“Ice-cold last shooting is back!”
Christiansen, grinning from ear-to-ear was thrilled with how both his skiing and shooting went. “What can I say. I felt really good and wanted to take some advantage of the physical shape, not only ski easily in a big group. I made it a tough race for myself because going in front was so tough to keep the gap. The shooting, like yesterday was a really good feeling to have some guys just five to ten seconds behind…The ice-cold last shooting is back!”
“Best race of my career”
He totally enjoyed the last loop. “I could really enjoy it. I pushed the first half and managed top keep the gap. I heard Dale was behind so I was of course, a little afraid of his last loop skills. The last half was yet again a dream. I think it was the best race of my career.”
Christiansen’s teammate Johannes Dale with a single penalty finished second, 9.1 seconds back. France’s Eric Perrot also with one penalty finished with a career-best third place, topping his previous best 6th place in last Thursday’s 20 km individual, 12.3 seconds back.
Perrot: “One, two, okay I am really third”
Perrot’s first individual podium was something he dreamed of more than once, so he savored the moment. “It is unbelievable. I was dreaming about it so many times; like going around and around in my head. To live it and see when I came to the finish line and count the people in front of me. One, two, okay I am really third. That was unbelievable. I just took a few seconds to enjoy it.”
Michal Krcmar had a season-best in fourth place, 16.2 seconds back. Switzerland’s Sebastian Stalder also recorded a career-best in fifth place, 17.2 seconds back. Norway’s Aleksandr Fjeld Andersen added his own World Cup career-best in sixth place, 28.1 seconds back. All three men had one penalty on the day.
Oestersund offered its best of winter for the final competition: -5C, more sunshine and barely noticeable winds, setting up an exciting finish of the week. Twenty-one of the thirty men in the field shot clean in the first prone stage, with Justus Strelow getting away first, followed in quick succession by a Norwegian train of AF Andersen, Sturla Holm Laegreid and Christiansen. On the big uphill out of the stadium, Christiansen broke away from the big pack, setting a torrid pace.
He explained, “From the start to the finish I did everything right…I tried to do a little sprint in the beginning of loop two because no one was following and kept on going from there. Shooting is still kind of difficult in this kind of situation, but I think all my standing shots were prone target hits. I had so much control; I do not know why…a perfect day for me.”
Christiansen closed his five targets in the second prone stage before anyone else had two closed. That put him 10 seconds ahead of Laegreid and Johannes Kuehn, skiing together. Eleven men remained perfect on the range and in close contention.
Five fast standing shots kept the Norwegian in the lead; Laegreid matched but was eight seconds back. Kuehn, Dale, and Krcmar all remained penalty-free at thirteen seconds back, battling for a place on the podium.
Dale felt he was well-positioned at that point. “It was quite much back and forth there; some people went by and some sat back to save some power. For me, the skis were super good today so I used the downhill quite good. But I felt like it was under control; just trying to save power for the last shooting and last round.”
The leader took a couple of extra seconds to set up for the final standing stage, but then rapid-fired down the last five targets, removing any doubt that he would win. Behind him, Laegreid imploded with two penalties falling from the top six. Stalder, Perrot, Dale and AF Andersen all cleaned, going out at 29 seconds back with Krcmar after a penalty loop, trying to catch them.
Vetle was in control, skiing easily to the finish for the win before a big clenched fist punch to the sky at the finish. Perrot and Dale broke from the group, battling for second place, until Dale got a gap on the last downhill, finishing second ahead of the rising French star. The Norwegian knew the effort was going to hurt. “It is always fun with these battles…a good fight for sure. I was almost terrified when I went on the last loop. I have a chance for the podium and it is going to hurt like hell to make full gas!”
Christiansen confidence is high after his recent run of excellent performances and he is ready to end the season in Norway and fight for another small crystal globe in the mass start. “Confidence is not something you just get out of nowhere. You have to have some good experiences and these last weeks; I really have that. It is kind of perfect before Holmenkollen. I should be ready to race on home soil…I will be wearing the Red Bib there. That will be something new. I only wore the split Yellow/Red once. I hope that will give me some extra confidence to fight for this second globe of the year, It will be something extra, so I hope to bring it home.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Per Danielsson