Fourcade, Bjoerndalen eye Olympic biathlon records
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — After dominating the first week of men’s biathlon at the Sochi Olympics, Martin Fourcade has his eyes set on breaking a 46-year-old French record in the final week.
Fourcade has three chances to get a third gold medal and tie the mark for most medals won by a Frenchman at Winter Games.
The record is held by Alpine skiing great Jean-Claude Killy, who won downhill, giant slalom and slalom at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, and who now is chairman of the IOC coordination commission for Sochi.
Fourcade has already won the pursuit and the individual race, leaving him one short of Killy’s tally. Fourcade has Sunday’s mass start coming up next, followed by the mixed team event and the men’s relay.
“Of course I want to continue,” Fourcade said about battling for more medals. “I’ve been fighting for these victories for four years.”
Fourcade is the third Frenchman to win two golds at one Olympics, alongside Killy and Henri Oreiller, who won two Alpine skiing events at the 1948 Games in St. Moritz.
“The emotions for my second win were different,” Fourcade said. “There was less pressure after the first gold.”
However, even with a third gold medal, the 25-year-old Fourcade would not set an Olympic record in biathlon as Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won four golds at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Back then, there were only four events for the men as the mass start was introduced four years later, while the mixed relay will make its debut in Sochi.
“He’s fantastic, he’s so strong,” Bjoerndalen said about Fourcade. “He is one of the strongest athletes ever.”
Bjoerndalen himself, of course, is chasing another record in Sochi. At 40, he already became the oldest gold medalist at a Winter Olympics when he won the opening event, the 10-kilometer sprint.
One more top-three finish will make him the most decorated Winter Olympian with 13 medals. And if that happens to be a gold medal, he’ll also tie cross-country skiing legend Bjoern Daehlie’s record of eight golds from Winter Games.
On the women’s side, Darya Domracheva of Belarus has been the dominating force during the opening week, capturing back-to-back titles in the pursuit and the individual event.
In the World Cup standings, Domracheva trails leader Tora Berger, but so far she has been outshining her Norwegian rival, who finished runner-up to Domracheva to take silver in the pursuit for her only medal.
Third-ranked Kaisa Makarainen of Finland squandered a medal chance in the individual race when she missed two targets in the final shooting.
Makarainen has three world championship medals, including gold at the pursuit in 2011, but is still looking for her first Olympic podium place.
“You have to shoot over 90 percent there to win,” said the Finn, who is competing in her second Olympics, adding that “I am not a good shooter.”