It’s here! Finally the 2017 World Championships have begun in Hochfilzen! After what feels like about 7 years since the last World Cup round in Antholz the action got underway on Thursday with the Mixed Relay.
Under sunny skies and with a little bit of wind the women got us started in the afternoon. The Italian team with Lisa Vittozzi taking the first leg got off to the best start. She shot clear and handed over in first place in front of Marte Olsbu who used 1 spare and Lisa Hauser who used 2. The USA were in 4th after a great opening leg. They were followed by Mari Laukkanen, Anais Chevalier and Vanessa Hinz.
It was then the turn of Dorothea Wierer, Laura Dahlmeier, Marie Dorin Habert and Kaisa Makarainen to go head to head. Unusually for her Dahlmeier needed 4 spares as did Makarainen, Wierer used 3, Dorin Habert 2 and Akimova was the best shot with just 1 spare required putting Russia into 5th. Tiril Eckhoff put Norway out of contention by going on the penalty loop on the prone.
The women were all very evenly matched at the front with Dahlmeier putting Germany into the lead just in front of Dorin Habert for France and Dorothea Wierer for Italy. However it was all change when the men took over for the third leg. It looked like France had thrown their medal chances away when Quentin Fillon Maillet had to take a penalty loop on his standing shoot. The others were doing much better with Arnd Peiffer hitting 10/10, Lukas Hofer missing just 1 and Alexander Loginov using 3 spares.
Somehow Fillon Maillet managed to hand over to Martin Fourcade still in medal contention and he and Anton Shipulin would stick to each other like glue for the rest of the race in their efforts to chase down Dominik Windisch in second and Simon Schempp who was in first place.
Schempp was too far in front for them to catch and he just needed 1 spare in the standing and so could not be caught. The German team all put in fantastic legs and were well deserved winners of the gold medal. In the final standing Dominik Windisch needed 2 spares and his opponents hit all the targets and so it came down to a ski race between Fourcade and Shipulin for the silver and bronze medals.
They were locked together until the finish where Fourcade took a rather wide line into the straight and forced Shipulin to check his sprint to change lanes which effectively gave France the silver medal and spoiled a sprint finish up to the line. Fourcade knows that Shipulin has a better sprint finish than him and used his tactics wisely to beat him.
Italy came 4th after a great race from their quartet. 5th went to the Ukraine, 6th to Sweden, 7th to the Czech Republic, 8th to Norway, 9th to home team Austria and 10th to Finland.
P.S On the podium the Russians refused to shake Martin Fourcade’s hand accusing him of disrespecting and knocking over Alexander Loginov at the third exchange. At the press conference Anton Shipulin said that he was defending his teammate and that’s why he wouldn’t shake hands. It emerged that the Russian Federation had asked for special sanctions against Fourcade for a social media comment he made about Loginov’s success at the European Championships reminding people he had served a two year drug ban.
On the video of the changeover Fourcade did ski over Loginov’s ski and knock him down but as one was slowing down and the other speeding up it looked like an accident. Fourcade seemed to just be trying to pass him quickly to catch up with the leaders rather than deliberately hitting him. It’s unlikely that Fourcade would jeopardize his teams chances to make a point that he can do off the track if he wanted.
Hopefully it will not spill over to the rest of the competition. Although the comments section of the press conference video have been removed and the IBU have issued a statement to ask the fans to calm down so I don’t think we have heard the last of this!
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