“One in, one out”
With another victory in hand, even with a couple of shooting miscues, JT could be nothing other than, “really satisfied. It was not so easy after the prone mistake but I managed to keep the gap, tried to ski fast and still had power for the standing shooting as well; frustrated to miss the first there. I felt good control all-in-all, but I think my last bullet as well was on the edge. That is the sport, one in, one out.”
Forgot to Celebrate
As for a late celebration after cleaning the final standing stage, “I forgot to celebrate on the mat, so I had to do it 50 meters after! I was too focused on one target at a time. I fell into the trap of not thinking about how to celebrate. I did not think about that.”
Tarjei, also with one penalty finished third, 1:06.6 back, putting him on the podium with his brother for the second consecutive day.
Sturla Holm Laegreid, with two penalties, finished fourth, 1:17.8 back. Italy’s Tommaso Giacomel, with two penalties finished fifth, 1:31 back, with a fourth Norwegian in the top six: Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, also with two penalties, in sixth place, 1:48.9 back.
The sprint winner went out of the stadium with a 48-second lead, skiing aggressively in the first men’s pursuit of 2023 under the same mild, windless conditions that the women had at mid-day. Although he split one bullet int the first prone stage, all the targets closed; he was gone before anyone else shot. Laegreid and Tarjei cleaned in that order; the top three remained the same going into the second loop.
The Yellow/Red Bib knew it would be hard to ski alone in the front, but cleared his mind before the start. “I thought about this for two hours this morning and tried to get rid of those feelings because it is stressful. It is easy to feel the pressure but I tried to feel it before the race. I did not feel so much during the race. That was smart. I had confidence on the range and of course on the track, I tried to attack from the start and make a bigger gap instead of the same.”
The leader missed a shot in the second prone stage, but nothing changed except the gap to the rest of the field shrunk from a minute-plus to 51 seconds and 1:04 over Laegreid and Tarjei. Both went to 10-for-10, along with Giacomel and Fillon Maillet who were now less than seven seconds behind Tarjei.
The Yellow/Red Bib pushed the loop into the first standing stage, putting the margin between himself and the field back to over a minute. At the same time, the young Italian passed Tarjei, moving into third position. JT missed his first standing shot but the next four were perfect, saying later, “I should have gone clean. But that is a good feeling that you can look at 9-of-10 targets and still be a little bit angry that you did not shoot ten.”
Laegreid missed twice, opening the door for Fillon Maillet, Giacomel and Tarjei who all cleaned to move into positions 2-4 with the first two at 55 seconds back, Tarjei five seconds slower and Laegreid at 1:25 in fifth.
The top five stayed the same into the last standing stage, but Laegreid fell 10 seconds farther back. JT shot fast and perfect, cementing another victory and celebrating as he skied away. Fillon Maillet and Tarjei picked up one penalty, while Giacomel missed twice, opening the door for Laegreid to get back in the mix. Fillon Maillet left in second 1:21 back with Tarjei and Laegreid in a close battle for the last podium spot at 1:33 and 1:34 back.
Fillon Maillet, relieved to feel better than in earlier competitions, was suddenly fighting for the podium. “Finally, it looked like perfect shooting and the shape was so much better, like I have wanted.”
While JT skied easily to his 62nd career victory and the 100th podium of his career, the French star and Tarjei jockeyed back and forth in a battle for second place. Fillon Maillet eventually pulled ahead on the last downhill for second place and his best result of the season with the elder Boe brother in third place.
Fillon Maillet, unsure what place he was going into the last loop knew he had to fight. “I knew we were fighting for second place. Out of the shooting range, I was not sure, but I stayed focused and I knew I could be on the podium.”
Tarjei, “I could have been number five”
Tarjei had saved some energy for the last loop battle, seeing some bright spots in his last loop, despite missing second place. “It is a little hairy when you are suddenly at 13-1400 meters. It affects everyone’s skiing except I guess my brother who does not feel lactate at all. Then you have to be smart. Even if I was a little bit slow in the start, I saved some energy in my battery for the last lap, It was a great success to catch Quentin and also to keep Sturla outside the podium… In the end it turned out quite well. I could also have been number five, so third place is okay.”
Photos: IBU/ Christian Manzoni, Svoboda