Hard-fought Gold medal
JT admitted that the Gold medal was not won easily. “It was changing all the time. I was afraid to lose the Gold medal in the first stage (after using three spare rounds). We fought to the end. I was thinking that three extra shots and penalty loop is the same as six extra shots and no penalty loops. That kept my mind positive. Sturla made the greatest race to put us in front; from there it was quite hard…It was (a great team effort).”
Regarding their nine spare rounds, JT later added, “As a team, some do good, some do bad. We want to use maximum one spare each, but that was not the case today. The most important thing is the result in the end.”
France, with nine spares won the Bronze medal, 55.9 seconds back, just 3.3 second ahead of the fourth place Austrians who used just three spare rounds. Czech Republic, with seven spares finished fifth, 1:09.4 back. The home team Germany with a penalty and nine spares finished sixth, 1:26.5 back.
Kicking off the 2023 BMW IBU World Championships, the twenty-six mixed relay teams were treated to brilliant sunshine, the temperature at a balmy +3C, huge crowds packing the tribunes, trackside and very light wind on the shooting range. France’s Julia Simon and Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi battled for the lead in the first leg, with Simon leading after a 5-for-5 standing stage. Tandrevold after being in the lead group used all three spares, ending up on the penalty loop, putting Norway almost a minute back.
“Ski fast; shoot clean”
Simon summed up her stellar first leg. “I tried to skis fast and shoot clean. It was a really tough battle against Lisa. I am happy to do a good race and give Anais to top position that was really important for the team.”
Simon extended her lead into the first exchange, tagging Anais Chevalier-Bouchet 9.7 seconds ahead of Dorothea Wierer. The French star needed a spare to clean prone while Wierer shot cautiously but cleaned in five shots. Chevalier-Bouchet and Wierer came to standing together, with the French leader going 5-for-5 and Wierer needing one spare round. Denise Herrmann-Wick brought Germany up to fourth, 41 seconds back with Olsbu-Roeiseland after two extra shots up to 46 seconds back heading to the men’s takeover.
Wierer’s super strong last loop gave Didier Bionaz a 6.3 second advantage over Emilien Jacquelin at the exchange. Wierer was not sur she would have a good day when she woke up today. “I woke up and my eyes were swollen. I was really worried about my performance today. I was so tired. You know in a relay; you are fighting for everybody. I was really worried about my skiing since I felt so tired, but in the track it was not so bad.”
Norway trailed 50 seconds back. The young Italian cleaned in six shots while Jacquelin used seven, putting Italy 12 seconds up while Laegreid easily cleaned in five shots powering into third, 31.6 seconds back. A penalty for Doll put Germany out of contention. The Italian used two spares in standing, retaining a 1.1 second lead over the 10-for-10 Laegreid and Jacquelin. Just as quickly the French and Norwegians went into a man-to-man battle in the front, with Laegreid after a sterling leg tagging JT a step ahead of Fillon Maillet, eight seconds up on Italy.
Laegreid, 50 seconds back at the exchange used that to his advantage, “Ingrid was so sad after her leg; I gave her a hug and said, ‘this is perfect; I can just attack. I have nothing to lose.’ I could just do my own race, full pace from the beginning. In the shooting I saw the others were struggling with extra shots. I did not want to use extra shots so I just fired and cleaned all the targets, It felt like I could do everything I wanted to do today. Sending Johannes out in the lead was a very good feeling.”
JT quickly powered away from Fillon Maillet, opening up 10 seconds before prone. As his rivals struggled to clean with spare rounds, Giacomel added another outstanding performance to his resume with five perfect shots, putting him 6 seconds in front of JT, and 18 before Fillon Maillet. JT let the Italian do the pacing into the standing stage, sitting on his ski tails. Both used a spare in standing, leaving simultaneously. JT quickly put on the afterburners, burying Giacomel, and leaving the Italian all alone in second. Norway defended their 2021 title ahead of Italy and France.
“It is a medal”
Jacquelin reiterated the importance of winning medals of any color. “Two years ago, we finished fifth; I remember that well. With a medal, it is already a great thing for us. I will try to get other medals.” Fillon Maillet agreed, adding, “The most important part is that it is a medal. It is very good to start like this.”
Photos: IBU/ Christian Manzoni, Björn Reichert