Herrmann, “Relaxed and fresh after Olympics”
Herrmann, with her ninth career win, was fresh and relaxed picking up her second victory in Kontiolahti. “I had a good reload at home; relaxed and fresh after the Olympics. I was focused but a bit relaxed today. I had a good relay and my main focus was to have the same feelings. We had amazing skis, which were amazing for the performance. It was a bit windy; you had to be careful at the shooting range...Kontiolahti is not the easiest range in the world... I was lucky with one shot in prone. It worked and I am really happy. Also, with the ex-cross-country skier battle at the end.”
Happy for Nilsson
Regarding Nilsson’s third place, Herrmann added, “It was amazing, I met her before the race and she said she has not had a real race since Ruhpolding. You never know what your body will do after such a long period. I am really happy for her that she could do this great result.”
Nilsson’s teammate Hanna Oeberg, with one penalty finished fourth, 6.8 seconds back. Anais Chevalier-Bouchet, with one penalty, finished fifth, 15.5 seconds back, while Herrmann's teammate clean-shooting Vanessa Voigt finished sixth, 16.7 seconds back.
Another bright sunny day greeted the women for their first post-Olympic sprint. The wind was gusting at times, making shooting tricky for this -3C Saturday afternoon competition. Braisaz-Bouchet, after her relay troubles set the pace with a quick, confident clean prone, going 11 seconds up on the early starters. Eckhoff looked good once again, also cleaning, just a second slower than Braisaz-Bouchet. Olsbu Roeiseland looking for another victory missed one shot, falling 21 seconds back. Herrmann took over the lead a second faster than her French rival. Late starter number Nilsson made a run at the top with a clean stage, just two second behind the German.
In standing, Braisaz-Bouchet missed two shots, falling from the top group, but Chevalier-Bouchet with a clean stage took the early lead. Eckhoff missed her first standing shot, but came off the penalty loop in the lead. The Yellow Bib a second shot in standing losing any hope of a top finish. However, Hanna after a prone miss, cleaned standing to move into the podium mix. Herrmann missed a shot in standing like Eckhoff but was flying on her skis, coming out of the stadium 4.8 seconds faster than the Norwegian, with 2.5 km to go. Nilsson came to standing with a huge lead, closed three targets missed one, hesitated before closing the last one, heading to the finish just 11 seconds back.
Eckhoff looked extremely strong in the last loop, covering it much faster than Chevalier-Bouchet finishing 12 seconds better at the finish. Hanna gave it everything she had in the last loop, desperately trying to catch Eckhoff but missed by 1.8 seconds. Herrmann continued her torrid pace, edging her lead up to 6.1 seconds with 700 meters to the finish. She slowed a bit coming into the finish, but easily claimed the win, five seconds faster than Eckhoff, pushing Hanna into third.
By the 6 km split, Nilsson was up to third, just six seconds behind Herrmann. At the top of the Wall, with 700 meters to go she was in second but 5.7 seconds back. The 2018 Olympic cross-country Gold medalist sprinted with all her power down the last few hundred meters but it was not quite enough as she took third place away from Hanna, for the first podium in the BMW IBU World Cup.
Nilsson was “overwhelmed” buy her first podium. “It feels unreal. I had a really good feeling in my body the last days but I did not expect to be on the podium today so I am just overwhelmed.” She later added, “I am quite surprised because when you look back one year to the IBU Cup in Arber, it is quite a journey. It makes me really proud to see that journey.”
No times until loop 3
As for her fast last loop. “I said to the coaches that I did not want any times during lap 1 or 2 because I heard some of the girls start really fast and I did not want any times on them because my plan was to save some energy on laps 1 and 2 and have some left for the third. The third one was the first where ai had some times to go on and it really inspired me.”
Eckhoff, with her best result of the season outside of the Olympics was pleased with her shooting. “I am really satisfied, because today I was shooting fast and I was back at with some good standing shooting. So, for me, it was very fun to be back on the podium…To be honest my shape was really bad before Christmas. I think I did some really big mistakes. I am really proud to turn it around and be in my best shape in the Olympics, which was the most important this season. I am happy to be back on the podium in the World Cup as well.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni