“Like a medal in a Championships”
Laegreid feels his Holmenkollen victory ranks right up with his highest achievements. “It is just incredible; it is my debut in the World Cup here in Holmenkollen. I have been here many times since I was a junior, always dreamed of this and now with the audience returning and also my family in the stands, it is crazy. It is something you dream of as a little kid. Holmenkollen is the biggest venue for us Norwegian athletes. To be able to perform here and win is like a medal in a Championships, it is so unbelievable.”
“My perfect race”
He later added, “I gave my best today; made my perfect race. I tried to do my perfect race in Otepaeae and I did but Quentin was better and now I tried to do even better. I am super happy how I managed to shoot and ski well today in front of the Holmenkollen crowd and my parents. It was an unbelievable experience.”
Germany swept places 4-6 with Benedikt Doll shooting clean in fourth, Erik lesser with one penalty in fifth and Philipp Nawrath also with one penalty in sixth, 39.5, 40 and 40.5 seconds back, respectively.
Fillon Maillet claimed his second small Crystal Globe of the season with his second-place finish, securing the World Cup Sprint Score. The Yellow Bib remains a bit amazed by his dominance, i.e. five individual competitions since Beijing with three wins and two second places, while missing just two shots in the seventy fired in them. “It is amazing to stay every time in first and second place since the end of the Olympic Games…Like today, I am a little bit sad to not win. I feel happy. Just after the race, I won the Globe for the Sprint; that is very good.”
Norway’s Tarjei Boe received his small Crystal Globe for winning the World Cup Individual Score that he secured at the end of the February in Antholz.
Norway added another sweep by taking the Men’s World Cup Nations Cup to go along with the Women’s Nations Cup they received earlier today.
The final men’s sprint of the season had similar conditions to the women earlier in the afternoon, with the sky still a deep blue and warm sunshine on the tracks. However, the shooting range was now fully shadowed as the sun started dropping, while the wind was just as troublesome as it was for the women. Starter 6 Johannes Kuehn was the first man to clean the prone stage. Samuelsson did the same to take the lead from the German, with Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen doing the same but just a second behind Kuehn. Laegreid then came in fast, and shot faster, taking over the lead by almost 15 seconds. Fillon Maillet cleaned prone but was 22 seconds back.
Kuehn, the first of the leader to shoot standing picked up a penalty. Doll, after cleaning prone did the same in standing to go to the top of the leaderboard for a minute until Samuelsson bested him by 13 seconds. Christiansen was again extremely fast and efficient in cleaning standing but still trailed his Swedish rival. However, Laegreid outdid them all with his perfect standing after a fast second loop to go 29 seconds ahead of the field with 3.3 km to go. Lesser, after cleaning prone missed a standing shot, leaving in fifth, in the mis for at least the Flower Ceremony. The Yellow Bib closed some of the gap to the top with a 5-for-5 standing stage, but still lagged in third position 5 seconds behind the Swedish star as he headed into the last loop.
With the snow really getting soft and chopped up, Samuelsson slowed significantly in the last loop. Laegreid’s last loop was just what he needed, nothing but steady, holding the same hot tempo and crossing in victory with the exact same 26.5 second gap on Samuelsson as when he left the standing stage.
Fillon Maillet closed the gap to Samuelsson down by a second at the 8.4 km split. With 600 meters to go, the Yellow Bib was only a half-second behind Samuelsson and pushing hard. He came down the last hill and sprinted, picking up another 4.1 seconds in a last 100 meter sprint to finish second.
Samuelsson, focused on a top three finish in the World Cup Total Score, was far from disappointed with his third place, his sixth podium this season and first clean-shooting day since his Oestersund sprint win. “It was as very exciting race. Quentin is the best but after him it is a close fight for the other places in the overall cup (Total Score) so it will be an exciting weekend…Last week, I was getting back into my shooting shape again and today I am on the podium. It is my sixth podium and I am fighting for the top places…so I cannot be disappointed… For us competing (for the top three in the World Cup Total Score), I think it is the worst (feeling). It is a hard fight but to be honest, I cannot focus on that. I need to focus on doing as good on the tracks and the shooting range. I know if I do it good, it will be hard for then to overpass me. It will be a hard fight.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni