French Sting the Competition to Take Men’s Relay

Martin Fourcade Takes Lead after Decisive Final Shooting Stage
The French Team of Vincent Jay, Vincent Defrasne, Simon Fourcade and Martin Fourcade won the Men’s 4 X 7.5K Relay today, by overtaking Russia in the final standing stage, as young Martin Fourcade claimed the victory by outshooting Maxim Tchoudov. The French team had one penalty by Defrasne, but only used seven spare rounds in the competition.

Norway and Austria

Second went to Norway, with three penalties and eleven spare rounds, 13.7 seconds behind France’s 1:15:10.3 winning time. Norway benefitted from a strong anchor leg from Ole Einar Björndalen. Austria finished third, with one penalty and seven spare rounds 18.2 seconds back, while Russia slipped to fourth, 29.7 seconds back.

Anything can happen in a Relay, which is what makes it such an interesting competition. In the first 100 meters today, Slovenia’s Peter Dokl’s ski slipped off, losing precious time and momentum that his team could not make up.

Svendsen Challenged by Jay

After the initial scramble out of the stadium and two shooting stages, the competition settled down. Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen was in the lead, but challenged by France’s surprising 24-year-old Vincent Jay. He commented on his battle with the Norwegian who won the 20K and was second in yesterday’s Sprint. “I was perfect for me to ski with him, although he is too fast for me! Still, it was great for my confidence.”

The Czech Republic, with Michal Slesingr was in the mix in fourth position. Favorites Austria and Germany were well back.

Russia in Control

By the third leg, Russia was in control, with France staying in second on a solid leg by Simon Fourcade, as Germany moved up. Austria suddenly was back in the mix as Dominik Landertinger looked like the World Champion that he is, with an excellent skiing and shooting stage.

Martin Fourcade Wins on Shooting Range

Russia, with Maxim Tchoudov seemed destined to win as they had a 15-second lead over France at the final handoff. Young Martin Fourcade held his own against Tchoudov through the prone stage, as Norway, Austria, and Germany moved up within striking distance. In the standing stage, which had plagued most the teams all morning due to a moderate breeze, Tchoudov took a penalty. Fourcade needed a spare round, but cleaned and went out in first with a large lead. As Tchoudov visited the penalty loop, the incomparable Björndalen cleaned as did Austria’s Christoph Sumann. The three left the stadium in a close group. At the top of a hill, Björndalen attacked and pulled ahead. According to Sumann, “it was the wrong time as I looked to the left at Tchoudov, Ole passed me and I could not catch him.

At the finish line with no one in sight, Martin Fourcade, who just turned 21 in September, thrust his hands in the air and claimed a hard-fought victory. Fourcade has been in the top eight in each of the previous competitions here and with the win today, stepped up to the top of the podium for the first time in his career. Regarding his decisive final shooting stage against Tchoudov, and Germany’s Michael Greis, Fourcade commented,“I saw that they were having problems so I shot as fast as possible. Once I left the shooting range, I pushed very hard on the first half of the final loop, and then when I knew I was away, I slowed down.”

Martin is Fastest

His brother Simon, who as the third leg, set up the battle between his brother and the Russian team added, “We have found out that Martin is the fastest man on the team, so he is the best in that spot.”

Olympic Pursuit Champion Vincent Defrasne commented, handled the second leg and commented on the French foursomes, who now are potential Gold medalists in Vancouver. “We had a great summer of training together. We were talking recently and I told them that this was the best team we have ever had.” That is quite a statement, since the French team thrives on and has success in Relays. They claimed Gold and two Bronze medals at last year’s World Championships in Pyeongchang.

Better Shooting Necessary

Björndalen had another great competition as he brought his team up to second. He commented, “I had to shoot fast today. Then in the final loop, I found the right spot to attack and moved to second. . . If this were the Olympics, I would be satisfied with a second place, especially with three penalties, but at the Olympics, you have to shoot better than that.”

Anything Possible for Austrian Team

Early in the competition, Austria was well back in the field as Daniel Mesotitsch took a penalty in the standing stage and then Simon Eder needed three spare rounds to clean the standing stage. However, this did not discourage anchor Christoph Sumann. “When I saw Landi (third leg, Dominik Landertinger) skiing so fast and shooting clean, I knew anything was possible; the gap was less than a minute. I trust my teammates and it worked out for us to be on the podium.”

Source: International Biathlon Union

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