“Happy every time we win”
Christiansen had a lot of fun on his anchor leg. “It is a lot more sun when you have a small gap rather than 1:30 like I had here last year. I was a bit more turned on this time, It was good that France was doing so great pushing us up until then. I was happy standing on the last shooting knowing that I would do something funny if we crossed the finish line first. It gives sone extra pressure but that is when we do the best when you have that kind of pressure. We enjoy this while we can because we know soon we’re going to get beaten. We are just so happy every time we win.”
Return of the Hulk Hands
Although he missed getting his Incredible Hulk hands before the finish, Christiansen always the jokester, later donned them for photos after doing the Hulk pose at the finish line. “It was a dream come true. Johannes told me he felt like such a machine after wearing them in Ruhpolding, He could feel Hulk’s power and today it was my turn. It was really funny!”
Germany, with a penalty and eleven spares finished third, a distant 2:17.5 back. Sweden, with one penalty and thirteen spares finished fourth, 2:38.7 back. Italy with seven spares finished fifth, 2:47.3 back. Czech Republic with ten spares finished sixth, 2:51.5 back.
Conditions were the same for the twenty-one men’s relay teams as the women had a few hours earlier. The first prone stage was typically tight with eleven teams coming out of the prone stage within 13 seconds led by Switzerland’s Sebastian Stalder. After a spare round in prone, Antonin Guigonnat cleaned standing easily, taking the lead four seconds ahead of Stalder, with Finland third. Laegreid, after one spare round skied the loop into the first exchange hard, moving into third position but still 12 seconds back.
Guigonnat was pleased to “win” the opening leg. “I am really happy with my leg because I had some tough times the past few days. Yesterday eight times on the penalty loop, so I had to react to do something to get the trust of all the team and the staff before the World Championships…I proved what I am able to do on the relay, especially on the start.”
Fabien Claude took the tag with Tarjei quickly moving into second position followed by Germany’s Johannes Kuehn. The leaders all needed spare rounds. Still, Claude was away first with Kuehn and Tarjei together 11 seconds back. The three leaders shot side-by-side in standing. Tarjei shot slowly, carefully and clean, taking the lead by less than a second over France with Kuehn trailing 8.6 seconds back after a spare round.
Tarjei “felt like my old self”
Tarjei was full gas, tagging his brother nine seconds ahead of Emilien Jacquelin and Benedikt Doll. The veteran Norwegian felt that he was back in form today. “Something happened this weekend. I felt like my old self again…Even if I had some good results in January, I felt a little sluggish…This weekend the feeling is back, just in time for the World Champs.”
The undefeated-in-2023 JT added seconds to the lead with each stride going over 27 seconds up before prone. Two spares dwindled the lead to 11 seconds when Jacquelin cleaned in five shots. Doll after three spares retained third position. JT cleaned standing blindingly fast; Jacquelin did the same, gaining no time, leaving the same 16 seconds back as when he entered the range. Doll’s 5-for-5 kept Germany solidly in third position.
JT unsurprisingly put the hammer down over his last loop, tagging Christiansen 30 seconds before Quentin Fillon Maillet took over for France and 1:10 before Roman Rees took the tag for Germany. Christiansen added minor drama with a spare round in prone; the lead over France increased to 33 seconds. Standing was a mere formality: four hits and one spare gave the Norwegians their fourth relay win of the season. Christiansen came into the stadium urging the fans to cheer, crossing the finish line having fun, flexing like the Incredible Hulk!
Fillon Maillet confirmed France in the runner-up spot after two additional spares. Rees held third for Germany despite a penalty loop.
Doll’s Oberhof Optimism
Germany’s third leg Benedikt Doll feels he and his teammates are ready for the upcoming home IBU World Championships, making the podium today again. “I think in the last relays we showed that we are really stable athletes especially in relays. Of course. today was one of our worst relays, especially me and Roman…In prone I took too much risk. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. Today it did not work; three misses and three spare shots. The arms start shaking and it was not a comfortable shooting. But I think for Oberhof, the setting is really good and the team is really good, so I am optimistic for that.”
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni