“A perfect relay”
In a season where not much has gone right for last year’s Olympic star, Fillon Maillet was filled with emotion after the victory. “It is so, so good; so much emotion. I know the fight with Norway is so hard at this moment. My colleagues made a perfect relay and I finished the work. I am so happy. Thank you to all of my teammates; amazing.”
“If I want victory, I must shoot clean”
He knew how what was necessary in the last standing with JT not far behind. “I know Johannes is very fast on skis. If I want the victory, I must shoot clean; no mistakes. I was thinking about nothing, just my shooting, my rifle and clean shooting. I skied harder in the last loop and finally the title.”
Sweden, with one penalty and thirteen spares, won the Bronze medal, 1:39.9 back. Anchor Sebastian Samuelsson saw it as a win for everyone on the men’s team, competing in Oberhof or not. “Very happy with the Bronze medal, of course. I think that is important for the whole team. I think also the guys we trained with the whole summer that are not here in Oberhof; it shows the capacity we have in the team…a nice medal for all of us.”
Czech Republic after leading much of the afternoon finished fourth, with two penalties, and ten spares, 2:04.2 back. Germany, with five penalties and eight spares, finished fifth, 3:51.8 back. Switzerland, with six penalties and eight spares finished sixth, 4:08.1 back.
Windy, light rain falling and overcast skies with temperatures at +6C set the stage for relay day; conditions ripe for plenty of extra shots and visits to the penalty loop. That is exactly what happened as the competition progressed. The home team’s Justus Strelow shot fast and clean, leading the pack out of the first prone stage, with twelve teams following within ten seconds. Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen’s two spare rounds put the Norwegians 22.5 seconds back. Standing saw Switzerland’s Sebastian Stalder out first, the only competitor spare-free, followed by Guigonnat. Christiansen continued struggling with the wind using three more spares, falling to 58 before the first exchange.
France led at the first exchange, with Czech Republic and Switzerland next and Tarjei Boe, 59 seconds back. Czech Republic’s Tomas Mikyska and Claude battled through the prone and standing stages, grabbing a huge 1:03 lead, while others struggled in the shifting winds.
Tarjei, “Feel bad when you enter the penalty loop"
Tarjei cleaned prone, but picked up a standing penalty, dropping 1:26 back. “It was tough…I saw some of the guys I was shooting with, they had several rounds. You always feel bad when you enter the penalty loop, like you destroyed for your team but today was a little special because the conditions were difficult, so we were quite motivated, even if we got a mistake. That was part of today’s work…We also knew that the winners would have penalty loops. We tried but it was tough, like Beijing all over again; same conditions.
The French and Czech teams tagged almost even at the second exchange 56.6 seconds ahead of Sweden. Sturla Holm Laegreid took over for Norway 1:09 back, moving to fourth by the prone stage. Jacquelin cleaned prone in five very fast shots with his Czech rival matching. Laegreid did the same, still almost a minute back. Jacquelin mixed in fast shots and waiting for the wind in standing, but still picked up a penalty.
Jacquelin, “not the best but what I had today”
He admitted, “The shoot was not that great but I just tried to do better with the extra bullets and I missed the last one. We talked before the race that today we did not think the team that would win the race would have zero mistakes and zero penalty loops. I knew I made one. I just tried to continue to give my best on the track. It was not the best I can do but it is what I had today.”
Laegreid added a penalty, falling into fourth, 10 seconds behind Sweden.
Jacquelin was running on fumes heading to the exchange with Jonas Marecek leaving 10.9 seconds before Fillon Maillet. JT, in an unusual position got away third, even with Samuelsson, 50 seconds back as they hunted down the leaders. Fillon Maillet cleaned prone easily, with a single spare taking the lead; Marecek went to the penalty loop. JT and Samuelsson used all their extra shots to clean, moving into second and third.
The French anchor was full gas into the last standing stage, knowing JT was not far back. Fillon Maillet shot extremely fast, going 5-for-5. JT responded with an even faster clean stage, remaining 32 seconds back. Samuelsson held third with one spare, setting the podium.
Fillon Maillet’s last standing leg was tough mentally, “It is stressful in this position after great job of my colleagues, I needed to finish it and finish it well if we expected victory. Today was tough and very hard conditions. It is hard conditions every time when you lose, but good conditions when you win. It (the win) means a lot because of the fight with Norway.”
JT, “Hats off to the French team”
JT, after losing his chance for seven Gold medals graciously saluted the winning French team. “At the end of the day, we are disappointed with not winning the Gold medal, but we take our hats off to the French team. They were better than us. If we could not win, it is better to be at the Silver position. Six medals is just fantastic… I have never seen more happy boys (the French team) in the in the finish area!”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Bjorn Reichert