France’s Martin Fourcade doubled up today by winning the Olympic 20K Individual to go along with his Olympic Pursuit Gold medal from Monday. Fourcade had a single penalty on his way to a 49:31.7 victory on the soft Laura Biathlon stadium tracks. The Silver medal went to Germany’s Erik Lesser, who after shooting clean was in the lead with 4K to go, but faded to finish 12.2 seconds behind Fourcade. The Bronze medal went to Russia’s Evgeniy Garanichev, with one penalty, 34.5 seconds back.
This evening was almost perfect day number five; again, very light wind, but the very warm temperatures, (with some athletes rolling up their long sleeves) that made the tracks soft once again. However, it was delightful weather for the spectators! The again virtually windless evening resulted in a lot of clean shooting right from the first starter, Garanichev, who other than one penalty in the second stage was perfect, on his birthday! More than 40 men shot clean in the first prone stage. Faster skiers slipped ahead of him rather quickly, led by Beatrix who led in the second and third stages. Then he, like many others missed a single shot which proved to be his undoing. His teammate, Fourcade missed his shot in the first standing, which put him at a disadvantage, but he had one thing going for him that some others did not, fast skiing out on the tracks. By the second prone stage, he was up to sixth position and closing in on the leaders, Beatrix, Garanichev and Eder. A clean final standing stage put him in the lead and pushed Garanichev out of the top spot.
However, as Fourcade was moving up through the standings, Lesser was just putting together a perfect shooting day and staying just off the top spot. In the final standing stage, he dropped the 20th target and left the stadium with a 9.6 second lead on Fourcade. Unfortunately, the toll of his hard effort started to show as he slipped to 4 seconds behind the Olympic Pursuit Champion with 1600 meters to go. He fought hard, but continued to fall behind Fourcade, going from a 9.6 second lead to a 12.2 second deficit at the finish. Fourcade watching from the sidelines knew as soon as he saw Lesser come into the stadium that Gold medal number two was his. His reaction was a huge smile and a quick raising of his hands. This was another triumph for France, but even in the loss, a triumph for Silver medalist Lesser and the German team; it was their first biathlon medal of these Games. For the now 26-year-old Garanichev, the Bronze medal was probably his best birthday gift ever.
Fourcade was much more subdued today than after the pursuit. He admitted, « It was a really different feeling from the other day…this was an individual competition with less excitement and pressure. I was the favorite. I knew what I had to do and was confident of my shape. Still I am just as happy and satisfied as I was after the pursuit. »
Lesser hoped that he could hold off Fourcade and win the Gold medal. « I tried to do my best on final loop. I hoped that Martin would not be that fast, but still this Silver medal is a great success. But you cannot be disappointed with the Silver medal. »
source : biathlonworld.com photo : @EspritGlisse