Golden hat-trick queen of Sochi
Sochi 2014 saw Darya Domracheva of Belarus become the first female biathlete to win three Olympic titles at a single edition of the Games.
A legendary treble
Sochi 2014 began in inauspicious fashion for Belarus’ Darya Domracheva as she finished ninth in the sprint, 31.8 seconds behind the winner, Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia. It was a different story in the pursuit 48 hours later, however, with the Belarusian racing into a 15 second lead only 900 metres into the race. After going clear at the first standing shoot, Domracheva took control, making her power count and coming home more than 37 seconds ahead of Norway’s Tora Berger.
Three days later she offered up an even more impressive demonstration of her ability in the 15km individual. Looking very much at home in the conditions, Domracheva was so far clear of the field at the second standing shoot that she could afford the luxury of missing a shot and taking a penalty loop and still win her second Olympic gold with plenty to spare, crossing the line one minute and 15 seconds clear of Switzerland’s Selina Gasparin.
Queen Darya won her third gold medal of Sochi 2014 a few days later, turning on the power again in the mass start and making light of a miss at the final shoot to coast home 20 seconds clear of Czech Republic’s Gabriela Soukalova. In doing so she completed an unprecedented hat-trick in women’s biathlon and became only the fifth woman ever to win three golds at the same Games and one of only three athletes to complete a golden treble in Russia, along with short track speed skater Victor An and Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen.
A Siberian childhood
Born in Minsk on 3 August 1986, Domracheva was four when she moved to Nyagan in Siberia, a new town that her architect parents were helping to build. She grew up just a short distance from Khantyi-Mansiisk, one of the hotbeds of world biathlon. Having taken up skiing at the age of six, she joined the newly opened Nyagan Biathlon School in 1999, proving so good at the sport that she was obliged to compete with the boys, whom she beat on a regular basis, an early sign that she was destined for greatness.
The road to Olympic glory
Domracheva returned to Minsk in 2003 and won the sprint and pursuit titles at the Junior World Championships two years later. She made her IBU World Cup debut at the age of 20 in 2006, and burst into the elite in the 2008/09 season, earning a string of podium finishes. Prompted by her success, in January 2009 she declared: “I want to be an Olympic champion and I’m going to work very hard to make that happen.”
At Vancouver 2010, she took the bronze medal in the 15km individual and followed up shortly afterwards with her first two IBU World Cup wins, in the sprint and pursuit in Kontiolahti (FIN). Then came her first crystal globe, in the pursuit, followed by two world titles - in the pursuit in Ruhpolding in 2012 and the mass start in Nove Mesto a year later. By the time Sochi 2014 came around Domracheva was firmly established as one of the world’s leading female biathletes and one of the big favourites at all distances. And when the chance to make history beckoned, she did not disappoint.