France’s Martin Fourcade collected his second gold of PyeongChang 2018 at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre on Sunday 18 February, winning a thrilling men’s 15km mass start by the tip of his right ski from reigning world champion Simon Schempp of Germany.
Victorious in the pursuit earlier at PyeongChang 2018 but out of the medals in the individual and the sprint, Fourcade had to dig very deep indeed for victory, after missing his second shot on the first prone shoot and then tripping on a bollard as he exited the penalty loop. The Frenchman then closed the gap on the leaders to just nine seconds after the second prone shoot and continued to pour on the pace to head into the final standing shoot neck and neck with Schempp and fellow German Erik Lesser.
All three missed shots, however, with Lesser missing twice to leave Fourcade and Schempp to battle it out for gold, with another German, Benedikt Doll, and Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen – appearing in his last Olympic individual race – joining the fight for bronze.
Though Schempp kept the pressure on Fourcade as the two athletes struck for home before making his move in the sprint, he just failed to beat the French great in the lunge for the line, as Fourcade finally claimed mass start glory after consecutive silvers at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. Behind them, the 32-year-old Svendsen won the race for third.
Fourcade’s achievement in picking himself up off the snow to win mirrored that of Norwegian cross-country skier Simen Hegstad Krueger, who fell in the early stages of the skiathlon on 11 February and went on to cross the line first. In winning a fourth gold medal Fourcade became his country’s most successful Winter Olympian of all time.
The Frenchman, who lost out on mass start gold to Svendsen in Sochi in another photo finish, was delighted to have got the verdict this time: “It’s incredible. I’m lost for words. I’m still waiting for them to tell me that I’m not the winner. In Sochi I lost by less than three centimetres. And I thought about that during the whole of the last loop because I thought it would happen again. And when I saw the line, I had a deep feeling that I’d lost.
“It doesn’t feel real yet. I’m just waiting to get back to my room, switch on my phone and see that it’s real. But for now it feels like I’m in a dream and it’s a really different feeling to the pursuit competition. It’s my fourth gold medal in the Olympics, so I couldn’t be more pleased.”
“I’m so happy,” said silver medallist Schempp afterwards. “I’ve waited a long time here at the Olympics and finally I get my medal in the last individual race, so I’m really pleased with myself.”
“It means a whole lot,” commented the departing Svendsen. “It was a really tough Olympics for me. I didn’t quite get the races that I wanted, so to be able to get a medal in the last individual race was really tough. It’s a thrill though.”