Soukalova secures hat trick of World Cup wins
KHANTY-MANSIYSK, Russia (AP) — Two-time World Cup winner Martin Fourcade of France dominated the men’s 15-kilometer mass start race Sunday to claim the discipline title, while Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic won the women’s 12.5-kilometer mass start to complete a hat trick of wins at the season-ending biathlon World Cup event in western Siberia.
Fourcade, who had retained the overall World Cup title and secured the sprint, pursuit and individual titles at the Sochi Olympics test events last week, missed one target but skied fast to enter the stadium almost 53 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. He picked up the French flag and slowed down to shake hands with spectators before crossing the finish line in 41 minutes, 51.4 seconds.
In a tough fight for second and third place between seven athletes, Dominik Landertinger of Austria powered ahead of the pack to finish 13.9 seconds behind in second. Emil Hegle Svendsen, who missed two previous World Cup meets because of illness, was another 3.4 seconds back in third. With three victories and six more podium finishes this season, the Norwegian finished second to Fourcade in the overall, sprint, pursuit and mass start standings.
Soukalova, who has dominated sprint and pursuit races here, clocked 38 minutes, 22.4 seconds and was the only one to shoot cleanly in the women’s season-ending race. Marie Dorin Habert of France missed one target and came in 11.2 seconds behind for second and her third podium finish this season. The 2011 World Cup champion, Kaisa Makarainen of Finland, ran two penalty loops and powered past Russia’s Olga Vilukhina on the last uphill to finish 22.9 seconds behind the winner for third and her sixth podium finish.
Soukalova was 16 seconds behind leader Vita Semerenko of Ukraine after the third shooting range but skied fast to close the gap before entering the last range. Semerenko missed one target and ran a penalty loop as Soukalova shot quickly to rush away for her fourth win and sixth podium finish this season.
“This is an impressive moment for me,” Soukalova said. “I said yesterday that the win (in pursuit) was the biggest shock of my life, but now I can say that again. This is the biggest shock of my life.”
Soukalova was only the second biathlete this season to win all three races at a World Cup meet. Tora Berger of Norway, who had secured the overall and all discipline titles before the final meet, dominated three races at two events — in Oestersund, Sweden, in December and in Holmenkollen, Norway, earlier this month.
Berger won 11 races and had eight more podium finishes to sweep all the titles in the women’s World Cup this season. She tied the record of 19 podium finishes in the season set by six-time overall champion Magdalena Forsberg in the 2000-01 season, but failed to overtake the Swede, finishing 13th after missing three targets on Sunday.