Clean-shooting Samuelsson skis to Mass Start Gold

Sweden’s Sebastian Samuelsson, after going to 20-for-20 on the range, left the last standing just over a second behind Martin Ponsiluoma. Over the last 3 km loop, Samuelsson powered past and pulled away to win the Men’s 15 km Mass Start Gold medal this afternoon at the BMW IBU World Championships in Oberhof. Samuelsson’s 36:42.8 time put him 9.6 seconds up on Ponsiluoma, with two penalties who won the Silver medal, giving Sweden the top two podium spots.

Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe after leading into the last standing stage, picked up his third penalty, but still held on to win the Bronze medal, his seventh medal at this year’s Championships, 38.8 seconds back. He was modest in regards to the men’s record of seven medals, matching teammate Marte Olsbu Roeiseland’s Antholz record in comparison to champions from other sports. “You have to be good to take seven medals, so I am not talking myself down, but Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are quite another league.”

“Never believed I could be World Champion this year”

Samuelsson struggled for words, thinking about his first-ever IBU World Championship title. “It is fantastic. I never believed that I could be World Champion this year. It was a hard season for me. These World Championships for me, have been truly amazing. What I am most happy about today is my great, great performance. I just focused on myself on the shooting range, just tried to hit those targets. I am very happy that I succeeded... Today is the best race of my career so far."

“Stronger in the end”

Regarding his shooting and strong last loop, he added, “I noticed that he (JT Boe) had one mistake all the time and the other guys were shooting so much faster than me. When I was shooting clean, I could ski on my own pace; I knew they could catch me, but if I eventually continued (shooting clean), I would be stronger in the end…That was a great feeling.”

JT’s teammate Sturla Holm Laegreid, with two penalties, finished fourth, 55.8 seconds back. Latvia’s Andrejs Rastorgujevs, with three penalties, recorded a lifetime IBU WCH best in fifth place, 1:07.3 seconds back. France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet, with two penalties, finished sixth, 1:10.9 back.

Header iconBMW IBU World Championships Men's 15 km Mass Start

Rainy: prone penalties for the leader

The last day of competitions saw light rain falling, +5C and the wind virtually still compared to yesterday’s relay penalty-fest. The man in the Yellow/Red Bibs set the pace into the first prone stage, but Laegreid shot, clean and was gone while JT went for a tour of the penalty loop, falling 21 seconds back. Ponsiluoma, also perfect followed closely behind Laegreid with fourteen of the top fifteen all shooting clean.

By the second prone stage, JT was back up to third, but added another penalty while Laegreid and Ponsiluoma picked up their first miscues. This opened the door for Fabien Claude and Samuelsson, both 10-for-10 to move into the top spots with Emilien Jacquelin on their shoulder.

Samuelsson leads; JT battles back

Samuelsson led over the next loop with JT again battling back into the top five before the first standing stage. The Norwegian shot the fastest, as well as perfectly, regaining the lead and attributing his success to teammates and the wax team. “We have the best team, team spirit, wax men put in a lot of work. I had excellent skis every day. I think that is the most important thing.”

Closed Standing Targets

Samuelsson was quite careful in closing his targets in the first standing stage, leaving second but 9.8 seconds back. Laegreid also regained his composure with five targets closed, moving into third, 17 seconds back, with Ponsiluoma a few steps back in fourth.

Swedish Duo Shoots Clean

The gap remained the same into the final standing stage, except Ponsiluoma moved past Laegreid. JT shot aggressively, missing his last shot. The two Swedes knowing their only chance was clean shooting, did just that, with Ponsiluoma leading his teammate by 1.2 seconds and JT coming off the penalty loop 6.8 seconds back. Laegreid, after a second penalty trailed in fourth.

Samuelsson’s Last Loop, “I had to risk it…to win”

Once on the tracks, Samuelsson took control with his teammate 10 meters back; JT was trying to catch the Swedish duo. With 700 meters to go, Samuelsson was in control with a seven-second gap to his teammate and JT failing to gain any ground. Samuelsson knew he had to make move in the last loop in order to win. “It felt like a summer day in Oestersund, like the last interval with Martin. I knew it would be very tough to beat him so I did not know what to do. Then in the first uphill in Birxsteig, I felt strong. I knew Johannes is coming and probably fast. I thought if I want to win a Gold medal, I had to risk it, do everything I had, I did. I am happy I was strong enough to keep them behind until the finish.” Staff and teammates urged Samuelsson over the last uphill; he skied into the finish with his first-ever IBU World Championship title, while Ponsiluoma won the Silver medal, and JT claimed Bronze.

Last loop challenging

Ponsiluoma admitted the last loop was a challenge. “It was really tough. I was skiing really fast on the fourth loop; I burned my legs a little bit. When Sebastian attacked, I had nothing to push with. I was really stressed about Johannes coming behind. I did not hear what the coach said. It was really loud on the tracks; I was just going as fast as I can. When I saw he did not catch me, then I knew the Silver was safe for sure.”

“Wanted one medal”

Although there was a battle for the medal, Ponsiluoma felt the conditions suited him. “When I came here, wanted to go home with one medal; we got it in the relay so I was a bit relaxed today and my body felt really good. It was just full gas out there and tried to do my best. I like tough conditions so it was a perfect day for me.”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Bjorn Reichert

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