Kulbin: “Cannot believe I am World Champion”
The Estonian's clean shooting keyed the win. “Clean shooting, my second time ever made me very happy. The clean shooting and very good skis were the difference today. I still cannot believe I am a World Champion. I am very happy; it is unbelievable!” Concerning his struggle on the last loop, “The height (altitude) is very tough. When I left on the last loop, I thought how I can finish; I was so tired (and at the finish), nothing left.”
Last Loop Support
Kirkeeide had a lot of support on her last loop with coaches and teammates cheering her on. “I had a lot of people celebrating me so I was trying to go just as fast as I could. I was tired but it gave me motivation when they said I was close to the podium.” As for her Gold medal, “I did not expect it but it has been fun. I did not expect to be here and that it would go so well. I am just very happy.”
Behind Kulbin’s Gold medal, Slovakia’s Jakub Borgula, with one penalty won his second Silver medal, 7.4 seconds back after taking the same spot in the individual competition two days ago. Like Borgula, Germany’s Albert Engelmann, also with one penalty won his second Bronze medal, 8.4 seconds back, matching the one he won in the individual.
Poland’s Konrad Badacz, with one penalty finished fourth, 12.2 seconds back. Finland’s Arttu Heikkinen, with one penalty finished fifth, 27.9 seconds back. Mathis Profit of Switzerland shot clean in sixth place, 36.1 seconds back.
After two days of bitter cold and snow, conditions moderated for the first sprints at this year’s IBU Youth and Junior World Championships at Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Olympic Biathlon venue. The temperature warmed to an almost balmy -6C with just a few snow flurries and virtually no wind on the shooting range. Under such mild conditions, it would take clean or one-penalty shooting to make it onto the podium. Despite the good conditions, few clean shooters came out of the prone stage. However, two teams Germany and Finland and four athletes dominated. Kaskel was the first of the Germans to clean, but his teammate Engelmann later matched to move into the top spot. Finland’s Heikkinen and Nieminen also cleaned putting them in the top five. Late starters Konrad Badacz and Kulbin shook up the prone stage, shooting perfectly to move into first and third positions.
Profit was the first man to go 10-for-10, taking the lead briefly until Engelmann and Heikkinen moved ahead, after single penalties for each. Borgula, missed a prone shot but came back with a quick clean standing stage and moved just 5.8 seconds off the lead. Heikkinen, the Individual Gold medalist two days ago, was determined to have a say in the podium when he hit all five standing targets, leaving 10 seconds back in third. Yet it was Kulbin who took control after standing, continuing his march to the podium by also going to 10-for-10.
Engelmann had a strong last loop, but the mid-field starter Borgula was faster, taking the lead by one second with 900 meters to go. He sprinted hard down the last 100 meters, crossed and threw his hands up, screaming, “Yes,” claiming what he hoped would be victory by the same one second he had at the last split. Kulbin came out of standing with a 9-second lead and put everything into the last loop. Coming to the finish line, he looked like he could barely stand up, crossed 7.4 seconds faster than Borgula taking the Gold medal and within a half-step was in a heaving heap in the snow. Borgula dropped to Silver with Engelmann holding on for Bronze.
Behind the Norwegian’s Gold medal, Slovenia’s Lena Repinc, with one penalty won the Silver medal, 7.5 seconds back. Germany’s Iva Moric, shooting clean won the Bronze medal, 9 seconds back, her second medal of these Championships after a Silver in the individual.
Moric’s teammate Selina Grotian, with two penalties, finished fourth, 11.2 seconds back. Poland’s Anna Nedza-Kubiniec with one penalty finished fifth, 16.1 seconds back. Sara Scattolo of Italy, with two penalties finished sixth, 29 seconds back.
The temperature warmed a few more degrees to around -3C but light snow continued to fall by the time the Youth women’s sprint started in mid-afternoon, with the wind remaining very calm until just after the competition started. Then it started to blow from right to left, complicating shooting. Still, clean shooting or close to that would be the path to the podium. The competition heated up about midway through the competition, when Sara Scattolo shot clean to take a 6.8-second lead taking the lead after starter 10 Femsteinevik who was also clean, with Nedza-Kubiniec and Hristova in third and fourth,11.6 and 16 seconds back. Moric also cleaned but was over 21 seconds back. 2021 Youth Sprint Champion Repinc put herself in a hole with a penalty, 33.9 seconds back.
The standing stage became the deciding factor once again. Nedza-Kubiniec had a penalty but took the lead. A couple of minutes later, Moric shot clean for the second time this week to move into the top spot. Then, Repinc cleaned standing, taking a 1.8 second lead over the German. Kirkeeide, third after the prone stage missed a shot, but flew out of the penalty loop, in fourth position, just 6.3 seconds behind Repinc.
With 900 meters to go, the Slovenian was struggling, with her lead down to just .1 seconds over Moric. She however recovered in the remaining part of the loop and sprinted to the finish, finishing in front of the German. However, Kirkeeide blazed the last loop, jumping to the top spot by 3 seconds at the 5.1 km split. She flew down the last hill into the finish, taking the Gold medal by 7.5 seconds.
Photos: IBU/Bjorn Reichert