Sochi recap: Biathlon, men’s pursuit

Did Ole Einar Bjoerndalen claim the record for all-time Winter Olympic medals? Not quite. Not yet. It was Martin Fourcade’s day to remind everyone of his consistent excellence, and a fellow Frenchman held off OBE for a surprising bronze.

Date: 10-Feb

Sport: Biathlon

Event: Men’s pursuit (12k) – 60 skiers start in order based on how they fared in the sprint. First across the finish line is the winner.

Medalists: Martin Fourcade (France), Ondrej Moravec (Czech Republic), Jean Guillaume Beatrix (France)

SportsMyriad projections: Martin Fourcade (France), Emil Hegle Svendsen (Norway), Anton Shipulin (Russia)

How U.S. fared: They didn’t have great start positions after the sprint. Tim Burke started 19th, 50 seconds back. He was nearly in the mix after missing just one of his first 15 shots, but he missed again on the last stage and sank to 22nd. Lowell Bailey scattered three misses and placed 38th. Leif Nordgren missed three at the first shooting stage, two at the next and one more at each of the standing stages on his way to 53rd place.

What happened: The margins from the sprint were razor-thin — the top eight started within 15 seconds of each other, so OBE’s advantage was negligible. The favorites caught up quickly and came in for the first shooting stage in a pack.

OBE shot quickly and cleanly. So did Anton Shipulin (Russia) and Canadian surprise JP Le Guellec. Martin Fourcade (France) took his time but shot cleanly, then zipped past OBE on the skis. The pack stayed together, but Fourcade seemed to be making a point.

At the second stage, Le Guellec mowed down all five in no time, taking off with a stunning lead. Fourcade again took his time and got all five. OBE did not, missing his last shot. Shipulin, whose sister Anastasia Kuzmina won gold for Slovakia in the women’s sprint, missed twice. The lead group was down to four – Le Guellec, Fourcade, Dominik Landertinger (Austria) and Jaroslav Soukup (Czech Republic).

Le Guellec tried to pull away, and he paid for it, wiping out on a tight turn that had claimed several skiers earlier. He fell not just behind the leaders but behind a small chase pack as well.

For the third shooting stage, the skiers switch to standing position, a big test. Fourcade missed one. Landertinger missed one. Soukup missed two. OBE came up with a chance to gain ground, but he missed one as well. Fourcade pulled away from Landertinger, who had a clean lead over three new contenders — the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Moravec, Austria’s Simon Eder and Germany’s Simon Schempp. All three shot cleanly at the standings stage; only Eder had a miss at all.

Lurking behind them, not out of it despite missing twice in his first 15 shots: OBE.

Fourcade sailed into the final shooting stage well ahead of Landertinger, surely set to clinch the win by shooting cleanly. The Frenchman took his time again, aimed and fired. Five down, and he pumped his fist to the crowd before taking off for his final lap. Landertinger missed twice, which meant Fourcade would have no company on what amounted to a victory lap.

Moravec also shot cleanly, going 20-for-20 on the day, and he left the range 17.1 seconds behind Fourcade. Then came a surprising Frenchman, Jean Guillaume Beatrix, then a group of about eight — including, astounding OBE, who missed yet again but was still in the mix.

Moravec gave a good chase on the last lap but was never going to catch Fourcade, who had time to wave a few times to the crowd and cameras in his last 100 meters. Behind them, Beatrix just held off OBE. The record can wait.

Quote: “I liked the race today. It was cool and funny and a lot of things happened. I was close to making a really good race today but three mistakes is a little bit too much.” – OBE

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