Last weekend in Kontiolahti the Norwegian ladies had a terrible relay. After having won seven relays in a row, they were only able to finish in eighth place. Karoline Knotten fell twice on the first leg on that occasion and Tiril Eckhoff did three penalty loops.
This time around it was a very different story. Our biathlon model saw the Norwegian team as the favourites before the start of the race. It gave Norway about a 29 percent chance of winning and a 63 percent chance of a top three finish.
Not only did Knotten manage to stay on her feet, she did not use a single extra shot. She skied fast and at the first exchange she was in third place, just behind Germany’s Maren Hammerschmidt and Sweden’s Johanna Skottheim, both of whom did also not require any spare rounds.
Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold got in trouble on the standing shooting and had to do a penalty loop. She was not alone in struggling though. Franziska Preuss also had to do a penalty loop and Sweden’s Linn Persson had to make use of all three of her spare rounds. At the second changeover Marketa Davidova had skied the Czechs in to the lead. Even if she had used two extra shots and started her leg 30 seconds behind the leaders, her good skiing speed and poor shooting by others had enabled her to grab the lead. Sweden was just behind in second while Norway and Germany was third and fourth only five seconds back.
Julia Simon had a very good leg for the French team. Anias Bescond had avoided the penalty loop, but used all six of her extra shots. At the first changeover, the French team was in 17th place almost a minute behind the leaders. Simon skied and shot fast and even if she used three spare rounds during her leg, she was only some 20 seconds behind the leaders in sixth place at the second exchange.
Tiril Eckhoff skied very fast as usual and as she only required one extra shot, she built a lead of almost half a minute to France and Germany at the third changeover. Justine Braisaz-Bouchet fired three spare rounds and had the French in second place while Janina Hettich only needed one extra shot and was right behind the French in third. Dorothea Wierer showed that her form is steadily improving, she started her leg in ninth but was in fourth in contact with the French and German’s and the changeover.
Hanna Oeberg had a nightmare of a leg. She fired five spare rounds and had to do one penalty loop and Sweden dropped from second to sixth, more than a full minute behind the leaders.
Marte Olsbu Roeiseland hit ten of eleven shots and was in firm control of the win when leaving the range for the final time. Behind her however a fight was brewing. The French were in second place when entering the range for the standing shooting on the last leg, but less than ten seconds ahead of the Germans and only some 20 seconds ahead of the Italians and Swedes.
Anais Chevalier-Bouchet needed to use two extras, but got the targets down. Denise Herrmann needed all three of her spare rounds to hit the five targets, while Elvira Oeberg only needed one. Federica Sanfilippo hit five of five but shot slower than the others. When they left the range the Anais Chevalier-Bouchet had a lead of slightly more than ten seconds on the three other teams, who were covered by less than five seconds.
It was soon clear that the French would take second, but Sweden, Germany and Italy stayed together until the home straight. Somewhat surprisingly the rising star, Elvira Oeberg were able to outsprint the former cross country skiing sprinter Denise Herrmann and the Swedes grabbed the third and final podium place. Germany was fourth while Italy settled for fifth.
The press conference with the three winning teams can be found below.
The Italian team had an impressive shooting performance only requiring 3 spare rounds in total.
Ukraine was sixth, narrowly relegating the home team the Austrians to seventh. Russia was eighth almost two minutes behind the winners, while Switzerland was ninth and the Belarussians tenth.
Highlights of the race can be seen below as it has been uploaded to the Youtube account of the IBU.