Saturday was a different day on the biathlon calendar with the women racing the Mass Start and the men racing the Relay. Maybe they should do it more often as they were two fantastic races!
With calm wind conditions and a lovely sunny day it was a great day to race. The Women’s Mass Start was won by a clean shooting German…and it wasn’t Laura Dahlmeier! Giving the German selectors a massive headache before the World Championships was Nadine Horchler. She normally competes more on the IBU Cup and goes up and down to the World Cup but that may not be the case anymore after taking her first ever win.
She started with bib 30 which meant she was the last person to qualify to race today and she overtook the whole field to win with an outstanding performance. She shot clean and then on the final loop she skied past Gabriela Koukalova to take the win by just over 3 seconds. Second place went to teammate Dahlmeier who also passed Koukalova on the final lap but the Czech held on to third. She had a tough race having to take 3 different poles and missing 2 targets.
It was also unlike Dahlmeier to miss 3 shots but I think Horchler was quite pleased she did!
Tatiana Akimova had the early lead in this race after the first two prone shoots but her standing shoots let her down. That left Koukalova to take her time and clean the standing shoots to put her into the lead but she couldn’t hold on to it and a brave final lap from Horchler gave her the win.
Elsewhere Sweden’s Anna Magnusson came 7th getting her personal best missing just one target, Kaia Nicolaisen shot clean and took 9th and Alexia Runggaldier continued her fine form at home finishing 6th with 1 miss.
The Men’s Relay was next and gave us a fantastic sprint to line and a photo finish to decide the winner! Of course if there is a sprint finish there can only be two people involved. The two who are always in sprint finishes and in fact are two of the best at doing it – Simon Schempp and Emil Svendsen.
This time Schempp came out on top and led team German to the victory. They were separated by just 0.1 of a second at the end. The early stages of this race had Russia in control after the first two laps with Tsvetkov and Garanichev racing really well.
The third loop began with Malyshko, Johannes Boe and Peiffer all together but by the end it was Boe who passed a 17 second lead to Svendsen. Boe and Peiffer missed just 1 shot each and Malyshko needed 4 spares which put Russia out of contention for the win.
With Svendsen requiring 2 spares to Schempp’s 1 it made the final loop into an exciting ski race. Schempp who can claim to be one of the best sprinters around grabbed the win on the line to give his team of Erik Lesser, Benedikt Doll and Arnd Peiffer the perfect end to the day.
Norway’s team of Svendsen, Boe, Lars Birkeland and L’Abee Lund now have a first and second place in the last 2 Relays with arguably not their strongest team. Russia with Tsvetkov, Garanichev, Malyshko and Anton Babikov stayed in third place.
The American team of Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke, Leif Nordgren and Sean Doherty had a great race finishing in 6th from bib 24 and the Swedes with Stenersen, Nelin, Samuelsson and Lindstrom were 9th from bib 22.
Tomorrow the races are the opposite way around with the Men’s Mass Start and the Women’s Relay so let’s hope they are just as exciting as today!
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