Kontiolahti’s hometown hero Kaisa Mäkäräinen, who lives in nearby Joensuu matched men’s sprint winner Johannes Thingnes Boe by winning both sprints here this week. Mäkäräinen, with one penalty finished in 20:53.6, 17.3 seconds slower than her time on Thursday. Second went to Norway’s Tora Berger, 6.2 seconds back with Gabriela Soukalova of Czech Republic third, 12.9 seconds back, shooting clean like Berger.
The women had similar conditions as the men had earlier, but the shooting for the top women was just not quite as accurate as them. Still, only two of the top 20 women had more than one penalty.
This well-matched shooting among the top women set up a big battle for the podium between Kaisa Mäkäräinen, Berger and Kuzmina. Kuzmina and Mäkäräinen started basically together at numbers 15 and 16. Kuzmina cleaned prone and took the lead, while the local hero missed a prone shot and was 22 seconds down the list. The tables reversed in standing, when Kuzmina picked up a penalty. Both women were skiing well, but Mäkäräinen took an 11 second lead over the Olympic Sprint Champion and proceeded to add seconds throughout the last loop. Berger was four minutes behind them, but cleaned both stages an left the stadium .1 seconds behind Mäkäräinen. However, she lost time as she headed around the final 2.5k loop. Late starter at 71, Soukalova surprised the whole group by shooting clean and showing her top form after a bout with sickness earlier this month. She flew around the tracks chasing the top two to finish third, pushing Kuzmina from the podium.
Kaisa Mäkäräinen admitted that she has not had much rest since her win on Thursday. At the same time, she said a bit of fatigue was setting in. « I was tired on the last loop and really looking for the finish line. It was fun to win in the home stadium again, I think the first day was easier; I decided to do my own race today and see what the results would be… I was not worrying about the others because there were a lot of strong women out there today. »
Gabriela Soukalova said that her late start was not an advantage. « I saw that the snow was deep in the first loop. The last loop was really hard but it was a perfect result for me, what more could I ask for…This is my first time shooting clean in a sprint this season. I had some time off from shooting while I was sick; I think that helped me be focused and excited for these last races. »
source : biathlonworld.com photo : @EspritGlisse