Norway’s biathletes thrill the home crowds

Picture by YIS/IOC Jed Leicester

Judging by the stellar performances of Sivert Guttorm Bakken and Marthe Krakstad Johansen, who won seven medals between them in as many events, including mixed relay gold on the final day of Lillehammer 2016, the future of Norwegian biathlon looks to be in very safe hands.

A Lillehammer boy through and through, Sivert Guttorm Bakken knows the Birkebeineren Biathlon Stadium as well as anyone.

Sivert Guttorm Bakken © Al Tielemans for YIS/IOC

Armed with that local knowledge, not to mention a fine blend of confidence, determination and an ability to withstand the pressure of the big occasion, Sivert excelled in front his home crowd, family and friends to medal in every event he contested, collecting silver in the 7.5km sprint and gold in the 10km pursuit before anchoring Norway to victory in the team mixed relay.

Speaking after that second gold-medal win, in which he teamed up with Marit Oyegard, Marthe Krakstad Johansen and Fredrik Qvist Bucher-Johannessen, a jubilant Sivert said: “It’s unbelievable. As I said after the silver, I didn’t believe that I would take a medal at all, but now with three - and two of them gold - I’m so satisfied. I didn’t know what level the other athletes were, so I came here just to get experience and learn.”

© Al Tielemans for YIS/IOC

No errors from Emilien

Emilien Claude © Bob Martin for YIS/IOC

The winner of that 7.5km sprint, the first men’s event of the Lillehammer 2016 biathlon competition, was France’s Emilien Claude. Hailing from a family of biathletes (one older brother, Fabien, won mixed relay bronze at Innsbruck 2012, while another, Florent, is a member of France’s senior team), the 16-year-old Emilien was the only competitor to hit every target in the two sets of shooting (standing and prone), and beat Sivert to the line by seven seconds.

“I’ve been visualising this race in my head for a long time, though I never imagined I could shoot clean and win it,” said Emilien, who added: “It’s so nice to achieve your objectives, especially on a course like this. I’vemet a lot of people here at the YOG. It’s a great chance to get to know other people and other sports, and to try and pick up all you can. It really is a great celebration of sport. It’s fantastic.”

Sivert Guttorm Bakken (left) and Egor Tutmin (right) © Al Tielemans for YIS/IOC

The other medal winners in the men’s individual events were Russia’s Egor Tutmin and Said Karimulla, the former taking bronze in the sprint and silver in the pursuit and the latter claiming bronze in the pursuit.

Full house for Marthe

Khrystyna Dmytrenko © Al Tielemans for YIS/IOC

Khrystyna Dmytrenko’s victory in the women’s 7.5km pursuit brought Ukraine their first Winter YOG gold medal and tears to her eyes. Reaching the line well clear of Marthe Krakstad Johansen and France’s Lou Jeanmonnot-Laurent, the disbelieving Khrystyna was greeted by loud roars from her team-mates and compatriots in the crowd.

It was Marthe’s second silver of the YOG, the first having come the previous day when she missed two targets in the 6km sprint to finish 5.6 seconds adrift of Germany’s Juliane Frühwirt, who shot clean. The bronze went to Kazakhstan’s Arina Pantova, whose father Dmitriy competed at several Olympic Winter Games, including Lillehammer 1994, and whose brother took part in Sochi 2014, both of them in biathlon.

Marthe then joined forces with Fredrik Qvist Bucher-Johannessen in the single mixed relay, where yet another silver came her way. Handing over to her team-mate in second place, behind Meng Fanqi of China, she looked on he passed Chinese anchor Zhou Zhenyu on the decisive leg, with Russia and France also edging into the medal positions.

© Arnt Folvik for YIS/IOC

Zhou regained the lead after going clear in the final prone shoot, however, and though Fredrik made a desperate burst for the line to force a photo finish, the decision went the way of the Chinese, handing the country its first Olympic relay title. In an even tighter finish, Russia edged out France to secure the bronze.

Marthe Krakstad Johansen © Al Tielemans for YIS/IOC

Marthe finally struck gold in the team mixed relay on the last day of competition, joining Switzerland’s Alpine skier Aline Danioth as the only two athletes to win four medals at Lillehammer 2016. The silver went to Germany and the bronze to Italy, rounding off a superb biathlon competition contested in a spirit of camaraderie and togetherness.