Sola was speechless after the biggest day of her career so far. “I am so surprised that I do not really have the words right now. I feel like I have to wake up and really cannot realize it. I just need time; but I am really, really glad.”
“Keep my power for the last loop”
Later, she added, regarding her last shooting and last loop, “I am satisfied with my performance today especially with two zeros on the shooting range. Maybe I did not expect it (the win) but I did the maximum I could and finish with a big advantage… I was trying to keep my power for the last lap because I know in the mountains, it is quite hard so in the first laps I did not speed up and gave everything I could on the final lap…Today everything went quite well, and I am really happy about that.”
Olsbu Roeiseland’s teammate Ida Lien matched her on the range but finished fourth, 52.5 seconds back. Sweden’s Hanna Oeberg, with two penalties, finished fifth, 56.5 seconds back. Norway put a third woman in the top six as Tiril Eckhoff, with one penalty finished sixth, 1:07.2 back.
Five perfect shots
The weather remained clear and cold by the time of the women’s mid-afternoon start, but the wind picked up, making range conditions more challenging than the men had earlier this morning. Sola started the day with five perfect prone shots to take the lead that she never relinquished. Olsbu Roeiseland also cleaned prone but was 22 seconds back. Braisaz-Bouchet picked up a penalty, but her skiing kept her in seventh position heading to stranding. Late starter Lien closed all of her prone targets, putting her just 14 seconds back but within podium range.
Sola came to stranding with a nine second lead, was fast and perfect, adding over 20 seconds to her bulge over her rivals with 2.5 km to go. Olsbu Roeiseland went to 10-for-10, moving up to second, 37 seconds behind the Belarusian. Hanna after two prone penalties, cleaned standing to stay close. Braisaz-Bouchet missed a shot again in the standing stage, but got away just a couple of seconds behind the Norwegian. Eckhoff, after a prone penalty, was well-focused in standing, cleaning with ease to move into fifth position, just 14 seconds from podium contention, but was unable to capitalize, staying there through the finish. Lien came to standing with a chance to move into podium contention, easily cleaning to leave in second position, 37.7 seconds behind Sola.
Sola had a steady last loop, holding her significant lead through the finish line for the first victory of her career. Olsbu Roeiseland was unable to summon her usual fast last loop, losing time but holding second position until Braisaz-Bouchet moved in front of her with one kilometer to go by four seconds. She pushed hard in the final uphill to grab second over her Norwegian foe. Lien hit the 6.1 km split, .2 seconds faster than Braisaz-Bouchet, but by 6.5 km fell four seconds off her French rival, eventually falling 2 seconds short of the podium behind her teammate Olsbu Roeiseland. Although Olsbu Roeiseland finished third, she scored enough points to take control of the Yellow Bib and will wear it in Sunday's pursuit competition.
After not having an individual podium since Oestersund two years ago, the second-place finisher attributed her success and fast last loop to being relaxed. “First of all, I was quite relaxed, happy and confident before the race. I think that is the best way to start; then I was really focused on what I wanted to do on the track. Then stopped thinking on the shooting range, control the wind; it was fun. I was feeling pretty strong and confident.” Regarding her ski speed and second place finish. “I had really good skis. I was quite surprised to be in second place, actually.”
Olsbu Roeiseland: “Did the best I could today”
Olsbu Roeiseland’s first clean shooting of the season made her very happy. “First of all, I am really happy about my shooting today. I hit ten targets and have not done that before today this year. After Oestersund, I was a bit tired and did not train as much as I wanted, so that before the start, I knew it was going to be tough. I just did the best I could do today…It was third place with ten hits; I am super happy with that.”
The Norwegian's third place finish put her in the Yellow Bib which came as a surprise. "That is cool, but the Olympics are my big goal. Still, I will do my best in the other races." Photos: IBU/Evgeny Tumashov