Dahlmeier at the double as she makes Olympic biathlon history
Laura Dahlmeier took her second and Germany’s fourth gold medal of PyeongChang 2018, as she powered to victory in a gruelling women’s biathlon 10km pursuit on 12 February, finishing 29.4 seconds clear of the chasing pack.
It was a quite stunning performance from the 24-year-old, who also claimed the first biathlon gold of the Games in the 7.5km event two days earlier, as she completed an unprecedented women’s sprint-pursuit double.
To add to the excitement, the race for second place was a real thriller, with Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina pipping Anaïs Bescond of France to the finish line by a mere 0.2 seconds.
Kuzmina produced the race of her life, but her German rival’s accurate shooting and power in the finishing stages were just too much. For Dahlmeier it was the latest triumph in a season in which she has been truly dominant, winning no less than five of six golds on offer at the 2017 IBU World Championships.
“It feels really great, it's amazing. I don't know what to say because I felt really, really tired before the race and also during the race in the first laps. I just tried to stay focused and now I'm here again,” said an ecstatic Dahlmeier.
With the racers starting based on where they finished in the sprint, Dahlmeier began with a 24-second advantage.
The German needed all the calm she could muster as Kuzmina, who is second in the World Cup rankings, burst out of the pack to mount an early challenge.
Dahlmeier was not intimidated, however, keeping her nerve as the two arrived at the same time for the third shoot and stood side by side on the range. She hit all five targets as Kuzmina had two misses, effectively ending her gold medal chances.
Dahlmeier made the most of it, speeding away from her rival to open up an unassailable lead, stopping only to fire off a final salvo of five perfect shots before cruising to victory.
Master of perseverance
“At the range I felt really comfortable, I know I have good standing shooting, so I looked to my targets, I wanted to hit the middle and it worked,” Dahlmeier said.
“It's the same in any pressure race because you have to stay focused on your own targets and I think I am a little bit of a master of perseverance.”
Kuzmina's costly miss almost came back to haunt her as Bescond battled her all the way for the silver medal, but the Slovakian managed to slide a ski across the line first to edge out her French rival by the finest of margins.
“Amazing. I can't believe it,” said Kuzmina, in response to her silver medal. “I don't know if I can say a lot about how I feel. But amazing.
“It's always, always about your mind, it's always about if you believe and today it was for (a) sure really good fight for gold but for silver I am also happy.
Meanwhile, bronze medallist Bescond acknowledged that Dahlmeier had raised the bar to new levels for her fellow biathletes this season. “Laura dominates our sport, there are a lot of strong athletes out there. We need to shoot better and ski faster, that's it,” reflected the French athlete.