“Stay focused on the wind”
Although the wind and some light fog bothered many competitors, Simon felt it was not that difficult. “It was a really good team effort. It was nice to race in the first mixed relay of the season. Good performance for us. I am very happy with my race; perfect…(shooting) wasn’t so difficult. You just needed to stay focused on the wind. It was quite okay; the same wind as I had in zeroing. I am happy with only one mistake; a good race.”
Italy, with seven spares finished second, 24.6 seconds back. Sweden, with one penalty and five spares plus a strong anchor leg by Elvira Oeberg finished third, 47.2 seconds back.
Switzerland, with thirteen spares finished fourth, 1:09.3 back, just .6 seconds ahead of Germany, with two penalties and eleven spares in fifth place. Norway with a penalty and twelve spares finished sixth, 1:41.2 back.
Twenty-three teams toed the line for the first mixed relay of the season, the final competition this week at Pokljuka. Filip Fjeld Andersen led the field into the first prone and cleaned with one spare, going out with a seven second lead over the Claude brothers: Fabien from France and Florent for Belgium. Fabien buried Andersen in standing with a five-shot stage while the Norwegian needed three spares to clean, dropping to sixth. Florent matched his younger brother, leaving in second position.
At the first exchange, Fabien tagged Fillon Maillet with a 24.9 second lead over Norway, Germany and Switzerland, all leaving within one second. The wind seemed to baffle almost everyone in the prone stage. Fillon Maillet ended up with a penalty while Dale was one of the few to clean in five shots, taking the lead over Benedikt Doll, who used two spares. Italy’s Tommaso Giacomel, Fillon Maillet and Doll all got through standing before Dale. The top three were all within eight seconds.
Yet Sweden’s Jesper Nelin was unfazed, cleaning easily. “My shooting is really good and I am happy with that. I found the shooting quite easy today so (clean shooting) was not problem. I did not think it was so challenging. The wind was not so much; I think it is maybe just a mental thing.”
Giacomel admitted that “skiing today was really tough. The conditions were a bit slippery; I think I did a great job out on the tracks… (on the range) I just told myself to keep clam and do your own thing and it worked out well.”
Giacomel flew into the exchange tagging Dorothea Wierer 5 seconds ahead of the French and German teams, with Jeremy Finello bringing Switzerland into fourth, the women taking over for the final two legs. Chevalier-Bouchet used a spare in prone to take the lead with Aita Gasparin moving the Swiss team into second ahead of the Italians. Chevalier-Bouchet brilliantly mastered the wind for a 5-shot standing stage, adding to the French lead. Wierer matched, going out second, but 15 seconds back.
Regarding her leg, Chevalier-Bouchet said, “I had really good skis today. I tried to push my advantage and take some time on the other teams. (On the range) I only focused on basics, to shoot in the middle. I was only focused on that. I ma happy with that after a difficult sprint. My shooting is not as well as I want but today it was good.”
French anchor Simon left after the final exchange with a massive 32-second lead over Lisa Vittozzi, 45 seconds over Lena Haecki-Gross and 56 seconds in front of Elvira Oeberg. Simon cleaned prone in five shots, as did Vittozzi and Elvira, 29 and 52 seconds back. Simon used a spare round in standing to cement the victory. Vittozzi did the same to hold second while Elvira went 5-for-5 to complete the top three spots.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Svoboda