PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — It was hard to imagine Martin Fourcade staying down for long.
Sure enough, the world’s most dominant biathlete bounced back with a vengeance Monday to win Olympic gold in the men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit in dominating fashion. The victory came after an uncharacteristically poor eighth-place performance in the opening sprint race Sunday that left the world’s No. 1 biathlete questioning himself.
It wasn’t until Fourcade saw pictures of himself on the shooting range that he began to understand what went wrong. The red flags on the course that indicate wind were blowing more than he realized.
“At that time I realized it wasn’t because I was unlucky, it was because I did a mistake,” the Frenchman said. “From that time on it was much easier to turn my anger into strength for the (next) competition.”
Fourcade’s victory came after Laura Dahlmeier gave Germany its third straight gold medal in the biathlon — and her second overall — in the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit.
In the later race, Fourcade made light work of the 24-second deficit to start the pursuit race by hitting 19 of 20 targets with his rapid-fire shooting and fast skiing, enabling him to win his sixth career Olympic medal and third gold.
Sebastian Samuelsson, a 20-year-old Swede, took home the silver medal and Benedikt Doll of Germany earned bronze.
Fourcade’s return to the medal podium didn’t surprise his competitors.
“I knew that when he finished eighth he would be really fighting for the gold medal,” Samuelsson said. “Martin is just unbelievably good.”
After taking the lead on the third shoot, Fourcade hit his final five shots, turned back to the crowd like a confident showman and pumped his fist, knowing he couldn’t be caught.
Nearly just as dominant, Dahlmeier is 2-for-2 in gold medal opportunities at the Pyeongchang Games and is the first woman to win the sprint and the pursuit in the same Olympics since the latter race was added as an event in 2002.
After hitting all 10 targets in the sprint, Dahlmeier was nearly perfect again in her second race, connecting on 19 of 20 shots to cruise to victory by more than 29 seconds. Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia was second and Anais Bescond of France took bronze.
“I don’t know what to say because I felt really, really tired before the race and also during the race in the first laps,” Dahlmeier said. “I just tried to stay focused and now I’m here again.”
Dahlmeier started the race with a 24-second lead over her nearest competitor, but Kuzmina caught her at the midway point before missing two targets on the third shoot to fall 37 seconds behind. Dahlmeier, who called herself a “master of perseverance,” calmly put five shots in the center of the targets before letting out a huge smile.
With a healthy lead on the final lap, Dahlmeier grabbed a German flag from a fan in the crowd about 50 meters from the finish and began waving it as she approached the line.
She entered the games ranked fourth in the world but never having won a gold medal.
“Laura is very hard opponent,” Kuzmina said. “She is able to shoot well under pressure. You need to shoot very, very good to beat her.”
The Germans had won 45 biathlon medals coming into the Pyeongchang Games since 1992, more than twice that of any other country. They already have four this year.
More AP Olympics: https://wintergames.ap.org