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Tarasov had won two silvers and a bronze in the 1993 World Championship in Borovets to establish himself as one of the world’s finest competitors, yet he remained unproven when confronted by the unique pressures of Olympic action.
His first race came in the 4 x 7.5km relay, won by a German team entirely made up of former East German skiers. Tarasov skied a good third leg to help his nation take the silver medal. He took part in his first individual race, the 20km, five days later. Tarasov made a poor start, missing two targets with his first series of shots. He later admitted he lost all hope of winning gold because of those misses – but that he subsequently decided to simply enjoy himself. Free of tension, he shot and skied better than ever, hitting every target in the second round and missing just one in both the third and fourth.
He skied superbly, and had fought his way through the field to second place, but he was still trailing Frank Luck… until the German missed with one shot on the final series. Tarasov took advantage, seized the lead and won gold by three seconds.
Tarasov also picked up bronze in the 10km sprint to complete his collection. He returned four years later in Nagano to take a bronze in the Russian relay team, but finished further down the field in both the individual and sprint events.