Best of biathlon: Top 6 Sochi moments
A sport that largely tests mental strength, as well as physical endurance, produced plenty of remarkable moments at the 2014 Winter Olympics. With men and women each competing in five events, along with the addition of the inaugural mixed relay, there was biathlon action almost every day of the Games – plus a few fog delays. Some big names emerged these past 17 days as records were broken, consecutive golds were won, and some races came down to thrilling photo finishes. Here’s a look back on six unforgettable moments in biathlon from the 2014 Sochi Games.
The Biathlon King claims his throne
Is Ole Einar Bjoerndalen the greatest Winter Olympian ever? According to the stats, the answer to that question would be an irrefutable and enthusiastic yes. The forty-year-old came out firing (pun intended) in Sochi, disregarding pre-Games concerns about his age and any calls to retire. He also put aside the hype his younger competitors, like teammate Emil Hegle Svendsen and the Frenchman Martin Fourcade (more on him later), had received. After many wrote him off before the Games even began, Bjoerndalen vanquished any lingering questions about his capabilities in the opening event, winning gold in the 10km sprint.
Embedded video_content_type: Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen peaking at 40
In the process, he tied Bjorn Daehlie’s record of 12 career Winter Olympics medals. Yet despite remaining competitive in other events throughout the week, the 13th gold medal still proved elusive. That all changed during the mixed relay, however. Bjoerndalen shot perfectly, giving Norway's anchor, Svendsen, a large enough lead to practically guarantee gold, as well as set up his moment to at last break Daehlie’s record and become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time.
Embedded video_content_type: Bjoerndalen belongs among greatest Olympic storylines
On the final day of men’s competition, Norway did not medal despite leading for most of the 4x7.5km relay. Nonetheless, Bjoerndalen shot quickly and efficiently, not cracking under the pressure or his desire to break another record, this one for most career Winter Olympic golds. For now, the Biathlon King will have to settle for a tie with Daehlie (eight), but rest assured he should be able to sleep soundly after a remarkable performance in Sochi.
Domracheva demolishes the competition
Domracheva came in a respectable ninth place in the first women’s event in Sochi, the 7.5km sprint. That result, while strong, was obviously not indicative of the Belarusian’s capabilities. She blasted her way to three consecutive gold medals in the following individual events, winning three of four individual events overall. But Domracheva did not just win – she dominated, beating her competitors by large margins in each event. Her performance was certainly one of the more notable ones in Sochi.
Embedded video_content_type: Darya Domracheva dominates en route to gold in women's 12.5km biathlon
Frenchman fulfills hype
Martin Fourcade, the handsome Frenchman who shied away from any comparisons to Michael Phelps before the Olympics, certainly lived up to pre-Games expectations. He won consecutive golds in the 12.5km pursuit and the grueling 20km individual, and lost by a foot – literally, there was an absurdly close photo finish – to Svendsen in the 15km mass start event.
Embedded video_content_type: Men's 15km comes down to photo finish
Despite his success, Fourcade remained humble in interviews and left Sochi as one of the Olympics' most successful biathletes.
Embedded video_content_type: Fourcade amazed after gold in 20km individual biathlon
Ukraine’s uplifting and inspiring win
With a country in crisis days after deadly anti-government protests, the Ukrainian women’s relay team managed to put the troubling distraction aside for the 4x6-kilometer relay event. The win served as Ukraine’s first Winter Olympics gold medal in two decades and could not have come at a better time for the tumultuous nation. Sergei Bubka, the pole vault great and leader of the Ukraine Olympic Committee, took to Twitter to express his excitement about the win and his thoughts regarding the immense impact sports can have throughout the world.
Girls devote their win to Ukraine!We waited 20 years for gold medal! And we needed it right now.Let this win unite Ukraine and bring peace!— Sergey Bubka (@sergey_bubka) February 21, 2014
Great proof of how sport can unite the nation. It is a day of crucial decisions in Parliament. Hope the power of sport help to find unity.— Sergey Bubka (@sergey_bubka) February 21, 2014
IOC President Thomas Bach also singled out the Ukrainian team’s win as a standout moment of the Sochi Games.
The Ukrainian team noted that it would not be celebrating the gold, but instead would use the success to call attention to the problems facing its nation, and, hopefully, to serve as an impetus towards peace. In another remarkable Olympic moment, the team asked for a moment of silence in a press conference, a moving tribute to their country, and one that fully recognized the capability of sports to have an impact far surpassing a win or loss.
Embedded video_content_type: Ukraine’s biathlon team asks for moment of silence
Strong showing from USA
Susan Dunklee placed 12th in the 12.5km mass start, recording the best-ever individual finish for an American woman biathlete in the Olympics. It was not just her finish that was record-worthy, for it was the first time a US woman had done well enough in prior events to even qualify for the mass start. The men were not as successful during the Games, although Lowell Bailey finished 8th in the men’s 20km individual, the best-ever US finish in that event. In the men’s relay, the US was in fourth place at the beginning of the race, but saw their early advantage slip away due to poor shooting. It may have not been the most successful US biathlon Olympics, but the biathletes competed hard and left it all on the course.
Russia brings it home
In the last biathlon medal event of the Games, the Russian men’s relay team was undaunted by the fact that its country had yet to win gold in one of its signature winter sports. Russia’s men and women had won just one bronze and two silvers in the previous 10 biathlon events, but that was all to change in the ultimate race. Although Norway lead for most of the event, and despite missing eight targets, the Russian team skied well enough to put itself into medal contention. Anton Shipulin, the anchor leg, was neck-and-neck with Germany’s Simon Schempp for the final few kilometers and it was unclear who would ultimately end up with gold. Rounding the bend into the stadium, no doubt inspired by the shouts of the home crowd, Shipulin overpowered Schempp and sprinted to the finish, to the sheer joy of the spectators in the Laura biathlon stadium. It was a fitting ending for the host nation, who received accolades all week for hosting a wonderful Olympics. The win also vaulted Russia to the top of the medal table.
Embedded video_content_type: Russia wins men's 4x7.5 relay
Best of Sochi
Best of Sochi