During the inaugural Women's World Championships in Chamonix, the Soviet Union claimed the top four positions in the individual race - an achievement mirrored by French biathletes forty years later. The outcome of Friday's competition in Nove Mesto na Morave was apparent early on, with Julia Simon, starting at number 2, emerging as the victor. Maintaining impeccable form, the defending Crystal Globe holder delivered two clean shootings, securing the gold medal with the fourth-fastest course time. This marks her second individual world champion title, following her triumph in Oberhof last year in the pursuit race. With relay victories included, Simon now boasts an impressive tally of four WCH gold medals in her career.
"It is crazy"
Simon was clearly emotional after the race. "Oh my God, it is real. What an amazing day for all our team! Doing this, here at World Champs? Wow, we will remember this moment".
The 27-year-old was five seconds ahead of Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, who, unlike her, had to run one penalty round. Simon becomes the fourth Frenchwoman to secure the world championship title in sprint, following in the footsteps of Anne Briand (1995), Sylvie Becaert (2003), and Marie Dorin Habert (2015).
Braisaz-Bouchet, who clocked the fastest course time, secured her second individual WCH medal, adding to her third-place finish in the 15 km race in 2019. Meanwhile, for Lou Jeanmonnot, clinching the bronze marked the pinnacle of her career achievements. However, the third Frenchwoman's celebration was tempered by the closely matched times achieved by Sophie Chauveau and Baiba Bendika at subsequent measurement points, keeping the competition tight. Despite their efforts, both fell short of surpassing Jeanmonnot's performance, ultimately settling for fourth and fifth place, respectively. Bendika's achievement holds particular significance as she recently embraced motherhood, equalling her career-best result. Notably, only five athletes trailed behind Simon by a mere minute. Franziska Preuss, finishing sixth, lagged by a notable one minute and five seconds.
Ingrid Tandrevold appeared poised to challenge the French contenders, showcasing her excellent shape with the best time after the initial shooting. However, her standing shooting proved challenging as the Norwegian missed three shots, relegating her to a distant 25th place. Lena Haecki-Gross's performance on Friday proved equally tricky, as the seventh-ranked competitor in the World Cup standings struggled with five penalty rounds, resulting in a disappointing 66th place finish. Anastasiya Kuzmina, returning to WCH competition after a five-year hiatus, claimed 61st place, which means that she also will not start in the pursuit.
Photos: IBU/Vianney Thibaut, Nordic Focus