Fourcade wins gold in men's 12.5K pursuit in Sochi

ERIC WILLEMSEN Associated Press Published:

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- With 2.5 kilometers still to ski, Martin Fourcade was feeling so strong he started celebrating his first Olympic gold medal.

Having hit all five targets in his final round of shooting, the Frenchman stretched his arm in the air and pumped his fist.

Minutes later, Fourcade crossed the finish line at a leisurely pace to confirm what he already knew -- he had won gold in the men's 12.5K pursuit at the Sochi Olympics.

"It was incredible. I knew the weight of that shoot to make sure (of the gold)," Fourcade said. "I knew that if I shot clean, I was Olympic champion. So my gesture was because I was so happy. It was no arrogance at all, it was just happiness."

Fourcade's friend and teammate, Jean Guillaume Beatrix, earned bronze, and both put France onto the medals table at the Sochi Games.

"Jean Guillaume is my best opponent since I am 10 years old," Fourcade said. "I am really happy for him what he did. But I'm also happy for the whole French team. It's incredible. My brother (Simon) is also on the team. It's an incredible human adventure. We live with each other 200 days a year."

Fourcade missed one target in the standing shooting portion of the race, which he finished in 33 minutes, 48.6 seconds. Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic finished 14.1 seconds later to take silver, and Beatrix was 24.2 seconds behind Fourcade in third.

"I was really lucky in my last shooting," Beatrix said. "So many guys were missing so I could go into third place."

Fourcade embraced Beatrix in the finish area, but the bronze medalist was so overwhelmed that, shortly afterward, he already forgot what his friend had said to him.

"He gave me a hug and a big smile," Beatrix said. "I can't remember a word he said, I just remember his big smile."

Moravec surprised himself by winning the second biathlon medal for the Czech team after Jaroslav Soukup took bronze Saturday.

"That's amazing," said Moravec of his first Olympic medal. "Before the Olympics, I was thinking that if I can get in the top 10 it would be great from me."

Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was fourth, missing out by 1.7 seconds on what would have been a record 13th Winter Olympics medal.

Bouncing back from a disappointing performance in the first biathlon event of the games, the 10-kilometer sprint that set the starting positions for Monday's pursuit, Fourcade dominated the second half of the race.

"I was so focused ... I was thinking about getting strong after a deception," Fourcade said. "I still can't believe I did it. Everyone told me I would react after the sprint and I am incredibly proud that I did that."

The gold is Fourcade's second Olympic medal; he won silver in the mass start event in Vancouver. The Frenchman also holds five world titles, including two in the pursuit discipline.

"Before today, I had already won more than I expected to win my whole life," Fourcade said. "I will just go on now and keep trying to win more titles. It's crazy."

The victory confirmed Fourcade's dominant season. He has won four World Cup events and leads the overall standings by 121 points over Norwegian rival Emil Hegle Svendsen.

Svendsen finished seventh in the pursuit, 40.2 seconds behind the Frenchman.

Fourcade was a strong favorite in the sprint that opened the Olympic biathlon competitions Saturday, but he came up well short to finish sixth.

But he needed less than a kilometer on Monday to join up with the leaders of a pursuit race that started tight. He only missed one target, the second in his third round of shooting, but his fast skiing easily made up for the time lost during his circuit of the 150-meter penalty loop.

Jean-Philippe Le Guellec of Canada briefly grabbed the lead after the second round of shooting, but the tip of his left ski later broke after he slipped and fell head-first during a sharp right turn.

Rain had set in just before the race on a warm day in the mountains above Sochi, which made for difficult conditions. Several athletes slid off the course at the point where Le Guellec fell and broke his ski.

After winning Saturday's sprint, Bjoerndalen opened Monday's race and led after the first round of shooting. However, he missed one target in each of the three following rounds and had to ski an extra 450 meters in penalties.

While Bjoerndalen came just short of finishing third, he has several more chances -- including two relays with the strong Norwegian team -- to win the 13th medal that would put him one ahead of cross-country skiing great Bjoern Daehlie.

Bjoerndalen didn't feel he wasted an opportunity to overtake his fellow Norwegian on Monday.

"No absolutely not," Bjoerndalen said. "I do my race, and I wasn't strong enough on the shooting. I had three misses and that's too much."