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Shooting was the hardest part to learn for German biathlete Juliane Frühwirt. But on Sunday, when she won gold in the women’s 6km sprint at Birkebeineren Biathlon Stadium, a spotless shooting performance was the key to what she described as “the biggest success of my life”.
“It’s unbelievable, I can’t believe what happened in the last two hours. It was the first competition in which I didn’t miss any shot,” Frühwirt said after finishing the race at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in 18 minutes 23.5 seconds, +5.6 ahead of Norway’s Marthe Krakstad Johansen (18:29.1 and one penalty).
“[The last lap of the race was] the hardest minutes of my life, when the seconds go and go and then I realised that I would win. It [the gap with Johansen] was one second after the shooting range, on the course it has been four seconds and I had the feeling that I could get it. But it was so close.”
Shaking in the cold, with her gold medal on her chest, Frühwirt felt emotional. “I can only cry and cry and cry because of all the joy. It was five years of hard work, I learned shooting and it was very difficult because I wasn’t good at it.”
Bronze medallist Arina Pantova of Kazakhstan, who finished in 18:40.6 with two penalties, had been focusing on Lillehammer 2016 for some time. “I have been preparing for this since the last Youth Olympic Games,” she said.
Even if “biathlon in Kazakhstan is just starting to develop”, Pantova has had something of a headstart on her rivals. With a brother, Anton, who competed in biathlon at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and a father, Dmitriy, who raced at the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games, Pantova clearly had biathlon in her genes.
Arina Pantova, of Kazakhstan, strides towards her bronze medal. Photo: YIS / IOC Jed Leicester
“They have been training me from early age and my whole family are biathletes, that’s why they are an example for me. [But] I have already beaten them with my results, which are better than theirs.”
Written by YIS / IOC EMMA LUPANO with IOC Young Reporter Vegard Anders Skorpen