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Day 9: What's hot at the Beijing Winter Olympics

Last updated on: February 13, 2022 16:48 IST
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Flawless Fillon Maillet wins pursuit gold for France

Winter Olympics

IMAGE: Quentin Fillon Maillet of France celebrates winning the gold medal. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Quentin Fillon Maillet of France produced a superb display of shooting, hitting all 20 shots in tough conditions, to take the gold in the 12.5 km pursuit race on Sunday to take his Beijing biathlon medal tally to four.

Norway's Tarjei Boe had a single miss as he took silver and Eduard Latypov, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, took bronze as Tarjei's highly-favoured brother Johannes experienced a nightmare on the range, missing the target seven times and failing to make the podium.

 

Italy's Lukas Hofer also shot perfectly but could not match the power of the other front runners on a heavy, slow skiing course that placed huge demands on the competitors, eventually finishing fourth.

Conditions could not have been worse, with swirling winds sending thick snow driving almost horizontally across the track and buffeting the shooting range, but Johannes Boe seemed unbothered, starting first and shooting clean on his first visit before speeding off again.

Maillet's shooting didn't get off to a great start as he struggled with his rifle, slamming it in fury with the heel of his hand before shooting clean and rejoining the fray 21.7 seconds after Johannes Boe.

The younger Boe blew it at the third shoot, missing with his first three bullets to incur three penalty laps as Maillet shot clean and rushed out in the lead, 10 seconds ahead of Russian Latypov.

Another perfect five-shot salvo at his final shoot secured the Frenchman's second gold of the Games, following his victory in the individual race, to go alongside two silvers.

"I never expected to have four medals in four races. My goal, was to have one in relay and one in individual, but right now I have four and that's incredible," he said.

"I'm so proud of myself because today, the conditions were so hard - windy, snowing. It was a very, very hard fight during all the race."

After winning his first individual medal on Friday with bronze in the sprint, Boe Tarjei added a welcome silver in the pursuit, finishing 28.6 seconds behind Maillet but easily holding off Latypov to take second place.

With his medal prospects blown away, his younger brother coasted home to fifth place, 2:13.7 behind the winner. "It felt like a big fight and tricky conditions on the range as well," Johannes Boe said. "You had wind, tired legs, tired minds and hearts beating - it was not easy.

"I caught up 10 seconds during that shooting on the others. I lost two bullets out and saw the podium fly away. I started to think about the relay right after that."

Odermatt's calculated risk earns Swiss third Alpine gold

Winter Olympics

IMAGE: Marco Odermatt of Switzerland reacts after his run. Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

Giant slalom gold medallist Marco Odermatt of Switzerland credited a risky decision to change his skis, despite leading after his first run in Sunday's race, for his country's third Alpine skiing gold medal of the Winter Olympics.

Odermatt was leading after the first run in challenging conditions on the course dubbed "The Ice River", with heavy snow cutting visibility to a minimum and making life tough for the entire field.

He finished his second run with a combined time of 2:09:35, putting him 0.19 seconds ahead of runner-up Zan Kranjec of Slovenia, with France's Mathieu Faivre taking bronze.

"We changed the ski and binding for the second run because I didn't feel so good on the feet after the first run," Odermatt said. "It took some courage to do it after leading the Olympic race but it was definitely the right decision.

"Those 19 hundredths (of a second) are not much. It was definitely because I changed the ski."

The Swiss has been the dominant force in giant slalom on the World Cup this season, winning four of the five races on the circuit and finishing runner-up in the fifth. He also leads the overall World Cup standings.

Odermatt pushed hard to stay ahead of Kranjec, who was fastest in the second run. The Swiss finished 59 hundredths of a second slower than Kranjec's second effort but was still fast enough to win the gold medal.

"It's always a bit risky in ski racing if you want to fight for the medals. So much can happen," Odermatt said. "It was a hard day, with the conditions, with such a long wait between the two runs.

