Forty-year-old Norwegian Ole Einar Björndalen claimed the first biathlon gold of Sochi 2014 on Saturday, winning the men’s 10km sprint. He was joined on the podium by Austria’s Dominik Landertinger (silver) and Czech biathlete Jaroslav Soukup (bronze), both of whom turned in error-free displays on the shooting range.
It was Björndalen’s seventh Olympic gold medal, and 12 overall (he also has four silvers and one bronze). Current World Cup frontrunner, Martin Fourcade of France had to settle for sixth, while reigning world champion and fellow Norwegian, Emil Hegle Svendsen, finished well off the pace in ninth.
Björndalen participated at his first Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer in 1994, going on to win his first gold - also in the 10km sprint - four years later at Nagano 1998.
With the hot favourites Fourcade and Svendsen unable to find their best form, Björndalen adopted a measured pace, preserving his energy for a strong finish. Having executed a faultless prone round on the shooting range, the Norwegian legend faltered in the standing shoot, with the resulting penalty loop causing him to drop to fifth in the overall standings, 6.1 seconds behind the leader going into the final lap.
But in the final kilometre of his ski he clawed his way back up the rankings with a burst of acceleration for which his fellow competitors had no answer.
It capped a momentous first day of competition for Norway, which also saw Bjoerndalen’s compatriot Marit Bjoergen take her Olympic medal tally to eight with victory in the skiathlon, to became her country's most successful ever female Olympian.