JT: “Never looked back”
JT knew he was in control after that decisive second prone stage. “The key moment was my second prone when I shot clean and went out in front. I made the gap that I wanted from there and never looked back.”
Four Gold Medals and Ole
As for five medals, four Gold that put him up with Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who also won four Gold medals at Salt Lake 2002. “In my mind, I thought five medals, four Gold in six races…That means a lot…The King of Biathlon, to be named in the same sentence as him is a big achievement and something to celebrate…The 15th Gold medal for Norway (Olympic Record), No one has ever done that before so a big day for the nation.”
On the four Gold medals, “It means a lot. You cannot predict how the Olympic Games will be. My last years in biathlon have been fantastic, but it is the Games that matter. I am really happy that I did my best biathlon in the Games, not just before and after.”
France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet, the 20 km Individual and Pursuit Gold medalist finished fourth, with five penalties, 1:25.6 back. Italy’s Dominik Windisch, with three penalties finished with his best result in Beijing, fifth place, 1:38.4 back. Norway’s Sturla Holm Laegreid, with five penalties, finished sixth, 1:46.1 back.
The final biathlon competition of these Games had the same tough conditions as the women had just two hours earlier, cold and windy. Sebastian Samuelsson cleaned quickly to lead the field out of the first prone stage. Just behind the Swede were the also perfect Canadian brothers, Christian and Scott Gow, less than a second back with Tarjei in fourth. The first nine men went 5-for-5 in again a stiff shooting range wind.
By the second prone stage, JT was in the lead. He shot quickly and clean as did Christian Gow and Samuelsson. Philipp Nawrath and Benedikt Doll did the same. The five men all were within 10 seconds as they headed to the standing stage, with Fillon Maillet languishing in eighth after a penalty in each prone stage.
JT continued to pull away over the next 3 km loop with Nawrath closing to within three seconds back while Samuelsson, Doll and Ponsiluoma battled but 10 seconds farther back. The wind had calmed down by the time they got to the first standing stage, but was still blowing as JT fired four fast shots, hesitated and missed the last one. Ponsiluoma cleaned to follow the Norwegian out of the stadium. Fillon Maillet was his usual perfect self in standing, jumping up to third, 15 seconds back with Gow on his heels and Samuelsson after a penalty, 30 seconds back.
The Norwegian put the hammer down, pulling to a gap of over 22 seconds over his Swedish foe as they approached the deciding last standing stage. Just before the range, Fillon Maillet moved into second position. JT rolled into the last standing stage alone with a 25-second cushion, hit the first three shots in rapid succession, then missed two. Ponsiluoma missed a single shot while Gillon Maillet uncharacteristically missed three. The Norwegian still got away with a 17-second lead over Ponsiluoma. Christiansen cleaned in five shots, going out third but 45 seconds back, with Fillon Maillet 1:05 back.
JT enjoyed every second of the last meters before the finish line, waving and throwing kisses to the television cameras on the way to his fourth Gold medal of these Games. Ponsiluoma skied easily into the stadium for the Silver medal with Christiansen taking the Bronze.
Last Chance for Ponsiluoma
Ponsiluoma after sixth in the sprint, fourth in the mixed relay, and fifth in the men’s relay knew the mass start was his last chance for an Olympic medal. “It means a lot…I was really close in the sprint, so I really wanted a medal; this was the last chance and I took it…I saw in the women’s race that you could be on the podium with four misses and I knew I had a chance…I just had to push the last loop alone and I was second, so I am really happy…I heard I had a lot of seconds when I went out for the last loop. Then I felt I had it under control, make an easy last loop. I just wanted to cross the finish line.” As for the tough shooting conditions, he added, “It was really hard shooting in the race today, but I managed to just miss two. My shooting and my skiing were really good.”
Like Ponsiluoma, Christiansen was in a do-or-die situation as far as individual medals go, but he had to dig himself out of a big hole to get the Bronze medal. “After a bit of a bad start from me with two mistakes in prone, I was 25th. I made a hell of a turnaround in the last three shootings, especially the last one…I thought, ‘Vetle just go. Go full attack mode; it is now or never.’ I did it and cannot believe I was so lucky.”
After cleaning the last standing stage, “to hear that I was third, it gave me so much energy. It felt very good. I was tired and cold but felt happy. It was just about controlling third place until the finish line.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni