Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe, shot clean, skied in the lead from start to finish this afternoon and easily winning the Annecy Le Grand Bornand men’s 10 km sprint in 22:52.2. JT’s win was his third consecutive sprint win this season and his eighth victory at the French venue. His teammate Sturla Holm Laegreid, also shot clean and like last week in Hochfilzen, finished second, 17.6 seconds back. Germany’ Benedikt Doll also shot clean in third place, 38.8 seconds back for his first podium of the season.
“There is one guy, Sturla”
JT, all smiles at the finish but knows his biggest rival was within striking distance. “Really satisfied. Back to back sprint wins with ten targets down; cannot do it better. But there is one guy, Sturla. He is quite close, within a mistake, so I have to be on this level if I want to win, because if not, he will. I just have to continue.”
Thankful for the fans
Even on a rainy day, the tracks were packed with fans, creating an electric atmosphere. “(With so many fans), you forget about the weather. You feel the sun from the people here. They make this competition worth it. We athletes should be very thankful that they come here and at all the World Cups where they come to watch us. We are really happy because if not, biathlon would be nothing. So, it is important.”
Focus brings Victories
With five consec
utive victories, the winner was most proud of “Having the focus from Kontiolahti with the victories there, managed to do it last week. We are in the third week with a lot of high-volume competitions. It takes energy so I am most happy with keeping the level up and don’t fall into the trap to be tired or think too much about Christmas.”
Sweden’s Martin Ponsiluoma, with one penalty finished fourth, 52.1 seconds back. Timofey Lapshin of Korea finished fifth, while Michal Krcmar of Czech Republic finished sixth, 59.9 seconds and 1:00.2 back respectively, with both men shooting clean.
Low clouds, rain in the air, with a +4C temperature and light winds made for a dreary day for the first competition of the week. Fillon Maillet, with bib number 1 in front of French spectators opened the day with a clean prone stage. To no one’s surprise, JT was fast and perfect in prone once again, putting him 16 seconds up on the field for a short time. And…once again Laegreid responded with the second fastest prone time, 8.6 seconds back. Down the line, Doll equaled the two Norwegians, but was 20.6 seconds back.
Doll’s good feelings before the competition helped him shoot well. “Before the race, I felt really calm and confident. I think that was the key to keep this feeling in the race and could stay really focused.”
Fillon Maillet shot fast in standing but missed his fourth shot, taking him out of podium contention. Krcmar after a perfect prone stage was the first man to go zero-zero, and Lapshin did the same, while Ponsiluoma after a prone penalty, cleaned to get in the mix.
Fans “helped me do 10-of-10”
JT then buried the field with another clean stage shooting faster with each pull of the trigger, jumping to a commanding 45 second lead. He attributed some of his shooting success to the fan’s energy. “You get a lot of power from the fans on the course during warm-up, they cheer for you. In the race, I was lucky no French was shooting with me so they followed me. I was waiting for them to cheer. So, for each shot I hit, I waited for an applause. That brings the motivation to hit the next. You can say they helped me do 10-of-10 today.”
Laegreid cleaned, cutting that lead to 14 seconds, setting up a 1-2 sweep by the teammates. Doll, the 2017 IBU Sprint World Champion was also perfect, going into the last loop in third position.
Laegreid, “So close he (JT) cannot make a mistake”
The number two Norwegian continued with his clean shooting and strong track performance keeping the pressure on JT, knowing his teammate could always slip up and open the door. “I do the best I can on the tracks and shooting range. There is nothing else I can do…I am really satisfied with what I do in the tracks. I have taken a big step in the physical shape and the skiing technique…It is hard to compare myself to Johannes. He is like a God today…Now I am actually so close that he cannot make a mistake on the shooting range. That is where I was two years ago, when I was shooting clean all the time and he was stressed because he knew I was close behind.”
By the 8.2 km split, Ponsiluoma was ahead of the early leaders, but it was hardly enough. The man in Yellow and Red, held his high-tempo pace dominating the last loop, extending his lead with each stride for the victory. Laegreid and Doll came to the finish next, but were well behind JT, 17.6 and 38.8 seconds back.
“Sunshine would be better”
Doll with his first podium of the season was “really satisfied. I knew I always needed to shoot clean to come to the podium and today it worked. I really like this venue and this atmosphere. I like the people. They are really kind. Nice day today but sunshine would be better!”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni