PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) Martin Fourcade’s rare collapse on the final shoot of the 20-kilometer individual race handed Norwegian rival Johannes Thingnes Boe his first Olympic gold medal in biathlon on Thursday.
Fourcade, the world’s top-ranked biathlete and already a gold medalist at the Pyeongchang Games, shockingly missed his final two targets.
”That was like a gift,” Boe said. ”Even if he had only missed one of the last two shots he would have been the winner.”
Fourcade appeared to have victory in his sights after making his first 18 shots and building a 90-second lead over the rest of the field. But the Frenchman rolled his eyes in disgust after missing two straight shots and then furiously skied to the finish line in an attempt to salvage a medal but wound up fifth.
Jakov Fak of Slovenia took home silver, and Dominik Landertinger of Austria captured the bronze after battling back from back surgery in September. Both had clean shoots.
Boe is second in the World Cup standings and has been Fourcade’s chief rival this season.
He also missed two shots in the race, but finally found the podium after two disappointing performances in his first two events in Pyeongchang. Boe had participated in seven previous events at the Winter Games but had yet to win a medal.
Boe, who appropriately used a golden rifle, couldn’t hold back his tears as the race ended.
”Amazing,” Boe said of the feeling, knowing he can’t celebrate too long. ”I know (Fourcade) will be taking his frustration out in the mass start and will be hard to beat.”
Fak is only the second Slovenian athlete to win a medal in biathlon at the Winter Games. Teja Gregorin won bronze in the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit in 2014.
There was drama in the women’s 15-kilometer race, too.
Hanna Oeberg pulled off a shock by beating two-time gold medalist Laura Dahlmeier by hitting all 20 targets with her .22 caliber rifle and finishing in 41 minutes, 7.2 seconds.
The 22-year-old Swede entered the race ranked 42nd in the World Cup standings in the individual event and had never finished better than 25th in a 15-kilometer individual World Cup race.
”Of course I was surprised,” said Oeberg, who broke into tears in the closing minutes of the race after realizing she would win gold. ”I could not have imagined this before. I knew with this performance today could have taken me to a medal, but then to win this race it’s just unbelievable.”
Dahlmeier called Oeberg’s performance a ”surprise for everybody.”
”With clean shooting and a good skiing performance you can win this race,” said Dahlmeier, who has connected on 48 of 50 shots in her three Olympic events. ”Today only three athletes had no misses, so it’s great for her. … It must be one of the best days of her life.”
Anastasiya Kuzmina finished second despite missing two shots, resulting in a two-minute penalty, and Dalhmeier took bronze.
”I have no idea how it is possible with two mistakes in individual,” Kuzmina said of her second medal at the Olympics.
Kuzmina said she won the medal for her brother Anton Shipulin, a Russian biathlete who was banned from competing at the Pyeongchang Games.
More AP Olympics: https://wintergames.ap.org