“Too nervous on the shooting range”
Simon’s third victory of the season and her sixth consecutive individual podium in 2023 brought a big smile to her face. “It is really incredible, being on the podium in first place. I had really good shape today. I was maybe too nervous on the shooting range, with some really bad mistakes…I tried to do it fast which is not a good way to do the shooting…But I was in good shape on the skis and took the victory.”
Last Loop, “I was quite confident”
Regarding the last loop, she added, “I was quite confident, tried to stay behind and wait until the last part of the track because I knew the uphill was really important. I just stayed behind. When I saw Lisa attack, I stayed behind her and tried to be good on the sprint. It was a perfect day for me!”
Simon’s teammate Anais Chevalier-Bouchet, with one penalty finished third, 6.7 seconds back, her third mass start podium in the last year. She explained why she seems to excel in it “I do not know if it is the format, but it is always the last race of the weekend. I am always frustrated with my week, so I have to be positive in the last race.”
Sweden’s Linn Persson, with two penalties finished fourth, 30.7 seconds back. Germany’s Vanessa Voigt, also with two penalties, finished fifth, 41.5 seconds back. Persson’s teammate Hanna Oeberg, with three penalties, finished sixth, 42.4 seconds back.
By the time the women started the final competition here in Ruhpolding, rain was falling and the wind was stronger than the men faced earlier. Yellow Bib Simon led the pack into the first prone stage but missed one shot, ceding the lead to the clean-shooting Vittozzi. Lena Haecki-Gross also cleaned, going out second with Lisa Theresa Hauser on her shoulder.
Vittozzi led the pack into the second prone stage, again shooting carefully and clean. Simon, rebounded after her first prone penalty, cleaning the second stage, going out with her Italian rival. Hauser and Anna Magnusson cleaned, trailing 14 seconds back, with Voigt a few seconds farther back.
Simon regained the lead on the loop heading into the first standing stage. Both women reeled off five quick shots and missed once. Behind them, Chevalier-Bouchet and Voigt cleaned but Simon and Vittozzi retained the lead, 11.6 seconds better than the two clean-shooting chasers.
Chevalier-Bouchet, battling for the podium through the standing stages had a strategy throughout the competition, and was not distracted by the loud crowds cheering for Voigt, skiing alongside her. “I played my game because I know I am not better in the last sprint. I tried to do my best on the uphill, but it was not enough. I played and lost but not everything, only to the first two places…I really appreciate (the crowds). I skied with Vanessa (Voigt), all the crowd was cheering her, but it was okay for me. It is not a problem for me that there is some noise.”
In the 2.5 km loop heading into the last standing stage, Simon proved stronger than Vittozzi, gradually opening up a 6.3-second gap by the 9.3 km split, adding more seconds by the shooting range. One more fast stage and one more penalty put Simon a second behind the clean-shooting Vittozzi as they left the stadium just a second apart. Chevalier-Bouchet cleaned simultaneously with Vittozzi, joining the Simon and Vittozzi on the last loop.
Simon let her teammate briefly set the pace on the last loop, explaining her strategy. “I had a good shape but not enough to start at the beginning of the lap so I tried to stay behind and just be behind Lisa on the last downhill and take advantage and some speed in the downhill. My sprint is not so bad, so I tried to be fast in the last meters of the track, It was a good strategy with a nice fight, an electric atmosphere and the coaches cheering for us.”
Vittozzi attacked atop the last uphill before the stadium. Simon responded, pushing hard, and pulling away to a convincing victory, crossing the line spinning her ski poles high above her head.
“Lisa has come back!”
The Italian followed with Chevalier-Bouchet completing the podium. Vittozzi, currently third in the World Cup Total Score was surprised with her third trip to the podium this week, but is now confident that she is over her struggles. “I did not expect it (the podium), but after the individual I felt very confident in the shooting range. I think Lisa has come back! I am really happy about my performance today.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Igor Stančík