Flawless performance secures 15km individual gold for debutant Oeberg
Sweden’s Hannah Oeberg produced a magnificent display of stamina on skis and accuracy at the range to beat the favourites and clinch gold in the women’s 15km individual biathlon at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre on Thursday 15 February.
The 22-year-old, competing at her first Olympic Winter Games at PyeongChang 2018, produced four flawless rounds of shooting and registered the quickest time, 41:07.2 minutes. The Swede finished 24.7 seconds ahead of Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina who missed two shots but still managed to add another silver medal to the one she won in the pursuit race on Monday 12 February.
Oeberg, awarded the International Biathlon Union's rookie of the year honour in 2017 and ranked 58th in the World Cup standings, looked shocked as she watched the final competitors come through the finish line, including Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier.
Pre-race favourite Dahlmeier hit 19 of 20 targets, but an early miss in the first shooting prone cost her the chance of a third gold, and with it the chance to become the fourth biathlete ever to win three gold medals at one Olympic Winter Games.
A teary Oeberg embraced her team-mates as she endured a long wait to see if her superb performance would be good enough for gold, her first victory in a major international competition.
Perfect on the range
Oeberg and Kuzmina made the early running, and with each miss bringing a one-minute penalty, clean shooting was at a premium.
Oeberg, who started 24th of the 90 athletes, shot clean and sprinted her last lap to take the lead ahead of Kuzmina, who missed twice but made up for it with fast work on the snow.
Dahlmeier shot clean at the third shoot to reduce Oeberg's lead to 32 seconds, but she could not reduce the gap any further.
Oeberg became the second youngest woman to win an individual biathlon event at the Olympic Winter Games after Bulgaria’s Ekaterina Dafovska, who was 22 years and 73 days in the 15km individual at Nagano 1998.
Hitting the target
Oeberg admitted that she had only ever experienced one flawless shooting performance in her career before arriving in PyeongChang, in the Junior World Championships in 2016, which is why she paused before her last shot on this occasion.
“I was pretty sure I would hit, but I wanted to make sure,” she said. “I have shot four times clean only one time before, but I was really focused on the range today. The skiing was great also. I do not know, I just managed it somehow today.”
The Swede celebrated with her family when her gold medal had been confirmed, and she said her parents have been crucial as she has surpassed even her own expectations.
I was surprised to win, I would not have believed them if anyone had told me I would win. It is crazy! My mum and dad are here. I saw them after the race and they are as happy as I am. They have really supported me through the years. It means a lot to have them here.Hannah Oeberg Sweden
Kuzmina was delighted to add a second silver medal, though she admitted she was surprised to finish on the podium after missing two shots.
“I have no idea how it is possible with two mistakes in individual,” she said. “It was good skiing, I felt in very good shape, on the top level now. Second medal, unbelievable.
“Normally I do not watch the others finish the race, but today I followed Laura [Dahlmeier] to the finish and I watched the other girls. It was the best ski time for me and that is why I am top three.”