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Czech Republic takes a convincing win in Mixed Relay
Czech Republic’s Mixed Relay team started the IBU World Championships Biathlon in the best imaginable way by taking the gold in the opening race. France was second thanks to a wonderful finish by Martin Fourcade while Norway took the third place.
Czech Republic’s skier for the first leg, Veronika Vitkova, had a strong performance which helped them be the first team to changeover. Japan, the team that was the first leg’s biggest surprise, changed right after the Czechs and Belarus was third.
On the second leg Belarus’s Darya Domracheva got her team the lead before the men’s legs. Czechs remained close enough by being 26 seconds away from the leader after the Ladies finished their legs. The French ladies kept their team within 42 seconds from the top team. Things weren’t looking too good for the Norwegians, who were one and a half minutes behind the lead at that point. Japan lost its position in the fight for the medals as expected.
Vladimir Chepelin of Belarus had a great performance in third leg, keeping his team on the first place before the final changeover. The Czechs reached the Belarusians, though, changing just 12 seconds after them. Norway went up to the third place while French on fourth place was over a minute behind.
On the final leg Yuryi Liadov of Belarus had to use a total of four extra bullets which caused his team to drop outside the top three. Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic had a wonderful leg which took his team up to the first place despite the heavy snowfall. France earned the second place, thanks to an equally great performance by World Cup leader Martin Fourcade on fourth leg. Tarjei Bö of Norway fought the bronze medals to his team.
Belarus’s great start came as no surprise to team Czech Republic, but they did have trust in themselves.
“I believed in myself. I did what I could and did not think about the other contestants at all”, explained the new World Champion Ondrej Moravec.
His teammate Gabriela Soukalova said that the snowfall made skiing tough.
“During the last kilometer I was visibly tired.”
Vitkova, who skied the first leg, was very happy to be a winner.
“Now we have medals of all colours from World Championships”, she laughed.
Martin Fourcade, who got the French up to the second place, did not consider the option of not taking part in Mixed Relay.
“I didn’t even think about that. I’m very happy with my performance and having success in the opening race was important for both me and my team.”
Norway’s Fanny Welle-Strand Horn, who smiled with her bronze medal, also commented on the tricky conditions.
“I was hoping to have a better performance but if the weather gets better so will surely my skiing.”
Text: Petja Puranen
Photo: Kaisa Kontiainen