Martin Fourcade makes Olympic biathlon history with pursuit gold
It didn't take Martin Fourcade long to erase an "extremely disappointing" showing at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
A little over 24 hours, to be exact.
Fourcade erased a 27.8-second deficit at the first shooting bout Monday to convincingly win gold in the men's 12.5km pursuit at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre in PyeongChang, South Korea.
"I'm very satisfied because it was a big disappointment yesterday for me," Fourcade said. "The sprint race was the one I wanted to win. It was the one that I have never won at the Olympics.
"I will probably miss my career without the Olympics in the sprint. I wanted the gold yesterday and I missed, so I was really disappointed. And today, I am so satisfied I left it as a champion."
With the gold, Fourcade becomes the first biathlete — male or female — to successfully defend their gold medal in the pursuit since its introduction to the Olympics at the 2002 Salt Lake Games. He won gold in the pursuit in Sochi four years ago.
The gold in PyeongChang is his third Olympic gold and fifth overall medal.
The Frenchman finished in 32 minutes, 51.7 seconds, and after missing three shots in a disappointing eighth-place finish in the men's 10km sprint, Fourcade missed just one Monday.
Fourcade managed to turn his anger from his performance Sunday into an impressive display in the pursuit. From the time he left the starting gate, he looked like a man with a chip on his shoulder, not the No. 1-ranked biathlete that he is.
"It is a deep feeling inside when I manage to turn anger into a strength," Fourcade said, "and it's something not easy to do. You need to be really angry with yourself and to blame yourself in a way, it's a bit masochist, really. But it worked.
"When you fail, you don't want to fail a second time in a row. It was really painful because I wanted that Olympic gold (in the sprint) more than anything else."
After shooting clean on his fourth and final bout, Fourcade raised his fist in celebration, as he knew he had secured the gold.
"It was really hard because yesterday," Fourcade said, "it was not easy to blame myself because the conditions were not easy. Today wasn't easy as well, but in spite of that, I managed to shoot only one mistake.
"For me, the finish line today was on the shooting range on the last shoot and I am so satisfied that I shot clean because I spent so much energy on shooting to achieve this kind of beautiful shooting."
Sebastian Samuelsson of Sweden took home the silver medal and Germany's Benedikt Doll earned bronze.
Samuelsson finished in 33 minutes, 3.7 seconds and one penalty. Doll closed at 33 minutes, 6.8 seconds. He also missed one shot.
It's the first Olympic medals for both Samuelsson and Doll. Doll's bronze is Germany's fourth biathlon medal of the PyeongChang Games.
Arnd Peiffer, the German who won gold in the men's 10km sprint Sunday, finished eighth in the pursuit. Peiffer closed the pursuit 1 minute and 14 seconds behind Fourcade.
German biathlete Laura Dahlmeier won the women's 10km pursuit earlier Monday to become the first athlete to win two medals at the PyeongChang Games. It was her second gold of these Olympics.
"In the last World Cup race," Doll said, "we had not so many podiums and so now, for the Olympics, everything works and we make it a really good shooting at the moment."
As for Team USA, that Olympic biathlon medal remains elusive. Through three events, the Americans haven't been close to earning their first medal in the sport.
Monday was a slightly better showing, however. Tim Burke came in 17th place, 2 minutes and 19.6 seconds behind Fourcade. It was U.S. Biathlon's highest finishing mark thus far in PyeongChang.
Lowell Bailey finished 32nd, up one from the sprint, and Leif Nordgren came in 50th, an eight-spot improvement from the sprint.
Biathlon has Tuesday off. It returns Wednesday with the women's 15km individual (6:05 a.m EST).