France’s biathletes gave their home crowd plenty to cheer about at the Les Tuffes Nordic Centre on Sunday, winning the single mixed relay gold in commanding fashion.
With the French flag flying high in one hand, a triumphant Mathieu Garcia (FRA) glided across the finish line first in 42 minutes, 3.5 seconds. Italy took silver in 42:23.0 and Sweden were third with 42:30.3.
The result comes on the back of what was already a successful outing on Saturday, when Garcia and Jeanne Richard (FRA) took bronze and silver respectively in the individual events.
“It was just amazing from the beginning,” Garcia said of Sunday’s gold medal-winning performance. “Jeanne did an amazing job and an amazing second turn by giving me the lead (at the final exchange), and I just finished the job. I knew I had to do a good shoot in the final round, especially in front of the French public. They helped me to focus.”
Each successful shot from the French biathletes was met with resounding cheers from the crowd. Their win was also witnessed by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who at the finish line presented the champions with heart-shaped pins depicting the Olympic Rings.
“We’re really happy to have been able to win medals on both days so far, and it’s even better that we did it in France,” Richard said.
Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games’ biathlon events are held in French territory, the first time the YOG has been organised across two nations.
The Italian pair did well to recover from an early stumble, when Linda Zingerle (ITA) fell at the first uphill ski at the start.
Teammate Marco Barale (ITA) said: “The single mixed relay is crazy. It was only at the finish that I knew we were in second place. In the shooting range I don’t think about other athletes, I don’t hear the crowd, I don’t hear anything. It’s just me.”
The format of the single mixed relay meant the lead changed hands at every exchange. Shooting well was critical to a good result, since missed targets resulted in penalty loops.
A disappointing final round of shooting proved to be the Swedish team’s undoing, having been neck-and-neck with the French until then.
Oscar Andersson (SWE), who was forced to ski a penalty loop and spent the last lap playing catch-up, said: “It was actually really tough and a lot of pressure. I don’t think I had so much pressure when I was shooting but maybe I was too nervous. For me, it was not the best competition but I managed to keep a bronze, so I’m happy.”
Teammate Sara Andersson (SWE) added: “Maybe we’re not the favourites but we did a really good job today.”