“One of the best races”
JT, winning for the 18th time this season, was all smiles at the finish, detailing his very enjoyable victory, “I did enjoy it. Fantastic race today from start to finish, I was confident. I felt the people on stadium helped me. I was alone in front…one of the best races!”
Last loop, “good times”
As for his victory loop, he added, “It was really good. I think the whole stadium was full today. I really felt all around the track, so it was only good times. Holmenkollen at its best.”
After the win today, JT met and chatted with Norway’s King Harald, before accepting the World Cup Pursuit Score Globe for the second time in his career. He described his focus today that leads to such success. “You are in the zone every day 24/7 and you try to do your best every day, every hour of the day, even though it is Monday or Tuesday, , you try to make the best out of it. If you want to win the World Cup overall, it is a long run, so you have to be calm and ready to fight in the head. If you give yourself one moment of break, it can destroy everything. Try to keep the momentum high every day. Do not look at the end, just at today and take one day at a time.”
France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet, shot clean for the second consecutive day, moving from seventh at the start to second place, 32.7 seconds back. JT’s teammate Sturla Holm Laegreid, with one penalty moved from fifth to third place,49/1 seconds back.
Germany’s Benedikt Doll, with two penalties, finished fourth, 55.3 seconds back. Fillon Maillet’s teammate Fabien Claude, with one penalty finished fifth, 1:00.4 back while Switzerland’s Niklas Hartweg strengthened his spot in the battle for the (U25) Blue Bib, 1:08.1 back.
Yesterday’s fog disappeared overnight, leaving much warmer +5C temperatures and cloudy skies, with the wind flags flat for the final pursuit competition of the season. JT skiing alone came to the first prone stage, cleaned easily and was gone before anyone else fired a shot. Doll, Laegreid, and Fillon Maillet matched, but trailed by 36, 52 and 56 seconds respectively. Martin Ponsiluoma missed three times, dropping from contention. Five more perfectly centered shots and the Yellow/Red Bib was away. Doll missed his first shot but Laegreid cleaned, 55 seconds back as did Fillon Maillet another 11 seconds in arrears, with Doll going out fourth. Although Nawrath and Giacomel also were perfect through two stages, they were farther back from the podium contenders.
Laegreid’s focus “not be stressed”
Laegreid described what he did with JT having such a big lead. “It is a bit special race when Johannes has a gap like this, like we only compete for second and third place. It has been like this the whole season. My only focus was to do my best race and not be stressed about the position or who is behind or in front. I was able to ski four quite evenly paced loops and had enough energy in my head to shoot well.”
JT continued to press the pace, extending his lead over second position Laegreid to well over a minute before he reached the first standing stage. The four standing shots flew fast with a miss on the third sending the leader to the penalty loop. This changed nothing as he was off the loop before Laegreid moved onto lane two. Laegreid went to 15-for-15, 45 seconds back. Fillon Maillet did the same, now 58 seconds back as did Doll at 1:27 back.
“Opportunity to take second place”:
Fillon Maillet knew he needed to shoot clean to get up to second place. “Clean shooting was my goal today and two days ago in the sprint. I am not sure about my shape on the skis so if I want something (like a podium) I need clean shooting…I knew in the last shooting that Sturla missed one and there was the opportunity to take second place.”
With King Harald watching from the Royal Box, JT shot four shots perfectly. Turned to the crowd, putting his finger to his mouth to quiet them in jest and closed the final one. “I got that idea this morning. I am pleased with how it (quiet gesture) went and going clean in the final shooting.”
The gesture evoked a huge smile from the King. Laegreid missed a shot but Fillon Maillet cleaned, leaving second, ten seconds in front of Laegreid.
The last loop was a mere formality for JT, with a comfortable lead, he waved to the fans along the tracks, thoroughly enjoying another win at Holmenkollen. He had plenty of time to take a Norwegian flag, ski to the finish straight, and take a bow before crossing the line. Fillon Maillet followed ahead of Laegreid.
JT talked with King Harald after the competition, commenting, “Some of our conversation is private among the Kings (of Norway and Biathlon). But he enjoys sports and biathlon. He likes a show and when a Norwegian wins. It was a perfect race for him. He was happy.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Igor Stančík