For a second straight day, Emil Hegle Svendsen robbed Norwegian teammate Ole Einar Bjørndalen of a World Cup victory in Oberhof, Germany.
After edging Bjørndalen by just 0.4 seconds in Friday’s 10 k sprint, Svendsen set out on the 21.5 k pursuit course along with his older teammate. But as early as the first shooting stage, the wily veteran pushed his way to the front: Svendsen missed one shot while Bjørndalen cleaned, gaining a 22-second lead.
Little by little, though Svendsen caught up: four seconds on the second lap, another three on the third. Then in the final standing shooting stage, Bjørndalen, who had the lead, made the mistake of missing two shots. Svendsen cleaned and took off to skate to an easy 35.6-second victory, his second of the season.
“I got a little uneasy after the first two shots, and failed to get the rest of the targets down,” Bjørndalen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
Svendsen admitted that he hadn’t had the easiest time, either.
“I didn’t have full control of the shooting, and was shaking a little bit,” he told NRK. “But I managed to keep it together and I got it. This is what I’m so happy about.”
Behind them, Martin Fourcade of France was unable to move up from his third-place position after the sprint. Although he retains the overall World Cup leader’s bib, his lead in the points has shrunk considerably in these two races.
“I had to be really perfect to beat Emil today and I was not,” said Fourcade, who had two penalties and a slower ski time than Svendsen, in a press conference. “I thought I could beat Ole, but had some problems with my skis on the last lap and could not do it. I am a bit disappointed with my race. I made some mistakes that I hope that I will not repeat.”
The victory was the 33rd of Svendsen’s career, tying him with German legend Sven Fischer for third place in all-time wins. Raphael Poirée of France is still ahead with 59 wins, and Bjørndalen himself has well over 90, a record that may never be broken – especially as he seems capable of adding more to that tally this season, as he has now been on the podium three times already.
“He was crazy on the first three stages, and is clearly in good form,” Svendsen said of Bjørndalen. “I also couldn’t make up as much time of the trails. So the ‘old man’ is in shape.”
One of the most remarkable performances of the day came from Latvia’s Andrejs Rastorgujevs, who shot clean through all four stages and skied the third-fastest time to move from 28th all the way up to fourth place, just 12 seconds behind Fourcade. It was a career-best finish by the 25-year-old.
Michal Slesingr of the Czech Republic finished fifth and Johannes Thingnes Bø of Norway sixth.
In the women’s race, too, bib number one held onto her lead. After earning her first win of the season in the sprint, Darya Domracheva of Belarus set out on a tear, cleaning the first stage to keep her advantage over the field – and actually lengthening it since second-place Kaisa Makarainen of Finland missed one shot and third-place Olena Pidhrushna of Ukraine two.
But Makarainen was fast on her skis and by the second stage, when Domracheva missed two shots, she was just one second behind. She actually took the lead on part of the next lap, but then missed twice while Domracheva only missed once. The two switched places again and maintained their positions all the way to the end, with Domracheva taking a 34.6-second win over the Finn.
In third place, Synnøve Solemdal of Norway put in a strong showing after climbing her way all the way up from 21st at the start, despite two missed shots. But she was still far behind the leaders, finishing with a deficit of well over a minute. Teammate Tora Berger was fourth, Olga Vilukhina of Russia was fifth, and Ann Kristin Flatland, also of Norway, placed sixth.
In a humorous end to the day of racing, organizers started the flower ceremony without Domracheva, and she had to come running back into the stadium and hop over a fence from the photographers’ section.
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.