanna, after a first-stage penalty loop came back with a 5-for-5 to leave in fifth, 11 seconds back. Only nine women remained perfect at the range.
The lead group pulled to a 10-second lead by the 6.9 km split. In the first standing, Preuss was perfect while both Persson and Olsbu Roeiseland went for a penalty loop. This opened the door for Elvira to clean and go into second with the reliable Voigt going to 15-for-15, in third, but 19 seconds back with Mona Brorsson, plus Persson, and Olsbu Roeiseland after their penalty loops alongside the young German.
Preuss’ lead stretched to 18 seconds by the 8.7 km split, with the Norwegian Yellow Bib back into second position and Elvira next to her. The German was all by herself in her last trip to the range. She hit two, missed the middle target before closing the last two. However, Olsbu Roeiseland and Elvira and Olsbu Roeiseland both cleaned rapidly to go out 1-2, with the also clean Persson and Herrmann just three seconds back and Preuss next another 4 seconds in arears.
Elvira pulled away on the big uphill out of the stadium, leaving her Norwegian rival, Herrmann and Persson eight seconds back at the next split. With 600 meters of downhill and flat to go, the lead was up to nine seconds with the battle now for second and third. Elvira took the win with her hands held high.
The speedy ex-cross-country specialist Herrmann sprinted to second ahead of Olsbu Roeiseland with Persson in fourth. Herrmann, confident of her ski speed and previous experience in Otepaeae helped her finish second. “I know that she (Olsbu Roeiseland) is a fast skier, but I am good in the last 100 meters. I tried to push as hard as I could. My goal was to stay behind a little bit, but Linn was also following us. It was an interesting fight until the end, but I think it was not the worst thing to come from cross-country skiing in a sprint. Also, the last time I was here in Otepaeae, it was for a sprint race and I know the track and finish line. That was my advantage today.”
Olsbu Roeiseland admitted to struggling with focus last week with the troubling world situation, but has regained her focus and enthusiasm. “I was not so focused on the targets. I was a bit tired after the Olympics and everything that happened. My big goal was the Olympics…After that I spent a week on the couch and it was hard to come back with everything that happened in the world. It was difficult and strange to compete when the world is like it is. It made no sense. But now I competed a bit; I am getting better and better with every competition and it feels great.”
Photos: IBU/Hendrik Osula