Forsberg ends her Olympic medal drought
Magdalena Forsberg was widely regarded as the world's foremost female biathlete of her generation, and ahead of Salt Lake City she was on her way to winning her sixth consecutive World Cup title. Yet she had somehow never managed to translate that form into Olympic success and arrived in the USA looking to win her first medal at the Games.
Forsberg had been a cross country skier and a member of the Swedish team. She had enjoyed plenty of success, winning silver as part of the relay team at the 1987 World Championships. However, after coming home empty-handed from the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville she decided to switch to biathlon.
Forsberg turned out to be a natural marksman, and her speed on skis combined with her shooting accuracy quickly propelled her into the world biathlon elite. By 1997, she was a double world champion and she came into the 2002 Games with no fewer than six world titles to her credit, as well as six consecutive World Cup overall titles.
At Nagano 1998 she had struggled to produce her best in the biathlon events, with a best finish of tenth in the 4x7.5km relay. In fact, her best performance in Japan came in the cross country, in which she finished eighth. Heading for Salt Lake City, she was all too aware that, at the age of 34, this was probably her last chance to win an Olympic medal.
Forsberg’s opening event was the 15km, in which she proved the quickest skier, recording a time of 46 minutes 08.03 seconds, which was more than five seconds faster than anyone else. However, that lead was eroded on the shooting range, with two misses adding two minutes to her time. By contrast, Germany's Andrea Henkel, who had skied slower, missed only once, as did Norway's Liz Grete. They ended up taking gold and silver respectively, leaving Forsberg to make do with bronze. At least, she now had an Olympic medal to her name.
She didn’t have to wait long for the next one. In the 7.5km sprint she found her path to the top step of the podium again blocked by a less celebrated rival. Like Forsberg, Germany’s Kati Wilhelm had switched from cross country to biathlon, but was considered a weaker shot than the Swede.
However, on this occasion Wilhelm hit everything, while Forsberg missed once and, again had to be content with a bronze, as Germany's Uschi Disl took silver.