Belarus take women’s biathlon 4x6km relay gold
Darya Domracheva skied a perfect final leg to claim the women’s biathlon 4x6km relay gold for Belarus at PyeongChang 2018 on Thursday 22 February. Their winning time at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre was one hour, 12 minutes and 3.4 seconds.
Sweden's anchor Hanna Oeberg fought back from almost a minute behind to take silver for her team, 10.7 seconds behind Domracheva, while Anais Bescond crossed the line third to claim bronze for France.
Belarus missed only nine targets in total, three of them coming from Domracheva on the last shoot. However, she held on to secure victory and add a fourth gold medal to the three she won at Sochi 2014.
Norway's bid for gold was undone by three penalty loops. They finished just outside the medal positions in fourth, while Slovakia took fifth.
Break from the pack
The conditions made for a tight race during which the lead changed hands on virtually every visit to the range as the biathletes struggled to judge the wind. Italy, Poland, France and Slovakia all headed the pack at some point. It wasn't until Domracheva, who won a silver medal in the mass start, took over on the final leg that the field started to stretch out.
Her powerful skiing allowed her to build a lead and even survive what could have been costly misses on the final shoot before surging to victory. She is now the most successful female biathlete in Olympic Winter Games history.
A golden decision
"It means that the day I chose to go on skis and do sport was the right day and the right decision," said the 31-year-old champion of her decision to take up biathlon. "I have had challenges along the way, but such days and medals mean that it's important to believe in yourself. It is important to believe in your team and overcome some difficulties, and then all doors are open for you."
"I am very happy because I am an Olympic champion," added team-mate Nadezhda Skardino. "My season has been amazing. I won the gold medal in the World Cup, and now this medal represents a very good finish for the season."
Sweden's Oeberg looked to have an impossible task at the final exchange, almost a minute down, but the 22-year-old individual gold medallist tore through the field to take the silver, Sweden's tenth medal at PyeongChang 2018.
"I saw earlier in the competition that there had been a lot of changes in the field, and when I went out last I felt that everything was possible," said Oeberg of the challenge that faced her ahead of the last leg. "I was a little bit shocked to finish second, but it's such a fantastic feeling because although I have a (gold) medal from before, to share this with the team means so much to me."
"We have worked together really hard for the last couple of years," she continued. "That we are here today is unbelievable and I am really happy to share this medal with the rest of the girls.
Oeberg's superb finish prompted a huge outpouring of joy at the finish line as coach Wolfgang Pichler threw an arm around the shoulders of King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden.
"They have fought incredibly well," explained the King. "They did really well in the last leg, but everyone in the team has to also be really good to get this result. It's great every time you're able to experience something like this, when they perform so well. I was really hoping for this."
High five for France
The France quartet were delighted to win bronze, their fifth medal in biathlon events during these Winter Games. "It's a very happy end to the final and to share it with all the girls in my team, it's crazy," said Anais Bescond. "It's my third medal [Bescond won gold in the 2x6km women and 2x7,5km mixed relay, and another bronze in the women's 10km pursuit] and the medal today, with all that hard work, is very nice. I'm really happy. In Sochi I was twice in the fifth place, so for me it's an amazing Winter Games."
"It was a very hard job today with the wind," added team-mate Marie Dorin Habert. "France got there and got this medal, so I think we can all be very happy to share it with everyone, with all the team and all the work we did here. I'm very happy for my team-mates."