The 2014 Winter Olympics brought us another exciting event in the Men’s Biathlon 12.5 km Pursuit. If you saw the Sprint portion of the Biathlon, then you know the interesting battle it can be. For those of you who don’t know about the sport, Biathlon is a cross-country skiing competition mixed in with shooting guns.
In the 12.5km Pursuit competition, all of the athletes start behind the leader of the Sprint portion of the event, Ole Einar Bjorndalen, and try to catch up to and overtake the leader. The competitors had to make five laps, each 2.5 km (about 1.5 miles) in length around a skiing course with both uphill and downhill stretches. During their laps, the athletes have to stop at the shooting range four times and have five shots to hit five small targets about the size of a golf ball. Each miss requires the skiers to ski a short penalty lap which takes about 20 seconds. Whoever finishes the course first takes the gold medal back to their home country.
Bjorndalen was unable to hold on to the lead for long and was overtaken by Jean Philippe le Guellec of Canada. The new leader held on to his post at the top until he tripped coming around a tight corner that plagued skiers the whole race. Frenchman Martin Fourcade took over the lead before the third shooting round and never looked back.
Fourcade entered the last shooting round with about a five second lead. After the French skier nailed all five of his shots, he turned around to look at the crowd, yelled in excitement and fist pumped in celebration for a solid five seconds.
The Frenchman was touted as arguably the best Biathlete coming into the Winter Olympics and the NBC commentator even said he believed Fourcade had a chance to win all of the individual biathlon events.
Fourcade’s showy display was extremely cocky as he wasted a lot of time celebrating before he even finished the final leg of his lap. If he had stumbled or ran out of gas, his 14.1 second lead could have slipped away in a hurry. Fourcade skied a great race and deserves all the credit, but he should have waited until he crossed the finish line before celebrating.
For those curious, Team USA’s best finisher, Tim Burke, completed his race in 22nd place out of the 59 competitors.