Fourcade Shoots France To First Games Medal

by
Reuters
Martin Fourcade shot France to their first medal of the Sochi Olympics on Monday with victory in the biathlon 12.5km pursuit as Ole Einar Bjoerndalen just missed out on a record 13th Winter Games podium.

* Maiden Olympic title for Fourcade

* Bjoerndalen fourth, missed out on record

* Beatrix third as France claim two medals

Martin Fourcade shot France to their first medal of the Sochi Olympics on Monday with victory in the biathlon 12.5km pursuit as Ole Einar Bjoerndalen just missed out on a record 13th Winter Games podium.

Overall World Cup leader Fourcade, starting sixth, shot an almost perfect 19 out of 20 and produced an impressive display on the skis to beat silver medallist Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic by 14.1 seconds.

Another Frenchman, Jean-Guillaume Beatrix, came back from 14th on the starting line to claim bronze and deny Norway's Bjoerndalen a record-breaking medal.

Fourcade had started Saturday's sprint as the hot favourite but could only manage sixth and he felt the pressure of his country's expectations.

"I had the responsibility (to claim a medal) even if nobody had asked me anything," he told a news conference.

"I did not want the other French athletes to support talks of France not winning a medal. I thought about it this morning."

French team coach Stephane Bouthiaux was in tears when he fronted the media.

"He was frustrated on Saturday. I could not see him come back home empty-handed," he said.

Bjoerndalen, who had carried his time advantage into the pursuit after winning Saturday's sprint, made three mistakes in the shooting.

Fourcade, a silver medallist in the mass start event in Vancouver four years ago, wiped out a six-second deficit at the start to arrive first on the range for the first of four shooting sessions.

Bjoerndalen shot much quicker than the Frenchman and reclaimed the lead but lost ground when he made his first mistake in the second prone shooting session.

PURE JOY

He made further mistakes in each of the two standing shooting sessions and the resulting 150-metre penalty loops took their toll on the Norwegian.

Moravec shot a perfect 20 but could not match Fourcade's devilish pace on the skis.

"I was just targeting a top 10," Moravec said.

"It's only the second time in my life that I manage to shoot clean," he added with a smile.

Fourcade made no mistake in the final shooting stage and knew gold was in the bag, clenching his fist as he began his celebrations.

"I knew if I did well in the last shooting, I would be Olympic champion," he said.

"It was not arrogance, it was pure joy."

Fourcade's victory was made even sweeter as Beatrix, his "best rival" since they are 15, shared the podium with him.

"It's cool because I could listen to the Marseillaise even though I was only third," he said.

"There is a lot of friendship and a lot of rivalry between the two of us.

"I did not expect him to be there. I am super happy for him. We've been best rivals since we're 15. In a way he has been helping me shape my career."

Fourcade will once again be among the top favourites in Thursday's 20km individual race.

The 25-year-old Frenchman would not rule out his biggest rival, Emil Hegle Svendsen, although the Norwegian has been struggling, finishing ninth in the sprint and seventh in the pursuit.

"After the sprint people were saying I was out of shape. You can't rule him out," said Fourcade.