After surviving some serious snowfall that slowed down the tracks in yesterday’s 7.5 k sprint, the women who qualified for the 10 k pursuit in Pokljuka, Slovenia, today were faced with another meteorological challenge: downpour.
“Should have brought a snorkel and swim cap to the race today!” tweeted Rosanna Crawford of Canada, who placed 27th.
The rain poured down and not only soaked the athletes, but turned tracks to mush and reduced visibility on both the trail and range.
“It was hard for us today,” fourth-place Olena Pidhrushna of Ukraine told IBU News after the race. “I could not see on the downhills. I even crashed into [World Champion] Tora Berger on the first loop today. I really want to apologize to her.”
Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic and Miriam Gössner of Germany left the start separated by two seconds and crossed the finish line just 0.7 seconds apart, but the race was not as simple as that implies. Gössner, who has turned in top ski times in many races so far this year, was once again plagued by problems on the shooting race, ending up with five penalties to Soukalova’s zero.
Shooting a perfect 20 for 20, one of only four women to do so, Soukalova was in the lead for almost the entire race. Leaving the range for the final time with a 14-second gap to the next competitor, it seemed that she could be on track for her second win in two days. And she wasn’t skiing slowly, either: the Czech turned in the tenth-fastest ski time of the day.
But even then, she was not sure of herself.
“I felt that I was tired today,” she said in a press conference after the race. “I did not think I could I be in the top five.”
Despite missing at least one shot in every stage, Gössner was able to drag herself up to Soukalova with just 600 meters to go in the race.
“When Miriam came up in the final lap, I knew it would be very hard for me to stay with her,” Soukalova said. “She is so much faster.”
And Gössner did ski past her, turning the tables from the sprint results and collecting her own very first World Cup victory.
“I really have not been waiting to win,” Gössner said. “I know that when you do your job, you can win… It is a great feeling to win but I liked the feeling in second too. It is always great to be on the podium!”
The victory was a relief for the German team, which has had to adjust its expectations in the wake of Magdalena Neuner’s retirement. But for Gössner, she didn’t feel obligation so much as enjoyment. The five penalties didn’t seem to faze her at all.
“I like bad conditions so it was no problem for me,” she said of the rain. “Of course; I had to go a little bit faster because of all of my mistakes. I had a lot of fun.”
Marie Dorin Habert of France finished third after starting fifth and accumulating a single penalty. It was the first individual podium for the team this season. Pidhrushna was fourth and Veronika Vitkova of the Czech Republic fifth.
After placing three women in the top twenty in the sprint, the North American teams were unable to maintain their positions. However, Annelies Cook moved from 40th to 33rd and Sara Studebaker from 36th to 35th for the U.S.; Susan Dunklee slipped from 14th to 38th after suffering eight penalties.
For Canada, Crawford fell from 12th to 27th, and Zina Kocher from 16th to 44th. Megan Heinicke, however, improved from 45th to 41st.
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Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.