Unexpected sprint win Hauser surprised herself with sprint win number one. “It is just so for me to win a sprint race. I mean it was perfect with zero-zero on the range; really good running for me. OI had a good start last weekend but I did not expect a victory in the sprint. It is just amazing; I really enjoyed it.”
Speechless about Yellow Bib Informed that she would move into the Yellow Bib, the Austrian was almost speechless and close to tears. “Really? I do not know if I am happy about it or I get more nervous. It is unbelievable. Now I am really speechless…” As she walked away, she looked back quizzically saying, “Really?” Later, she added, “That is really amazing!
Sola’s teammate Dzinara Alimbekava shot clean, but finished fourth, 20.6 seconds back. Germany’s Franziska Preuss and Anais Chevalier-Bouchet of France, both with one penalty finished fifth and sixth, 24.2 and 27.5 seconds back, respectively.
Real winter arrived for the second women’s sprint of the season, with light snow throughout the competition, reinforcing -12C temperature and a light breeze just fluttering the shooting range wind flags. Five of the first seven starters shot clean in prone with Alimbekava taking the early lead. Starter number 1 Elvira missed a shot, after skiing the first loop very fast. Alimbekava’s teammate Sola one-upped her, cleaning prone 10 seconds faster to become the top prone shot. Hauser challenged with a clean prone but was 9.9 seconds slower than Sola. Chevalier-Bouchet made her case for the win shooting clean three seconds faster than Hauser. Her sister Chloe did the same to move into third after the prone stage.
Alimbekava shot as well in standing, closing all five targets with ease, as did Persson, but the Belarusian was a dozen seconds faster. Elvira missed another shot in the standing stage, but was only 14.4 seconds down after Alimbekava cleaned. Sola missed a single shot in standing, but after the penalty loop was just 3 seconds behind her leading teammate. Her lead disappeared when Hauser shot fast to grab a commanding 15-second lead. Chevalier-Bouchet missed a shot, falling 20 seconds back while her sister cleaned to leave in third, but faded from contention in the last loop.
Elvira flew over the last 2.5 km, deleting her deficit by the 6.7 km split, finishing 8.1 seconds faster than Alimbekava. Sola was not as strong as the rising Swedish start on the last loop, pushing hard, but falling 1.9 seconds at the finish. Hauser held her pace high over the last loop, skiing powerfully crossing 12.5 seconds faster dropping Elvira to a career-best second place, to set the podium.
Ski Speed seals podium Elvira commented on her ski speed that sealed the podium. “I knew from last weekend that my skiing was good, that I can trust my own feeling and not think about what anybody else is doing. It was quite nice being number one. I knew then that I could go out 100% and do my own race and not think about what the others were doing… Two mistakes in the sprint when the conditions are as good as they are today; I was not expecting a podium, maybe a top 6…I knew I had done a good final lap; had done everything.”
Getting on the podium at home in front of fans and family was extra special for the 22-year-old. “It felt so great; I mean I have friends and family here watching. It is the first big event that people can watch on site in a long time. It was a really cool experience, racing in front of them and also giving them a podium.”
Sola’s third place, her fourth career podium was satisfying. “I have to say I am quite pleased with my competition today. It did not work our perfectly at the shooting range, but overall I am quite happy…I was not quite secure today on the shooting range. In general, I am happy that I had just one mistake.” Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni