The Swedish ladies were the favourites of our biathlon model and when Karoline Knotten shattered the hopes of the Norwegian second favourites with two falls, one of the rather nasty, and getting a lot of snow in her rifle which hampered her shooting and loading of extra shots, the table were set for the Swedish quartet.
However even with the Norwegian team languishing well behind already after the first leg, the Swedes did not have it all their own way. They were challenged by the French all the way.
The Norwegian ladies had won the last seven relays, but even if they fielded what looks like their strongest outfit, our model still favoured the Swedes due to the Swedish hot start to the season.
The race started like most relay races with a somewhat slow looking first lap and as a result a congestion of the biathletes. Coming over a bridge shortly before entering the shooting range for the first time, Norway’s Karoline Knotten fell twice. First in third/fourth place and again after having gotten up from her first fall. The second time Austia’s Dunja Zdouc fell as well.
Knotten was some 16 seconds behind Sweden’s Skottheim who was, in the lead, entering the range. She avoided the penalty loop, but had to use three spare rounds to get down her five prone targets. However as loading the extra shots was very slow, likely because of problems with snow in her rifle, she left the range some 68 seconds behind Skottheim.
The standing shooting was a similar story for Knotten. She entered the range some 85 seconds behind the Belarussian Dzinara Alimbekava, but even if Knotten only needed one spare round, she left the range 140 seconds behind.
At the first exchange Alimbekava narrowly led Skottheim with a five seconds gap to Lisa Vittozzi who always seems to be able to perform well in relay races. France was 24 seconds and Germany 27 seconds behind.
Anais Chevalier-Bouchet did well to pull back the leaders and France led at the second exchange. Chevalier-Bouchet skied fast and only needed one extra shot in both the prone and standing shooting. Mona Brorsson was in second place 9 seconds behind and Germany was 36 seconds back after Preuss had to use one extra shot in the prone and all three of her spares in the standing shooting.
During the third leg, Sweden’s super-talent, Elvira Oeberg who is still only 21 years of age, took back the lead for team Sweden. She used three spare rounds in total, one prone and two standing and skied fast. At the third and final changeover she sent big sister Hanna Oeberg out with a lead of eleven seconds.
France Chloe Chevalier did well and managed to stay in touch with the leader. She hit five of five in the prone shooting but needed two extra shots in the standing. That Justine Braisaz-Bouchet took over in touch with the Swedes gave the French team some chance, but no matter how good Braisaz-Bouchet is at her best it was always going to be an uphill task considering the form of the leader of the overall world cup, Hanna Oeberg.
Maren Hammerschmidt had Germany in fourth, some 44 seconds behind the Swedes and Dorothea Wierer was in third for the Italians about 34 seconds behind Sweden at the changeover.
Hanna Oeberg hit five of five in the prone shooting and Justine Braisaz-Bouchet did very well to put Hanna Oeberg under some pressure. The French were only 10 seconds behind entering the range for the standing shooting, but Hanna Oeberg did not crack. She needed one spare round to get down the five targets and left the range in total control of the win.
The French finished in second place and Denise Herrmann brought the Germans home in third.
As usual the IBU have uploaded some highlights of the race to Youtube:
Sanfilippo faltered a bit requiring all her three spare rounds in both the prone and the standing shooting. Even if she avoided the penalty loop, The Italians dropped to sixth place.
Russia finished fourth even having skied two penalty loops and fired eleven extra shots. The Ukranians were some eight second behind the Russians in fifth with the same overall shooting result.
Austria was seventh after Zdouc’s fall, less than half a minut behind fourth place, after two penalty loops and 14 extra shots. Showing clearly that they have some potential.
The Norwegian finished a disappointing eight, more than three minutes behind the winners, after Knotten’s issues and bad shooting by Tiril Eckhoff. She skied three penalty loops and fired three extra shots.
The Czech shot atrociously, ending the race with seven penalty loops and 14 extra shots. The Belarussians also shot very badly and rounded up five penalty loops after using 17 spare rounds.
A link to the podium interview with the top three athletes can be found below: