Olympic pressure is especially tough in this race, where each missed shot costs an athlete one minute. Several contenders shot themselves right out of the race. But Darya Domracheva showed her class, missing just once and skiing very well as Belarus took two medals.
Event: Women’s individual (15k)
Medalists: Darya Domracheva (Belarus), Selina Gasparin (Switzerland), Nadezhda Skardino (Belarus)
SportsMyriad projections: Tora Berger (Norway), Darya Domracheva (Belarus), Andrea Henkel (Germany)
How U.S. fared: The perpetually smiling Susan Dunklee went out faster than some of the contenders around her but missed the last of her prone shots. She missed four more along the way and wouldn’t repeat her terrific results from the sprint and pursuit, finishing 34th.
The surprise was Hannah Dreissigacker, the inexperienced athlete who joined former Dartmouth colleagues Dunklee and Sara Studebaker on this team. Her best World Cup result so far is 56th. She finished 23rd, missing just two shots.
Studebaker missed four and finished 55th. Lanny Barnes, who made it on the team when twin sister Tracy gave up her spot, missed three and finished 64th.
What happened: Most of the contenders had early starting positions, and Darya Domracheva quickly established herself as the one to beat. The Belarussian took bronze in this event in 2010 and won the pursuit earlier in the week. She missed once on her second stage but was still well in front.
At the fourth shoot, Domracheva seemed to be hesitating in her unusual routine of starting on the middle target, going left, then coming back to the two right targets. But she took down all five of them and had clearly earned a podium place at the very least. She came across the line in 43:19.6, a staggering 3:47.3 ahead of Russia’s Olga Zaitseva.
A fellow Belarussian was establishing herself as a contender. Nadezhda Skardino (no, not Keri Russell’s character on The Americans) has no World Cup or World Championship success to speak of, but when you hit all 20 targets in an individual, you’re a contender. She care across in second, 1:38.2 behind her teammate.
But one more athlete had shot cleanly and was racing well. Switzerland’s Selena Gasparin, who has two sprint wins this season but has never finished higher than fourth in an individual, steadily picked up time through the splits. She trucked into the finish, beating Skardino’s time by 22.5 seconds.
Gabriela Soukalova, one of the favorites, was still in contention despite two misses. But she finished nearly 20 seconds off Skardino’s pace.
Tora Berger missed three targets early and was slower than Domracheva. Andrea Henkel was ill and didn’t start.
A few more athletes shot cleanly: China’s Yan Zhang, Poland’s Krystyna Palka and France’s Marie Laure Brunet. Palka made it to the top 10 (10th). Brunet finished 17th, Yan 46th,