"I really risked everything in the second run because I wanted not just the medal, I wanted the gold medal. It's difficult because you can lose everything but today it paid off."

Odermatt's effort earned Switzerland their third Alpine skiing gold of the Games, after Beat Feuz took victory in the men's downhill and Lara Gut-Behrami won the women's super-G.

"It's hard to say what's the secret," Odermatt added. "It was a very, very hard race. Nobody had a really good feeling. It was just about fighting and pushing till the very last gate and it was again the same in the second round.

"You had to ski clean more or less and push but it was really hard with the visibility, with the snowfall.

"I won the medal today but there's so much between (you) and a medal, there are so many shadows behind the medal, on the other side."

Roeiseland romps to third gold with pursuit win

Winter Olympics

IMAGE: Marte Olsbu Roeiseland of Norway in action. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Another near-perfect shooting performance gave Marte Olsbu Roieseland of Norway her third gold medal of the Beijing Olympics when she cruised to victory in the women's 10 km pursuit race at the National Biathlon Centre on Sunday.

Swedish prodigy Elvira Oeberg took her second Olympic silver medal in 48 hours with Roieseland's team mate Tiril Eckhoff taking the bronze.

"There's something special about the Olympics - I haven't slept so good the last two nights. Of course, it's a bit more pressure and you want to do something big. And I just tried to be right here and right now and focus on the races," Roieseland told reporters.

Roieseland also has a bronze medal from the individual race, and there are still two races to go.

A thick layer of fresh snow covered much of the man-made course as the race got underway, making the going heavy and punishing those who missed shots and had to endure a penalty loop of 150 metres.

With the staggered start based on results from Friday's sprint, Roieseland, 31, was not initially troubled as she hit her first five shots.

A miss by Oeberg allowed Dorothea Wierer to slide into second place early on but the Italian was unable to exploit a miss by the Norwegian leader at the third shoot, missing two of her own five shots to fall more than a minute-and-a-half behind during the fourth lap.

With her biggest rivals struggling, Roieseland was never going to turn up her nose at such an opportunity and she flashed off her last five shots in perfect fashion before skiing away from the range, safe in the knowledge that only a broken pole or ski might keep her from gold.

Behind her the battle for silver gathered pace as the rest of the pack followed Wierer on to the range, with the 22-year-old Oeberg making a stunning comeback to retake second place ahead of the final lap.

Norway's Ingrid Tandrevold was hot on her heels as the two exited the final shoot but Oeberg quickly dropped her to secure the silver medal, her second at the Games after second place in Friday's sprint.

Tandrevold's challenge fell apart completely on the final lap due to exhaustion, allowing Eckhoff to glide past and take the bronze, with Tandrevold eventually finishing in 14th place before collapsing. She needed lengthy medical attention before being helped off the course.

Russians master conditions and crush field for relay gold

Winter Olympics

IMAGE: Sergey Ustiugov of the Russian Olympic Committee waves his national flag as he crosses the finish line. Photograph: Marko Djurica/Reuters

The team representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) made the most of a big lead built up in the first half of the race to storm to victory in a punishing, snow-lashed men's 4x10 km relay at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday.

The ROC team finished one minute 7.2 seconds ahead of Norway, with France picking up a third successive bronze after a dogged display, 9.2 seconds further back.

Whirling winds whipped up the fresh snow, reducing visibility to the point where the stadium floodlights had to be turned on so the smattering of fans and TV viewers could see the action.

The first two racers in each team used the classic style and the second pair skied freestyle, each for three laps of 3.3 km.

Just as their victorious women's team did on Saturday, the Russians made an early break as Alexey Chervotkin built up a lead of 12 seconds by the halfway point of his leg.

By the time he handed over to Alexander Bolshunov, who won gold in last week's skiathlon and silver in the 15-km classic, the race was all but over and Bolshunov continued to set a searing pace.

