Like Gabriela Soukalova did earlier in the day, Martin Fourcade of France started the new season exactly where he ended the last one, with a victory. Fourcade, obviously wanting to erase the memory of three penalties in Sunday’s mixed relay, shot clean today while covering the 20K in 50:10.9. Simon Eder of Austria, a late starter at number 85 finished second, with one penalty, 2:06.1 back, just ahead of his teammate Daniel Mesotitsch, with one penalty, 2:20.2 back.
Martin Fourcade came to the stadium obviously very focused. From the start to the finish, he was perfect, shooting carefully and then powering around the tracks for another 4k loop. Each time he shot, all five targets dropped. Coming to the final standing stage, the only thing between Fourcade and victory was Hofer. The Italian, like Fourcade shot four clean stages, and was in the lead and heading for the finish when Fourcade came to the final standing stage. Television crews scrambled to get close to lane 30, when he was shooting; two penalties and there would be a battle for the top spot. However, Fourcade was a “man on a mission,” with a single goal: to prove that the mixed relay was just a bad day and nothing else. With five deliberate shots, he removed all doubt, reiterating that he was again the man to beat this season.
From that point, it was a matter of who would fill the two other podium spots. Hofer looked like a good bet, but both Mesotitsch and Leguellec with a penalty each skied faster than the Italian, slipping a few seconds ahead of him. As the competition progressed, Eder had a single penalty to move ahead of Mesotitsch, giving Austria two spots on the podium.
The victory today was Fourcade’s third in a row at Östersund. « I am not one who worries about records or things like that, but I am quite proud of this victory. I think it was one of my best…I am exhausted and satisfied. » Fourcade said, « The past few days were hard, with some criticism in the press. I did not have to answer the critics. My team, family and fans stood by me, which was very important to me. It was very nice to have the quiet with my team over the past few days. I am quite proud to give this victory back to my fans and teammates. »
Regarding his shooting and focus today, he added, « I was on automatic pilot today. I did not think about technique or anything else. » Although he was fast on the tracks, Fourcade feels he is not at a peak. « I still feel like I have more in my body…I still do not feel perfect on my skis yet. »