“Oh my God, it is real”
Simon, overwhelmed with joy admitted she was focused on the victory before the deciding last standing stage. “It was crazy, unbelievable, incredible. I was very, very focused. Just before the last shooting, the coach on the uphill told me I was with Denise and third place was far behind. In my head, I said, ‘It does not matter. I just want to win, so need to stay with Denise and watch the wind.’ It was totally crazy on the last lap. My legs were shaking. ‘Oh, my God it is real. I need to go to the finish line.’ A lot of emotion in my head; it is unbelievable.”
She added that it was hard to overcome the media pressure before the competition. “It was really hard to race with this pressure. The media talked to me saying that I was one of the favorites. That was crazy because it is new for me; to do a great race today was something amazing. I am pretty happy.”
Olsbu Roeiseland’s teammate Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold, also with three penalties, finished fourth, 1:00.3 back. Germany’s Sophia Schneider, with four penalties finished in a career-best fifth place1:08.3 back. Simon’s teammate Lou Jeanmonnot, with one penalty was one of the biggest movers of the day, finishing sixth, 1:08.7 back after starting in 26th position.
Fog returned for pursuit Sunday, but it was not as significant on the range as on Saturday, but on the tracks in places, visibility was almost zero. The thermometer read a warmer +5C with the wind flags almost flat. Herrmann-Wick set the pace over the first loop, with Hanna Oeberg on her shoulder. Hanna shot faster in the first prone stage but missed once, as did her rival. Linn Persson and Simon both cleaned, going out 8.7 and 26.1 seconds back, respectively.
The German cleaned the second prone stage easily regaining control of the competition. Hanna had two penalties dropping to fourth behind Simon and Arnekleiv who both went to-10-for-10, trailing by 23 and 34 seconds.
The German explained her strategy. “When you start in the front, you cannot win that much. I tried to make my own race from the beginning at my own speed and be focused on the range. It was not that easy today, because in zeroing it was good to shoot, then bit of fog came in the range. Prone was okay. I raced with Hanna Oeberg and tried to push my speed and she got a bit tired, which was my plan with Julia on the Birxsteig, but she was not following; a really clever strategy. When you are with the overall World Cup leader in the last shooting; she is such a good shooter in pursuit and mass start races…It is biathlon and cool situation.”
Herrmann-Wick had a single penalty in the first standing stage. Simon took advantage with two fast shots, a break and three more fast shots, taking th lead by 1.5 seconds. Tandrevold after two penalties in the second prone closed all five standing targets to jump to third, but 34.2 seconds back, with Schneider in fourth, another 15 seconds in arrears.
Coming into the last standing, the sprint winner regained the lead by a couple of seconds. Shooting side-by-side, Simon picked up a single penalty to win the duel while Herrmann-Wick added two. Simon left with a clear lead of 28 seconds. Regarding that last standing, “I am an offensive biathlete and it is easier for me to shoot when there is someone around me. I just tried to do my best. I was really focused. Only one mistake for this time was enough. It was not so easy. I heard Denise mad one more mistake and sorry to say this, but it felt good.”
Olsbu Roeiseland went 5-for-5 getting away in the Bronze medal spot, setting the podium after Tandrevold picked up a penalty, falling to fourth. After her struggles early in the season, winning a medal was huge for the Norwegian. “It means a lot. It was a big victory for me. After the sprint, I was not so upset about my fourth place’ I was actually really happy, because I was in my best shape so far this season. I was excited for today because I had every opportunity. I am really happy that I caught the Bronze medal.”
The Yellow Bib pulled farther into the lead over the last loop to secure the first IBU World Championship title of her career. She slowed to give a few high five, pump her fist several times and wave to the crowd before crossing the finish line and covering her face with her hands in a moment of disbelief and joy.
“Believed in my chances”
Simon summed up her Gold medal day. “I started far away but believed in my chances. I was counting on some mistakes from my opponents. It is really nice to have medal in this place with an amazing crowd. The atmosphere was totally crazy. It feels so good with my coach, my boyfriend wax tech all on the last lap; a lot of emotions.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Bjorn Reichert