Russia swept the first two biathlon gold medals on offer at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games on Saturday, winning the women’s 10km individual and men’s 12.5km individual events.
Held at Les Tuffes in French territory, there were also silver and bronze medals to rouse the hundreds of local fans cheering on their compatriots.
In the women’s race, Alena Mokhova took gold, finishing in 32 minutes, 26.7 seconds. Jeanne Richard (FRA) came in second, clocking 33:30.5, with Belarus’ Yuliya Kavaleuskaya taking bronze in 33:59.5.
Oleg Domichek later doubled the gold medal haul for the Russian team with a time of 34:09.4 in the men’s race. Lukas Haslinger (AUT) was second with 34:23.0, and Mathieu Garcia (FRA) completed the podium with a 35:04.3 effort.
Mokhova, who missed just two out of 20 shots, said: “My coach told me in the last lap that I was in the lead and I knew I needed to do everything I could. I tried not to think about the medals because I knew there were still a lot of strong athletes behind me who had yet to finish.”
Things were not looking so good for Domichek after he missed one shot in each of his first prone and standing rounds. But making some minor adjustments paid off for the 17-year-old, despite a fall in the last lap.
“I was nervous after the two early misses but I told myself to relax because I was no longer expecting anything,” he said. “I just treated it as if it were training and tried to relax myself.
“But my coach told me in the last lap that I was in a good position, so I pushed myself. It was a challenging course with many turns and I even fell in the last lap, but my skis worked really well.”
For the French medallists, climbing the podium on home soil was especially meaningful.
“Competing at home is something amazing,” Garcia said. “You have the public, your friends on the track and it feels amazing. It’s really awesome.”
The 17-year-old completed his race placed third, but had to endure an agonising wait for the rest of the field to finish.
“There are no words to describe how stressful it is,” he said. “You just wait and the seconds feel like hours.
“I knew that the French team was a strong team. We just needed to do what we’re supposed to do. I think that’s what we’ve done.”
The atmosphere was unlike what many of these young biathletes had experienced before.
“It’s definitely the biggest crowd I’ve competed in front of,” Haslinger said. “It’s a special feeling in your body. Everyone cheers for you. But it doesn’t matter if it’s 100, or 10 people. You have to focus on your race.”