Norway's Paal Golberg broke away from the German and Italian racers on a one-man mission to rein in the Russian, but by the third leg the Norwegians were dragged back into a five-team knot of chasers alongside Sweden, Finland, France and Germany.

The Finnish and German challenges melted away before the fourth leg, leaving Norway, Sweden and a stubborn French team to fight it out for the remaining two medals.

The Swedes were next to drop, leaving 2022 Olympic sprint champion Johannes Klaebo to edge Frenchman Maurice Manificat, who had to settle for a hat-trick of bronze medals in the event.

Far in front, Sergey Ustiugov was gliding across the line waving the flag of the ROC.

For the Russians it was a case of going one better than in 2014, when they were beaten by Sweden on the home snow of Sochi, and 2018, when they took silver behind Klaebo and Norway with three of the same team as on duty on Sunday.

This time it was new man Ustiugov who was given the honour of securing the gold, their first in the event since triumphing as the Soviet Union in 1980.

"We were aiming for this. We tried to achieve it, and for several years we haven't been able to," said Chervotkin. "Today everything aligned. The weather seemed to be hard and there was snow but it was in our favour so everything was great."

The Norwegians accepted that they were second-best but were happy with their performance. "It was tough conditions. We weren't good enough to fight with the Russians today, but everyone gave their best. We should be happy with a silver," Holund said.

Klaebo added: "Doing it as a team is the beautiful part of it, so it's always fun to race the relay. We all need to be satisfied with today's result.

"Some of us need to start preparing for the next race but still we're going to enjoy this evening."

Snow blankets Games, delays Gu's return to competition.

Marco Odermatt of Switzerland in action during the Alpine Skiing Men's Giant Slalom Run 1 at National Alpine Skiing Centre, in Yanqing district in Beijing on Sunday

IMAGE: Marco Odermatt of Switzerland in action during the Alpine Skiing Men's Giant Slalom Run 1 at National Alpine Skiing Centre, in Yanqing district in Beijing on Sunday. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Heavy snowfall blanketed northern China on Sunday, bringing a wintry atmosphere to the Beijing Olympics and disrupting several events, including home team favourite Eileen Gu's qualifying run in the freeski slopestyle.

 

The first competition for the San Francisco-born Gu since she won Big Air gold for China on Tuesday had been hotly antcipated, and the posponement of the qualifiers until Monday was the top trending topic on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

The men's giant slalom at Yanqing went ahead despite reduced visibility due to driving snow, with start intervals for the first group of racers lowered to one minute, 45 seconds, from two minutes.

The second training session for the women's downhill race at the same venue was cancelled.

Yang Shu'an, vice president of the Beijing organising committee, said the storm had left too much loose snow on the freestyle course at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, about 200 km (125 miles) northwest of the Chinese capital, for Sunday's competition to take place as scheduled.

"In order to ensure the safety of athletes, we decided to postpone the events," Yang told a news conference.

"We have enough capability to clear the snow."

At the men's giant slalom in Yanqing, the early skiers expressed support for the decision to go ahead with the race.

"Definitely, the light is more than skiable, it just makes it difficult. I like it," Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen said after his first run.

"The snow is a little uneven so it is quite aggressive in spots ... a little slick ... I think it was difficult for everyone."

The China Meterological Administration issued a blizzard warning for Sunday, forecasting significant snowfall for large parts of northern China including Beijing.

"You can't see much, you don't know where to put your feet," France's Mathieu Faivre said after his giant slalom run.

"But luckily the surface is quite icy, quite regular from start to finish, so I succeeded in producing a pretty good first run."

One beneficiary of Sunday's snow was Paralympics mascot Shuey Rhon Rhon, who resembles a red Chinese lantern capped with snow and has been eclipsed by the immense popularity of Olympics mascot Bing Dwen Dwen, an icy-suited panda.

"It's snowing. Shuey Rhon Rhon finally becomes the main character," wrote one Weibo-user.

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