Björndalen Wins Sprint Convincingly
|From a Tie for 43rd to First|
|Ole Einar Björndalen of Norway overcame a poor 43rd place finish in the 20K individual on Thursday to overwhelm a field of 136 men to take the Men’s 10K Sprint today at the e.on Ruhrgas IBU Biathlon World Cup this afternoon in Östersund.
Björndalen covered the 10K course in 23:30.1, putting him 25.1 seconds ahead of his younger teammate Emile Hegle Svendsen, the 20K victor. Björndalen shot clean while Svendsen missed one standing shot. Third went to Tim Burke of the USA, 37.2 seconds back, who also shot clean.
Better Results for German Men
The German men came back strong today, with Christoph Stephan, Michael Greis, and Andi Birnbacher finishing fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Stephan matched Burke on the shooting range with clean shooting, but 8.3 seconds behind the US athlete. Greis, with one penalty was 2.8 seconds behind his teammate, followed by Birnbacher another 9.2 seconds back. Christoph Sumann of Austria, third on Thursday slipped back to seventh, while Martin Fourcade of France was eighth and in the top eight for the second time this week. Fourcade just barely beat his brother, Simon, with just 1.2 seconds between them.
Comeback Day for Norway
Comeback victories were obviously the order of the day for the Norwegian Team. Earlier Tora Berger won the Women’s 7.5K Sprint, after a 14th place finish in the 15K Individual on Wednesday. She had described her Wednesday effort as, “so slow that the coaches needed a calendar instead of a stopwatch to time it.” Björndalen probably had the same feelings about his 20K, where he had five penalties and finished 4:39.6 behind Svendsen.
Norwegian Men’s Coach Mikael Lofgren commented on Björndalen’s strong performance. “He (Björndalen) was obviously disappointed with the 20K. Today, he showed what he has shown over the years and in training this year. But you know that doing it in training is one thing; you have to be able to perform in a race and he did that today. This is more like what I expected before the season started.”
Problems for Björndalen
Björndalen added that his disappointment was fueled by some problems in the 20K. “It was really a tough day for me. I had some physical problems and I also did not choose the right materials. I changed these things today. However, I was worried that it might take some days or weeks to be on the podium.”
In addition to changing his skis today, Björndalen has made some other changes this season. He is now using his wife’s old rifle. “Natalie had a very good rifle; much better than mine as shown in ammunition testing. So I am now using that rifle.”
90th World Cup Victory
The victory today was the 90th of the “King of Biathlon’s” World Cup career (89 in biathlon, 1 in cross-country). He continued, “I was actually surprised to win today. The shooting was fantastic and I was very fast on the skis.”
Asked about his goals for the Olympic Winter Games, Björndalen commented, “It would be fantastic to win two medals. Our team is working very hard to win a Relay medal also.”
His teammate Svendsen was not surprised to be second. “I won here with one penalty before, but I knew that if someone very good shot clean, I might not win. Once that Ole shot clean, I was sure he would win. That is the way it goes when you miss one shot.”
Svendsen and the Olympics
Even with two good performances here, Svendsen plans to stay focused on the Olympic Winter Games. He said, “I will not do the World Cup in Pokljuka or Antholz. I will be at home training then. You need to do some training if you want to win a medal at the Olympics. . . My goal is the Olympics.”
Burke on Podium for Second Time
Burke was on the podium for the second time in two days and the second time in his career. His performances make him the first American to have two podium results in the same World Cup and the only American on the podium in a World Cup outside of North America. He was thrilled with his day once again. “I was so excited after the 20K that I probably did not sleep 1 hour that night. Today, I came to the stadium and felt a little blah, but once I started, the race started, I was in race mode and everything clicked. Any time that I can be on the podium with those two guys (Björndalen and Svendsen), I will be pretty happy. . . I have a lot of respect for them; it is a big honor for me.”
Source: International Biathlon Union