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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Olympics spoiler alert: Men's biathlon pursuit final

AP Sports Writer

Article on men's biathlon pursuit final.

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Bjorn Ferry of Sweden kicked up his right leg at the last moment and glided across the finish line on one ski, his poles stretched out in triumph.

“I’m 31, and I’ve waited for this my whole life,” Ferry proclaimed after winning the men’s 12.5-kilometer biathlon pursuit Tuesday.
Sweden has waited even longer.
Ferry’s gold medal was the first for the Swedish men at the Winter Games since Klas Lestander won the 20K race at Squaw Valley in 1960.
Ferry took the lead on the final lap after his fourth shoot and had a winning time of 33 minutes, 38.4 seconds — 16.5 seconds faster that silver medalist Christoph Sumann of Austria.
France’s Vincent Jay, who started first after winning the 10K sprint in his Olympic debut Sunday thanks to a freak snowstorm that struck mid-race and slowed down all the favorites, took the bronze, 28.2 seconds back.
“I’m extremely happy to have this bronze medal, and this time it wasn’t a matter of bad conditions,” Jay said. “This time it was an even playing field.”
Well, not quite.
With the starting times in the pursuit based on the finish times of the previous race, Jay was still benefiting from his good fortune 48 hours earlier.
Sumann was still hurting from a stomach bug that’s been bothering him for days.
“I went straight from the toilet to the track this morning,” he said.
But as he zipped around the course and shot on the range, he felt just fine.
Ferry started 1 minute, 12 seconds behind Jay in the eighth position, and Sumann was 1:24 back in 12th place at the start.
Norway great Ole Einar Bjorndalen, who started in 17th place, was in position to challenge for the podium until his only two misses of the day on his final shoot.
“I was shooting really fast and clean,” said Bjoerndalen, who slipped to seventh. “But I was really tired on the last shooting, so I missed two.”
Bjoerndalen’s impressive haul of nine Olympic medals includes five golds. But he hasn’t won at Olympic race since 2002 and remains three golds short of matching Norwegian cross-country skier Bjoern Daehlie’s record.
“I could hear him next to me on the range, crying after his two misses,” Sumann said. “I had one, so I said maybe I’m in good shape to be in front of him at the finish line.”
Jay and Ferry left the range together after both missed one of five targets on their fourth and final shoot and had to circle the 150-meter penalty loop. Ferry, who had just the one miss overall, quickly pulled away from Jay, who missed two targets, same as Sumann.
Jay’s day was doubly sweet: his girlfriend, Marie Laure Brunet of France, won the bronze in the women’s pursuit hours earlier.
As with that event, there were problems with race officials supposed to make sure the athletes started on time. Two men, including American Jeremy Teela, went off too early, and three athletes went off too late in the women’s 10K.
The International Biathlon Union called the blunders an embarrassment.
Teela left 22 seconds before he was supposed to, and that amount was docked from his finishing time, dropping him from 20th to 24th. Canadian Jean Philippe Leguellec was penalized 30 seconds, sending him from fifth place to 11th.
Fourth-place finisher Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek of Sweden was inadvertently held back for 14 seconds in the women’s race.
“I can’t understand why this can happen,” said Norbert Baier, the IBU’s technical delegate who handled one of the start gates himself.
Baier acknowledged the IBU had been warned there were inexperienced officials at the biathlon course, but he didn’t say why nothing was done about that.
Baier said the official who erred in the women’s race was from Switzerland and wasn’t allowed to work the men’s race, where the official who goofed was from the Czech Republic.
Because the rest of the slate doesn’t include closely staggered start times like these, it won’t be an issue in the remaining races, much to the relief of the IBU.
America’s best biathlete, Tim Burke, of Paul Smiths, N.Y., didn’t go off until Vincent had been on the course for nearly three minutes, an impossible deficit.
“This was a training session for me,” said Burke, who was done in by a mid-race snowstorm in the sprint and moved up just one spot to finish in 46th Tuesday. “After that crazy sprint, I knew I didn’t have a chance.”
Burke, who two months ago became the first U.S. biathlete to wear the coveted yellow bib as the overall World Cup leader, still expects to contend for America’s first Olympic medal in the European-dominated sport that combines cross country skiing with rifle marksmanship.
His next chance is in Thursday’s 20-kilometer individual event.