Biathlon is a tough sport to dominate, with millimeters often meaning the difference between a missed target, and a win and second place. But over the past few weeks, Norway’s Tora Berger has still been close to unstoppable, with five victories in her past six races.
After a minor hiccup in Friday’s sprint—in which she finished second—Berger was back to the top spot on the podium on Sunday, topping France’s Marie Dorin and Belarus’s Darya Domracheva.
Sweden’s Helena Ekholm, who started first after her win on Friday, was tenth, taking seven penalties. Sara Studebaker was top American, finishing 28th with six penalties, dropping her 14 places from her starting position.
“Today wasn’t the race that I wanted to have, but I was still 28th, and that’s pretty good,” she said. “This was a fantastic weekend for me.”
Like the men, the women had to contend with nearly a foot of fresh powder that dropped on Presque Isle’s trails overnight. The men had skied it in somewhat, but the going was still tough.
“Conditions overall were pretty challenging—really soft track,” said American Haley Johnson, who moved up four places from her starting position of 42nd, to finish 38th. “You had to have a good strategy, to ski light and not push too hard and not be too powerful—work a little bit against your instincts.”
The wind, another factor in the men’s race, was even worse for the women. Not a single one cleaned the four-stage race—the closest was Russia’s Ekaterina Iourieva with one penalty, in 22nd—and Berger won despite four missed shots.
As far as tough shooting races go, Studebaker said, “this was right up there, just with the challenging snow conditions making people more tired anyway—and then come into the range and it’s windy, it’s really tough.”
On the range, Berger and Dorin took divergent approaches to dealing with the wind. Dorin was deliberate in her shooting, taking between 30 and 40 seconds for each stage.
Berger, on the other hand, was aggressive—her trips to the range were just 20 to 30 seconds, and her total shooting time was the fastest of any woman. Dorin lost 44 seconds to Berger over the four stages, a gap larger than the margin of victory, which was ultimately half a minute.
“She shot like she does all the time,” Berger’s shooting coach, Egil Gjelland, told FasterSkier. “She has to attack if she wants to win.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.