“Quite confident in standing”
JT’s fourth consecutive sprint win and his sixth win of the season was very special on the range and tracks. “I think it was the perfect race. It was close to shooting clean in prone. During this week of training, shooting has gone very well, in standing especially, so I was quite confident coming to the standing shooting. But I saw Sturla shooting clean and for sure, he put the pressure on me! Good skis, fast shooting; happy.”
“Top three skis”
Regarding his superb performance on the tracks and if he ever felt better on skis, “I do not know. I think I found the right speed today. If you ski a little bit too hard here, your legs are burning. So, after the first message on the track, I pushed the brakes. I was skiing too fast in the first loop. I think today the wax men made…in my whole career in the top three skis.”
Germany’s Benedikt Doll, with one penalty finished fourth, 1:03.3 back. Czech Republic’s Michal Krcmar, shooting clean finished in a season-best fifth place, 1:03.9 back. Italy’s Tommaso Giacomel, with two penalties skiing fast throughout the competition, equaled his personal best result in sixth place, 1:09.5 back.
The men faced the same conditions as the women had in their first competition of 2023, with +4C, sunshine, and no wind on the range, but again not ideal skiing conditions on the soft, rutted in places tracks. Surprising Giacomel took the early prone lead with a clean prone stage before the favourites came to the range. Laegreid first missed a shot and then JT did the same, but the Yellow/Red Bib fared better, leaving 8.2 seconds back, after skiing faster in the first loop.
Laegreid explained the missed shot. “The range approach is really easy, and you have a lot of time to breathe but it is also a bit of altitude here, 1300 meters. It is easy to think you will have clean targets and not focus on the right things. For me it was the case in prone. I was maybe too focused on it was going to be a clean house. I had never missed in prone this season so far so I took it for granted and got a mistake.”
Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen one-upped his teammates with a clean stage to move into the lead and Tarjei also cleaned.
Doll, after a clean prone missed one standing shot, putting him at a huge disadvantage. Krcmar was the first to go 10-for-10. Giacomel missed twice in standing but left behind Krcmar until Timofey Lapshin cleaned to go in front momentarily. Laegreid then cleaned, getting within 2 seconds of the Korean. JT followed with a beyond-brilliant standing stage, giving him a 35 second cushion.
Sprint Record: “I thought I missed the last bullet”
Johannes became the first biathlete ever to win four consecutive sprints with his dominating effort. Still, the victory-sealing standing stage worried him a bit. “It was one of those special days. I think I did many right choices today on the tracks and with the skis we had, it was possible to make a good track time, but you have to shoot as well…Standing, I took time and I had a good rhythm; it was comfortable, and I thought I missed the last bullet. I checked over my rifle and saw it was clean. I was like, ‘Ok! I will take it.’ Even though it looks perfect, it is a small margin (of error).”
Christiansen’s three penalties eliminated him, but Tarjei cleaned standing almost as fast as his brother, moving into second position.
With 1800 meters to go, JT’s lead was up to 48 seconds over Laegreid, as Lapshin faded. Laegreid had a good final loop, but was no match for JT, skiing effortlessly in the deep tracks. JT skied the last loop so fast that he almost caught Laegreid who started one minute earlier. Laegreid commented on JT’s speed and 55.8 second margin. “He was stronger on the tracks, like a shark just eating up the gap behind me. It was quite nerve-wracking to have him behind me on the last loop.”
Tarjei was ahead of Laegreid by the 8.2 km split by 10 seconds, holding on for second and a Norwegian podium sweep.
“Just believe in yourself”
Tarjei was all smiles after his first podium of the season. “It is really good. It is a strange sport we do. So many things can go through hell. My shooting in December was not the best. This is not cross-country skiing and the level is so high so you have to deliver all aspects of the race. I knew it would come; just a matter of time…You have to put everything together on the same day. I did that today…Just to believe in yourself is the key.”
“I am proud of him!”
Today marked the seventh “Boedium” with the brothers finishing one-two, with proud older brother Tarjei quipping, “Johannes has been first in most of them, six so at least I have one. I joke about it. He should have never been born and then I would have six more World Cup victories. I just have to deal with him like the rest of the world! He is at his own level. I just hope I will come a little closer. Johannes said when we went to the podium, ‘remember this. It might be the last one. You never know. We have to enjoy this.’ I am really proud of him!
Photos: IBU/ Christian Manzoni, Svoboda