Scarily it’s World Cup Round 8 already – the final one before the World Championships! We were in Presque Isle in Maine, USA for this one and the conditions were great for the first races that took place on Thursday.
The Men’s Sprint came first and was won by a refreshed Johannes Thingnes Boe.He skipped the last round in Canmore and flew out with big brother Tarjei for this one. That was a good decision! He won by over 27 seconds shooting clean. In second was Anton Shipulin who beat Martin Fourcade into third by only 1 second. However Anton shot clean and Martin missed a target. The Swiss team had a great race with a personal best for Serafin Weistner in fifth and teammate Benjamin Weger was sixth with by far his best result of the season. Thirteen may be unlucky for some but not Sean Doherty who got his career best result on the World Cup at home fresh from winning 3 medals at the World Junior Championships.
The Women’s race was up next and was won by Total Score leader Gabriela Soukalova which obviously means she extended her lead in the race for the Overall Title. She is a very popular biathlete but possibly not in Preque Isle as she beat home favourite Susan Dunklee into second place. The fans can’t be too upset though as that is Susan’s best ever result and she saved it for them. Third place went to Krystyna Guzik who is having a great time in North America taking 2 podiums in 2 weeks. Kaia Nicolaisen got a personal best in 9th as did Celia Aymonier in 11th.
Friday saw both the Pursuit race and again the men raced first. The weather conditions were much more difficult for this one with some wind and a lot of cold around -16. Martin Fourcade was again victorious beating Johannes Boe into second and Anton Shipulin remained in third. Fourcade missed 2 shots and the others missed three but the big difference was when they missed. Martin cleared the final shoot and the others didn’t which is so often how he wins. Erlend Bjoentegaard raced into 5th for a personal best. Estonia’s Kalev Ermits came from 19th to 11th to earn his career best result.
Other impressive Pursuit races were had by Tim Burke who went from 20th to 7th, Vladimir Iliev 21st to 8th, Alexander Polvarnitsyn 28th to 10th, Oleksander Zhyrnyi 31st to 16th, Dmytro Rusinov 49th to 33rd and Daniel Boehm 54th to 37th. It wasn’t a good race however for Arnd Peiffer who came off the tracks at a corner and hit a tree. He was taken to hospital with suspected concussion.
In the Women’s race, despite being critical of holding the round in Presque Isle, Gabriela Soukalova made it a double victory! Second place went to Kaisa Makarainen who moved up from 5th and in third place was Marie Dorin Habert despite missing 5 targets. Mona Brorsson achieved a peronal best finishing in 17th as did Tatiana Akimova who was 19th.
Other women with good Pursuit results were Lisa Hauser who went from 28th to 12th, Franziska Preuss 36th to 14th, Ekaterina Shumilova 39th to 16th, Anais Chevalier 50th to 21st, Lisa Vittozzi 46th to 29th and Dunja Zdouc 52nd to 30th
Both the Men’s and Women’s Relays were held on Saturday. Originally the Women’s Relay was scheduled for Sunday but low temperatures below -20 degrees were forecast and the races cannot take place below that temperature. The Men’s race was full of excellent shooting. Norway were the winners using only 7 spares with Lars Helge Birkeland, Erlend Bjoentegaard and the Boe brothers. France were second using only 2 spares rounds but even with Desthieux and Beatrix shooting clean in legs 3 and 4 they couldn’t match the Norwegians. Third place went to Germany who used 11 spares to beat Russia for the final podium place by 6 seconds. The USA were 5th in their home race their best Relay result of the season.
The Women’s race started 2 hours after the Men and consequently finished in the dark! Maybe they should have pushed the schedule forward as the only light seemed to be a torch across the finish line! The winners of the race were the Czech Republic who even with a penalty loop crossed the beam of light first. The team of Eva Puskarcikova, Lucie Charvatova, Gabriela Soukalova and Veronika Vitkova will get a good confidence boost ahead of the World Championships. The race for the remaining podium places was really tight. In a Sprint finish Olena Pidhrushna of Ukraine lunged over the line 0.2 of a second ahead of Germany’s Karoline Horchler to grab second. Poland had to settle for fourth with Krystyna Guzik just half a second behind.
So that’s it for our journey to North America. Fourcade and Soukalova continue in yellow (as usual!!). It has been an enjoyable 2 weeks and Presque Isle did a good job of hosting and brought the cold that has been missing this winter as well as a penalty loop that goes around a building! Now everyone heads back to Europe for 2 weeks of recovery and preparation for the World Championships with the first race on the 3rd of March. Don’t miss it!
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