Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Sochi Olympics: France Dominates Biathlon Pursuit

SOCHI – The “King of Biathlon” would wait another another day to reach history. France’s Martin Fourcade and Jean Guillaume Beatrix took the gold and bronze in the Men’s 12.5km race on Monday night. Czech Republic’s Ondrej Moravec won the silver leaving Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen 1.7 seconds short of his record-setting 13th medal.

Bjoerndalen could have made history as he competed to become the most decorated Winter Olympian going for his 13th in the second event of men’s biathlon. The 40-year-old tried to make up for his seventh place finish at Vancouver starting first off the block. Bjoerndalen began the race with just a small lead over second place finisher in Saturday’s sprint Dominik Landertinger of Austria.

Two minutes into the race, Landertinger overtook Bjoerndalen for the lead but being out front wasn’t considered the best position with barely a kilometer into the race. Crashes began to show on the course as athletes Andriy Deryzemlya of Ukraine and Belarusian Sergey Novikov slipped off the course and down the short hill. The first round of shooting took place with the prone position being the rule of the sport. Bjoerndalen showed tremendous poise while shooting the targets along with Landertinger and Russia’s Anton Shipulin, who barely missed winning a medal in the sprint all went 5 for 5. Bjoerndalen held the lead with Shipulin three tenths back and the Austrian behind 2.6 seconds.

American Tim Burke missed his third shot on the range as he hoped to make a better showing on the night. The miss took him into the 150 meter wrap around and back to the course with 20 seconds lost. The lead pack maintained nine skiers with Bjoerndalen at the helm into round two at the range. Landertinger went clean as he took the lead from the Norwegian who missed his last shot along with Shipulin who missed as well. Fourcade moved into fourth place while Canadian Jean-Philippe Le Guellec skied out into first place, a moment not done by a Canadian since Lillehammer in 1994.

Le Guellec grew a big lead on the group behind until the unthinkable occurred. On the turn that few athletes went down on,  Le Guellec slipped and fell as he began put his weight on the right ski which sent him down on the slushy snow giving Fourcade time to set a pace. Fourcade began round three with Landertinger both missing a shot giving Bjoerndalen a chance to retake first place from the youngsters. Unfortunately he missed his second shot along with Shipulin leaving no change for the leaders all taking the penalty lap. Le Guellec was all but out as he missed twice losing all composure from his early fall ending in 26th.

Fourcade continued to hold the lead in what seemed to be a flawed performance for the six biathletes in the fight for gold. In the final round at the range, Fourcade went five for five and gave a fist pump to the crowd as he was in a great position to finish first. “It was wonderful. I knew what it meant that I shoot clean that I would be Olympic champion,” said Fourcade.  Landertinger dropped his magazine coming to the range that left him completely flustered missing a pair dropping him to 10th. The same could be said for Bjoerndalen, who missed for a third time and left him in danger of missing out for the second time in the olympics. Moravec moved into silver position as he would secure another medal for the Czech Republic in biathlon.

The finish line saw no change to the top two as Fourcade crossed the line for his first Olympic gold medal with a time of 33:48.6 with Moravec coming to the line 14 seconds later to gain silver. A race to the line between Bjoerndalen and Beatrix ended with the Frenchman having more stamina than the Norwegian to take the bronze. It became the first medals won by France at the Sochi games, and the first time in Olympic history that two Frenchman took the podium together in biathlon. Bjoerndalen’s hopes for a milestone are still in reach as he competes in the 20km individual on Thursday.



Tags: 2014 Winter Olympics Biathlon Sochi Olympics

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