Three-times world champion Johannes Thingnes Boe put in a blistering skiing performance to win gold in the men’s 20km individual at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre on Thursday 15 February.
The world no.2 missed two of his 20 shots at the range and incurred a subsequent two-minute penalty, but he made up for it with tremendous speed and stamina on the skis to clock a time of 48:03.8 minutes. He finished 5.5 seconds ahead of Slovenia's Jakov Fak in second place, and Austria's Dominik Landertinger in third, despite both competitors hitting all 20 targets.
The 24-year-old Boe, who had already finished 31st and 21st in the men's 10km sprint and 12.5km pursuit respectively at PyeongChang 2018, then experienced an excruciating wait for the final competitors to cross the finish line before celebrating his first medal in nine attempts at the Olympic Winter Games.
Mistakes cost Fourcade
France's Martin Fourcade, who had could have become only the second athlete to win two Olympic gold medals in the men's 20km individual event [alongside Norwegian biathlete Magnar Solberg], and the only French athlete to win four Olympic titles, had opened a lead of 16.3 seconds over Germany's Arnd Peiffer at the 10.6km mark. By the time he arrived at the fourth shoot he had almost two minutes to spare.
Despite having skied and shot superbly until that point, Fourcade missed his last two shots, incurring two minutes in penalties and giving himself a mountain to climb to put himself back in contention for the gold.
Worth the wait
Boe had gone out ninth of the 86 starters and an early miss left him with work to do, but his powerful skiing allowed him to win back the time lost due to his errant shooting. He could even afford another late miss without ruining his chances.
"I knew that I could not miss any more to fight for the medals," said Boe of his miss in the first shooting. "With (missing) one on the last standing I thought my medal chances were gone. So today I was lucky. To finish the race with a gold medal is very good."
Boe admitted that he was relieved to win gold, and that he felt emotional when the last of the competitors finally came past the finish line to confirm his victory.
"It's very special. I was crying," he said. "It's maybe the second time I've cried in the last 10 years. The first time was after my first world championship title, so this means a lot. We train very hard for this and when you get the achievement, an Olympic gold medal, it's emotional. I'm very proud. Winning the Olympic Winter Games is the biggest achievement as an athlete, and even though you are among the favourites and among the best in your sport, it's not always you that wins the medal or gold medal."
Fak admitted he had to work hard following his disappointment in both the men's 10km sprint, where he finished 23rd, and the men's 12.5km pursuit, where he finished 47th.
"It was very difficult for me," said the 30-year-old. "I had two bad races and it was very, very hard to come back. It was very hard for me to come back and stay focused and shoot clean. But I'm very pleased, very happy. I still need a little bit of time with myself to get all the emotions back. I need to stay professional, then celebrate."
Landertinger also admitted he had to bounce back from earlier disappointment in both the men's 10kmsprint and 12.5km pursuit, but said that he had exceeded his plan, to finish in the top 10.
"The last two races were not good, so my goal was for this race (was) the top 10, and now it's a bronze medal. It's perfect," he said. "I am very, very happy with this race. It was not easy for me because I don't have the best shape for the running, so I'm very happy that I can shoot no mistakes and make this bronze medal. It's also very important for the biathlon sport in Austria."