Once again in the fourth relay race this winter, the quartette from Norway could not be beat. For a long stretch, the ladies from France were competing to finish first, but then didn’t make it by a small margin. With their third place, the Swiss team showed that the podium spots they earned earlier this winter were not a fluke. The German team placed fourth.
It was not really a surprise that Norway won. But once again, the victory was close and was anything but easy. The starter Karoline Knotten had a tough time at the shooting range and on the track and handed over with a minute lag behind the leading Italian, Lisa Vittozzi and 50 seconds after the French starter Julia Simon who had missed one shot.
The French team turned out to be the main competition challenging Norway in an exciting neck-and-neck race. Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold barely made headway against Anais Bescond, but also didn’t fall behind. With that result she was satisfied with her performance in Ruhpolding as compared to Oberhof where she just avoided a penalty round, “Today I was clear in my head and that was good.”
Catch-up by Tiril Eckhoff
And then came Tiril Eckhoff, who caught up the three-quarter minute lag to France, even though Celia Aymonier, was truly not slow and remained without a shooting error both bouts. She said, “45 seconds behind is not so much in a relay race, and I have learned that one can never give up in a relay.” She barely noticed that the French skier Celia Aymonier, had nearly caught up to her she said afterwards, “When you are in front, you don’t pay attention to what is happening behind you. I was focused on the race and above all, I am happy with my error free standing position shooting.“
Roeiseland gains over Braisaz
Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Justine Braisaz skied together during the first round. After the first round of shooting, Norway was just a bit ahead, because Roeiseland had one reload whereas Braisaz needed two. So the Norwegian was just a little ahead when she prepared to shoot in the standing position, and had fired five shots before Braisaz began shooting. Roeiseland had to reload once and went back to the track. Braisaz would have had to remain without an error to catch up, but she also had to re-load. That determined the race. Braisaz couldn’t reduce the nearly ten second lag. Roeiseland powered ahead and brought home the Norwegian’s fourth gold this winter.
Coming in second place brought the French team their best result this season, after they were on the podium for the first time in third place last week in Oberhof. Justine Braisaz said, “It was good to be among the top contenders. Germany seems to be a really good place for us.” The relay race rehersal before the World Championships in Antholz was nearly ideal.
Third place for the Swiss team
The Swiss were also overjoyed to be on the podium for the third time this winter. With only four re-loads, the three Gasparin sisters with Lena Häcki delivered a sensational performance at the shooting range (after the Chinese with three re-loads who placed 9th). Elisa Gasparin handed over only ten seconds after France to her sister
Selina, who needed one re-load laying and two standing and was almost able to catch up her lag on the track. I was totally looking forward to the relay race. Our coach Sandra Flunger set us up perfectly.” Barely half a minute behind, Selina handed over to Aita (25), the youngest of the sisters, delivered a flawless performance and kept the lag at half a minute when she sent Lena Häcki on her way. None-the-less, in addition to France and Norway, Italy and the Ukraine were ahead of Switzerland. Häcki said, “My marksmanship was perfect, and that was instrumental.” And so it was. Ukraine had to re-load three times and Italy four times, and thereby fell to sixth and seventh place.
Still, Lena Häcki could not rest in the final round. For one, she was right behind Justine Braisaz in addition, she was pursued by a super-speedy Denise Herrmann who kept inching closer. Häcki could be glad that the lap was only two kilometers long.
German Ski Team: Fine up until Hinz's standing bout
The German team held a good race and came in fourth, unfortunately, what was lacking is exactly what the quartette needed for a spot on the podium. Karolin Horchler only had to re-load once and kept up at the front. Franziska Preuß did not miss a target in the prone position, but fell on the track though this did not cost her much time. She was able to gain time with her super-fast perfect standing shooting. She sent Vanessa Hinz on as the second racer who was in the lead after an impeccable prone-position round. In the standing round at the range, she suffered every biathlete’s nightmare. She left two targets standing while her home crowd was watching. After two penalty rounds, Germany was no longer first, but eighth. As the anchor, Denise Herrmann did not miss a shot and brought the team to fourth place. “I say a good World Championship relay should follow a bungled dress rehearsal,” comforted Denise Herrmann, who was empathetic with the devastated Vanessa Hinz.
Hanna Oeberg from Sweden secured her team fifth place right ahead of the Ukraine. The Swedes already began with an outside chance, with the starter Anna Magnusson falling over a minute behind.