German biathlete Laura Dahlmeier chasing Olympic history
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Laura Dahlmeier’s pursuit of history will have to wait a day.
The 24-year-old biathlete is on the verge of becoming the first female German since the country’s unification in 1990 to win three gold medals at a single Olympics, winter or summer.
Dahlmeier has already won the first two biathlon events, the sprint and the pursuit. However, the 15-kilometer individual race has been rescheduled for Thursday because of high winds that have plagued the Pyeongchang Olympics. The event will now take place prior to the men’s individual race.
It’s early yet, but there are already rumblings in Pyeongchang about Dahlmeier challenging American speedskater Eric Heiden’s record of five gold medals in a single Winter Olympics. Dahlmeier won five events at the world championships last year, so it’s certainly possible.
There are six women’s Olympic biathlon events in all, although it remains unclear if she’ll participate in the team relay.
She has dominated so far, hitting 29 of 30 targets in her two events. Combined with her speed on skis, Dahlmeier is not giving anyone else much of a chance.
German teammate Denise Herrman called Dahlmeier “unbeatable” when she’s shooting the way she is right now.
“She is mentally very strong,” Germany coach Gerald Hoenig said. “She is doing the right things in the right moment. Laura is so focused and so strong on the range.”
Biathletes carry .22-caliber rifles on their backs and ski loops on a track, the exact distance depending on the race. When they ski into the shooting range, they stop and shoot at a row of five targets 50 meters away.
When shooting in the prone position, the targets are 4.5 centimeters wide — or about the size of a silver dollar. When shooting from the standing position the targets are 11.5 centimeters — or about 4.5 inches wide.
Dahlmeier’s accuracy has been uncanny considering the wind in the area.
When she actually missed her one target (out of 20) in the pursuit, the crowd let out a gasp. She answered that by calmly knocking down her last 10 shots to take control of the race and cruise to an easy victory, grabbing a German flag and waving it along the way to the finish line.
“There was a lot of thinking about me and my results at the world championships,” Dahlmeier said. “I wanted to stay focused for myself and my results. Somehow I managed it.”
The woman who first had an air rifle in her hands at age 7 and who originally thought she wanted to be an Alpine skier is on the verge of joining some elite company.
With a win Tuesday she will become only the fourth biathlete to win three gold medals at a single Winter Games, joining Germany’s Michael Gries, Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Belarus’ Darya Domracheva.
Clearly, she is the biathlete to beat.
“She is able to shoot well under pressure,” Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia said. “You need to shoot very, very good to beat her.”
On the men’s side, Martin Fourcade of France will be looking for his second gold medal Thursday after winning the men’s pursuit earlier this week.
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