On Monday, February 12 French biathlete Martin Fourcade won the gold medal in the Men’s 12.5 km Pursuit event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea (he is pictured above competing at the 2018 Oberhof Biathlon World Cup). He is the first biathlete ever to successfully defend an Olympic gold medal in the Pursuit event.
Olympic athletes have faced brutal cold weather in PyeongChang, with icy temperatures in the low teens and high winds reaching 40 mph. For expert analysis on the biathlon events this year, SSUSA talked to U.S. biathlete and 3-gun shooter Lanny Barnes. Here’s what she had to say about Monday’s Pursuit event.
“Martin Fourcade won Pursuit on Monday for one big reason—he shot well on a day when the winds were getting the best of most of the athletes in the field. At a venue like PyeongChang, where the winds play the biggest role in the race both in the range and on the ski course, athletes that can shoot well win. Most of the biathletes competing in the Olympics are world class shooters, but some of them shine on days when the wind has a mind of its own and seems to push that tiny little .22LR bullet easily out of the hit zone at speeds of 20 mph-plus.”
With the stakes this high, Lanny noted that experience is key to winning in these conditions.
“Not only are the biathletes battling head-to-head with the pressure of their country on their shoulders, they are shooting with a heart rate around 180 bpm and have to shoot through some of the worst winter conditions this planet has to offer. Martin Fourcade is already an Olympic Champion and he showed his experience, dominating the race missing only one target out of 20. A normal World Cup or Olympic race might see at least a quarter of the field go 20/20 on the range, but with the brutal winds on Monday—no athlete went 20/20.”
Although Martin Fourcade is now the first biathlete to successfully defend a gold in Pursuit—don’t count out Team USA in the medal hunt yet. Lanny noted that one U.S. biathlete in particular had an excellent day that shows potential.
“Tim Burke of Team USA had a phenomenal race moving up 30 places to finish his Olympic personal best of 17th place with only two misses for the day. He boasted the sixth fastest time of the day, which goes to show you that had he shot better in the sprint race and produced a better result, he may have been on the podium with such an outstanding performance. Hopefully he can continue the great shooting and skiing and come up with U.S. Biathlon’s first-ever medal in any Olympic games.”
Olympic biathlon competition will return Wednesday, February 14 with the Women’s 15 km Individual event.