Domracheva wins 2nd biathlon gold at Sochi Games
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Darya Domracheva’s unmatched pace at skiing Friday earned her a second gold medal of the Sochi Olympics, and this time she wasn’t the only Belarusian on the podium.
With Nadezhda Skardino taking the bronze in the women’s 15-kilometer individual race, it was the first time two athletes from the Eastern-European country medaled in the same Winter Games event.
“It’s always been my dream to be on one podium with Darya. Now that dream has come true,” Skardino said.
Domracheva missed one target — the fourth in her opening round of the standing shooting — but she easily made up the penalty minute for a comfortable victory.
Domracheva, who also won the 12.5K pursuit three days ago, finished in 43 minutes, 19.6 seconds — and would still have won even if she had missed another target.
It was Domracheva’s third career Olympic medal. She also won bronze in the individual race in Vancouver four years ago.
Selina Gasparin of Switzerland shot cleanly and finished 1:15.7 behind to take silver for her country’s first ever medal at a major biathlon championship. Skardino also avoided mistakes and finished 1:38.2 behind.
“It’s amazing. I got the info during the race that Nadezhda was second,” Domracheva said. “I wasn’t surprised because she is such a good shooter.”
Domracheva wanted to wait for her teammate in the finish area, but she was so far ahead of the field, she got freezing and went to the dressing room to warm up.
“We have a really good team,” Domracheva said. “And the Olympic races are not over yet. I am relaxed now and want to enjoy the next races.”
As a junior cross-country skier, Skardino competed for Russia until she was lured by Belarusian biathlon coaches.
“I was not getting results in cross-country and was thinking about giving it up,” Skardino said. “They asked me and I really enjoyed shooting. So competing for Belarus was not a decision against Russia but a decision for biathlon.”
Gasparin surprised herself by hitting all 20 targets, a feat she had never before achieved in her career.
“That was the first time in my life,” said Gasparin, who is the oldest of three sisters competing in the race. “Our parents came to Sochi for this race. That gave me extra strength. All five Gasparins were together tonight.”
For Gasparin, the silver medal was the crown on her 10-year mission to promote biathlon in Switzerland. She started when the country had only one shooting range with 10 targets.
“Now there are four shooting ranges. It took me nearly 10 years to build it up,” said Gasparin, who last December also became her country’s first winner on the biathlon World Cup.
“I’ve done a lot of pioneering in Switzerland,” she added. “This medal completes my work from A to Z. I am the first female biathlete who took the sport really seriously. I hope now no one back home will ever ask me what biathlon actually is.”
Pre-race favorite Tora Berger, the 2010 Olympic champion, was already out of contention after missing three targets in her first two shootings — one in the prone, and two in the standing. The Norwegian finished almost four minutes off the lead.
“It was not what I had hoped for before the start, but today it was not my day,” Berger said. “I had too many misses in the shooting, and on the course also it was not my best day.”
Gabriela Soukalova of Czech Republic, who won this season’s World Cup title in the discipline, seemed heading for a podium finish before missing a second target in her final shooting. The two penalty minutes saw her drop to fourth, missing out on a medal by 19.7 seconds.
Kaisa Makarainen of Finland also blew her medal chances in the last shooting. She had faulted once in the second round but was still on course for silver until she missed two more targets in her final round before placing ninth.
Krystyna Palka of Poland was the third top-10 finisher who shot flawlessly but she trailed Domracheva by over three minutes.
In an individual race, biathletes who miss a target don’t ski an extra loop like in other disciplines, but they get a penalty minute added to their finishing time.
Several athletes sat out the race because of illness, including sprint silver medalist Olga Vilukhina of Russia, 2002 Olympic champion Andrea Henkel of Germany, and Norway’s Synnoeve Solemdal, who is a three-time world relay champion.