The USA’s Susan Dunklee got up as high as fourth, but biathlon stars Darya Domracheva and Tora Berger showed their class with powerful performances to take the top two places in the pursuit, with the bronze reserved for a long-serving veteran.
Event: Women’s pursuit (10k, start order determined by finish in the sprint earlier in the Games)
Medalists: Darya Domracheva (Belarus), Tora Berger (Norway), Teja Gregorin (Slovenia)
SportsMyriad projections: Tora Berger (Norway), Gabriela Soukalova (Czech Republic), Valj Semerenko (Ukraine)
How U.S. fared: Susan Dunklee was only 42 seconds back at the start after her strong 14th-place finish in the sprint. Sara Studebaker started 44th, 1:53 back. Annelies Cook started 53rd, 2:17 back.
Dunklee shot cleanly at the first stage and passed a couple of contenders, including Tora Berger. She was 10th after the first shoot and got as high as sixth before missing one of second-stage shots to fall back. She latched onto the contenders, though, and shot cleanly again at the third stage to move back into sixth. At the 6.9k mark, she was a stunning fourth. The official stats feed briefly showed her cleaning the final shooting stage, but no — she missed three, then fell back to 18th.
Studebaker missed three at the first shoot, then settled down to miss only two more and finished 51st. Cook also missed five on the day and finished 54th.
What happened: Darya Domracheva and Tora Berger had a bit of work to do from the start, taking the course a little more than 30 seconds behind sprint winner Anastasia Kuzmina.
And Kuzmina stayed away from the start. She took time on her fifth shot at the first stage, but she converted all five. So did most of the skiers behind her.
Domracheva reeled in Kuzmina through the second lap, then capitalized when Kuzmina missed. The Belarus skier took the lead, with France’s Anais Bescond and Italy’s Dorothea Weirer in pursuit. Kuzmina dropped to fourth. Berger shot cleanly but was content to be in a chase pack along with Gabriela Soukalova, who was making a charge after a disappointing sprint.
The first standing shoot separated the contenders. Domracheva came in, calmly knocked down all five, then skied away before the others had even started shooting. Kuzmina shot cleanly and was alone in second. Then came a pack of four, including expected contenders Berger, Soukalova and Ukraine’s Valj Semerenko … and the USA’s Susan Dunklee?
Domracheva left an opening in the final shooting stage, missing one shot. But she was hardly the only one to miss. Kuzmina missed. Berger missed. Soukalova missed. Dunklee missed three times.
Of the contenders, only Valj Semerenko emerged from the final shoot unscathed. But she was 36.6 seconds behind Domracheva, and she faded off the podium on the final lap.
Berger charged quickly into second position. Soukalova also was charging but had two more skiers to catch.
Domracheva was on a virtual victory lap by that point. She had time to soak in the roars as she skied to the finish with the flag of Belarus in hand.
Berger was easily in second. Third place went to veteran Teja Gregorin — a four-time Olympian (one cross-country, three biathlon) getting her first medal. Soukalova, Semerenko and Kuzmina followed.