Biathlon-Braisaz-Bouchet wins gold in the women’s 12.5 km mass start

  • The Frenchwoman keeps her composure in difficult filming conditions
  • Beat Norwegian pair to win France’s first medal in event
  • Norway’s Eckhoff adds silver to bronzes at last two Games
  • Roeiseland wins fifth Beijing Games medal

ZHANGJIAKOU, China, Feb 18 (Reuters) – France’s Justine Braisaz-Bouchet brilliantly handled tough shooting conditions to hold off a double challenge from Norway and surge to victory in the women’s Olympic 12.5km mass start on Friday, the latest women’s biathlon race from the games.

Tiril Eckhoff, a bronze medalist at the last two Olympics, took silver and fellow Norwegian Marte Olsbu Roeiseland bronze to add to the three golds and one bronze already collected in Beijing.

The race was brought forward from Saturday due to weather but the wind played a decisive role in the destination of the medals.

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The Norwegian pair set the tone with Roieseland and Eckhoff both shooting flawlessly on their first two prone visits, despite the icy wind whistling through the range and rattling the guide’s red flags.

The pair opened up a 33-second lead, but that vanished on the first standing shot as the wind suddenly picked up and wreaked havoc on the standings.

The Norwegians racked up costly misses, took a long time and had to go through mentally and physically demanding 150m penalty laps. Braisaz-Bouchet took advantage of the third shot’s window of opportunity to take the lead, quickly taking it to 15.5 seconds on the 8.4km Roieseland.

By the time the leading group arrived at the range for the last time, the wind was even more treacherous, and although Braisaz-Bouchet had missed her first shot, she hit her next four and in record time, to emerge with his lead increased to 48.5. seconds as all his rivals struggled to find the target.

The world number seven managed to head home 15.3 seconds clear of silver medalist Eckhoff and 34.9 ahead of Roieseland. and winning France’s first medal in the mass start, which has now been won by five nations in its five Olympic Games appearances.

“I can’t realize what happened,” Braisaz-Bouchet said. “In the first weeks of the Olympics, I didn’t have the equipment or the form, I don’t know what happened, why I was so slow on the track, but I made do.

“Today I was very serene and calm. During the first standing shot, I said to myself: ‘OK, I have good skis, I’m in good shape, whatever happens, happens’ and during from the last shot I was very calm.”

Eckhoff said: “The standing shooting conditions were very difficult, it was very difficult, so it’s great fun to come in second – a personal best for me.”

Roeiseland already had three gold medals and a bronze in his suitcase and was not complaining about collecting another “lesser medal”. “It couldn’t have gone better for me today,” she said. “I felt tired, so getting on the podium is great. Today, bronze tastes like gold.

“The standing shot was very difficult, with a lot of movement. I gave my best, so I was happy with the result given the circumstances and it’s great to share the podium with Tiril.”

Returning from Pyeongchang with two silver medals, multi-world champion Roeiseland said Beijing had exceeded her expectations. “I dreamed of Olympic gold and it’s more than I thought possible,” she said. “I will remember this all my life – these Olympic Games were fantastic.”

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Reporting by Phil O’Connor and Mitch Phillips, editing by Jacqueline Wong

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