Second Career Anchor Leg
Claude, anchoring a French relay team for only the second time in his career was proud of his effort that brought the victory. “It is amazing what we did today. It is only my second finishing leg in World Cup in my life so I think next year maybe sometimes I will take the finish. I am really happy about my shooting; going zero-zero when you are in front. It was not a win before that so I am really happy about that.”
The crowds, “they pushed me; I really like it”
Regarding the huge, loud crowd, he added, “I think I like it. In Le Grand Bornand (also with huge noisy crowds) I realized my two best races; here is the same. I think they pushed me and kept me focused; I really like it!”
Claude’s teammate Colombo agreed and was just as happy with her first World Cup relay win, “It is so amazing. It was my first relay and my first victory. It was stressful but amazing. I love the stadium; it is so loud and crazy.” Germany, with on penalty and thirteen spare rounds finished fourth, 1:04.8 back. Italy with six spares finished fifth, 1:16 back. Ukraine, with a penalty and eight spares finished sixth, 1:27.4 back.
After sunny days, the mixed relays looked more like winter, with snow showers, -2C, gusty shooting range winds, and of course, the stadium packed with enthusiastic fans. Lisa Vittozzi’s perfect shooting gave Italy the lead in the first leg with France and Norway following. Vittozzi’s held the small lead at the first exchange, tagging Samuela Comola 2.5 seconds before Colombo, with Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold 17.5 seconds back.
On an icy downhill, Comola took a spill, falling behind Colombo. Tandrevold used a spare but was the first to clean as everyone struggled with the gusty winds The Norwegian needed all three spares to clean standing, but Colombo using just one; the duo sparred all the way to the exchange, with Johannes Dale getting away a step in front of Perrot.
Ukraine’s Artem Pryma and Sweden’s Martin Ponsiluoma followed within 12 seconds. Ponsiluoma quickly caught up with the two leaders. The top three all battled the wind in prone; Perrot cleaned with his last spare as did Ponsiluoma and Dale. However, Pryma kept Ukraine in the mix, leaving third, as Dale fell back. Perrot and Ponsiluoma pulled away from the field before their standing stage. The budding French star cleaned standing in five shots and was gone.
Perrot enjoyed the competition and the pressure of being in the lead. “I started in front; it was so great to stay in front the whole race. I love this position. It was really fun against Ponsiluoma and Dale, especially on the shooting range when you feel the pressure to do a great shooting.”
After spare rounds, Pryma and Ponsiluoma followed in second and third.
Ponsiluoma clawed back 24 seconds before passing off to Samuelsson 2.5 seconds behind Claude. The Swede commented, “The shooting was really bad out there but I saved it with really good skiing.”
The French/Swedish duo came to prone together, went shot-for-shot until Claude closed the last target and Samuelsson missed, using 2 spares, and falling 22 seconds back. Claude made it a perfect shooting day, cleaning standing confidently in five shots. Samuelsson again needed two spares to go out second.
Stroemsheim Brings Norway Third Place
Stroemsheim went 5-for-5 in standing, bringing Norway back to third, setting the podium, enjoying the experience of his first World Cup podium. “I have never raced a relay in the World Cup before. It was great to be on the last leg. I was really excited; the girls were so great; they gave Johannes the lead and he managed to not get any penalty loops, so I had a good starting position. After prone, I had to secure the Bronze medal with a good standing shooting.”
The 25-year-old was overjoyed with how his season has turned out. “This season in the start I was just trying to get to the World Cup, doing everything I could in the IBU Cup. Then suddenly I get everything: World Championships, Overall (IBU Cup Total Score), the relay. Now I am just super happy!”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Jaroslav Svoboda