Fourcade fires France to mixed relay gold
Martin Fourcade shot clear in his anchor leg to carry France to the Olympic biathlon mixed relay title at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre on Tuesday 20 February. France’s winning time of 1.08:34.3 gave Fourcade a third gold of PyeongChang 2018 and the fifth of his career.
Fourcade took over with the France quartet (which also featured Marie Dorin Habert, Anais Bescond and Simon Desthieux) in second place, some 33 seconds adrift of Germany anchor Arnd Peiffer, who missed two shots in his prone shoot to allow the French great to close the gap to only six seconds. Fourcade then shot clear on his standing shoot to open up an unassailable lead and cruise home to yet another gold.
Victorious in the inaugural biathlon mixed relay at Sochi 2014, defending champions Norway (Marte Olsbu, Tiril Eckhoff, Johannes Thingnes Boe, Emil Hegle Svendsen) came home second, 20.9 seconds adrift of the French. Boe produced a storming third leg to catapult them into medal contention with Svendsen finishing the job to collect a silver to go with the gold he won in Sochi.
Italy (Lisa Vittozzi, Dorothea Wierer, Lukas Hofer, Dominik Windisch) completed the podium, six seconds behind the Norwegians. Wierer, Hofer and Windisch all formed part of the Italian quartet that won bronze in Sochi, while Vittozzi, who shot clear in her leg and handed over with Italy in the lead, represented her country at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Innsbruck 2012. Reigning world champions Germany (Vanessa Hinz, Laura Dahlmeier, Erik Lesser, Peiffer) finished 0.3 seconds out of the medals in fourth, with Windisch just beating Peiffer to the line.
Fourcade is now France's most successful Olympian of all time and only the second French athlete to win three golds at a single Olympic Winter Games, after Jean-Claude Killy at Grenoble 1968.
"It's a beautiful story for this team. It's a beautiful story for the whole crew, who work really hard on our skis," said Fourcade after his superb display. "We often say that this is an individual sport but we live together for more than 220 days a year. Winning this medal together is something really emotional and we really enjoy it."
"For me it's wonderful because it's been a very hard season this year and I didn't expect that I could get here with the team," said team-mate Dorin Habert. "Now we are the gold medallists and it's crazy. I'm so happy. I'm very happy to finish my career with this race."
Norway's Eckhoff was equally delighted with her team's silver: "It was incredible and the boys were excellent and they did a remarkable job. It was a very exciting relay."
"It was a very good fight on the last leg," said the 32-year-old Svendsen, who now has seven Olympic medals to his name, four of them golds. "I had no chance to catch Martin but I'm happy to get the silver in front of Germany and Italy."
"It was really emotional because I did everything to win this medal for the team," said Windisch after his late lunge secured Italy's bronze, confirmation of which came after a 15-minute wait.