“Prepared for last loop in my head a hundred times”
Regarding JT’s big sprint to Gold, “I saw early I gained some seconds and then I believed that I could catch them. With the 2 kilometer course here, I knew it was going to end up in a sprint and I prepared for this since I came here Monday. I knew what to do and gave my best performance. I had already prepared for the last loop in my head a hundred times.”
Anchoring to Gold
As for the winning despite the penalties and spare rounds, he added, “It is nice to anchor Team Norway for Gold. It does not get any bigger than that. We knew that most likely the winners would have penalty loops, so we were not scared to have some. We wanted to fight for each place we could get and in the end it was us on top.”
Sweden with thirteen spare rounds finished fourth, 41 seconds back. Germany, with two penalties and18 spares finished fifth, 1:05.5 back while Belarus with two penalties and fourteen spares finished sixth, 1:14.6 back.
The first biathlon competition of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games kicked off under conditions that all the teams experienced all week in training. It was the typical -12C under clear skies with a very strong wind cutting across the range from left to right; at times gusting dramatically. For this mixed relay, the women ran the first two legs followed by the men, setting up some potentially big medal battles on the anchor leg. Olsbu Roeiseland, Alimbekava and Oeberg set the pace in the first loop, coming into their prone stage. Lisa Vittozzi quickly went 5-for-5 despite the gusty winds, leading Finland and China, both also clean out of the range. Olsbu Roeiseland had some troubles with her rear sights before shooting and used a spare round, falling 24 seconds back in tenth. (Explanation: Her rear diopter sight had fallen off before the competition, was found by the Slovenian physio, passed on to the Norwegian staff who relayed it to Marte as she entered the range.)
The Italian stretched her lead into the standing stage to 12 seconds, but needed a spare to clean and leave just .5 seconds ahead of the Norwegian, who quickly cleaned in five shots. Hanna Oeberg, after a spare left 7.5 seconds later.
“Wind Hard to manage”
After a standing penalty, leadoff Anais Chevalier-Bouchet tagged Julia Simon in ninth, 1:25 back. The eventual Silver medalist from France admitted to herself, “I think it’s over for us. The windy conditions made the race interesting and in another way, it was not so equal. It is a good finish for us, but the wind is hard to manage…I have to enjoy it because it is a Silver medal, but I am not very proud of my leg. But we are a team and when someone is not very good, the others are better!”
Olsbu Roeiseland took the lead and opened a gap on Vittozzi, with Eckhoff taking the tag 16.7 seconds ahead of Dorothea Wierer. Alimbekava tagged Sola in third, while Hanna Oeberg tagged her sister Elvira in third, 31.2 and 44 seconds back respectively. Eckhoff struggled in prone, ending up with a penalty, while Wierer cleaned in five shots, moving to a 13-second lead over the Norwegian. Sola after three spares left 20 seconds back, followed by Reztsova and Elvira at 35 seconds back. Eckhoff quickly skied back to the Italian’s shoulder before the standing stage. With the wind buffeting them, both shot slowly but Eckhoff used all her spares ending up with three tours of the penalty loop. Wierer cleaned with her last spare round to take a 13-second lead over Julia Simon whose clean stage brought France from eighth to second, 13 seconds back. Clare Egan matched with five perfect shots to put the USA third just ahead of Elvira. Eckhoff dropping Norway to fifth 44 seconds back.
Wierer held the lead part way through the loop, until Simon flew past tagging Emilien Jacquelin four seconds ahead of Thomas Bormolini. Elvira tagged Martin Ponsiluoma in third 15 seconds back with Sean Doherty taking off for the USA in fourth, alongside Tarjei, 29 seconds back. By the time the men came to their prone stage, the sun had set behind the surrounding mountain peaks. Jacquelin assumed the lead with five perfect prone shots; his Italian and Swedish foes did the same, trailing 22 seconds back. Tarjei did the same but was still 44 seconds back in fourth. Emilien Jacquelin ended up with two penalty loops after struggling with his spare rounds. Loginov cleaned with two spares to take a .7 second lead over the USA, with Ponsiluoma, after three spares, 4.6 seconds back with Jacquelin on his shoulder heading to the last exchange. Italy and Norway trailed,16.5 and 24 seconds back.
At the last exchange, Eduard Latypov left with a 17 second lead over Sebastian Samuelsson and Quentin Fillon Maillet, with USA’s Paul Schommer and Johannes just two strides back. Latypov cleaned prone in six shots and was gone, with Fillon Maillet 22 seconds back, JT at 24 seconds and Samuelsson at 29 seconds back. The medal decision would come in the standing stage. Latypov used a spare to clean while his French rival went 5-for-5, just 1.9 seconds slower; JT with one spare was 9 seconds from the leader and Samuelsson at 14 seconds.
The top three skied together with just a ski length separating them with 1 km to go. The French and Norwegian rivals shadowed the ROC anchor leg. The trio blazed down into the stadium, separated by millimeters with the Norwegian looking the strongest. JT then powered past Latypov in the final 100 meters to win the Gold medal with Fillon Maillet also moving past to take the Silver and ROC taking the Bronze.
Fillon Maillet’s special medal
Fillon Maillet, currently wearing the World Cup Yellow Bib, now has the first Olympic medal of his career, one that has special meaning. “The last Olympic Games in Pyeongchang was a very hard situation for my stepfather and my girlfriend with great difficulties. My girlfriend had cancer and was fighting during the Olympic Games. Before I came here she said, ‘win some races for me.’ It was a great fight and very happy to win a medal today because it is not only the sport, but also for life, my girlfriend and family. It is special because Pyeonchang was so terrible.”
Loginov admitted the ROC’s Bronze medal (the first-ever OWG medal for the whole team) was special, and how he felt was just as special. "This is a nice finish to the day. This medal is not just a bronze, but it's a medal that was won…I think I got wings after the good shooting. I was in a good mood and I am happy that I was able to work well today from the first metre to the last." Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni