Just 90 minutes after Katja Yurlova gave Russia their second biathlon victory of the weekend, Anton Shipulin made it three with a 10.3-second win in the men’s 12.5 k pursuit.
Shipulin had won seven times before on the World Cup, but not yet this season. His goal for the year was to win the World Cup Total Score (he was second last season) as well as a World Championship.
“It is a long time that I have been waiting for that victory,” Shipulin said through a translator in an interview with IBU media. “I hope that this victory will add to my self-confidence. Maybe it’s good that it happened with not so much time until the World Championships in Oslo.”
And even on the trails, it took Shipulin a lot of waiting before he moved into first place. Starting in bib five, he had a penalty in the second stage and lurked in second and third place.
In the final stage he also missed a shot, but so did Simon Schempp of Germany, who came in with Shipulin but also shot more slowly. When Simon Eder of Austria, who was in third at the time, also missed, it came down to who was out of the penalty loop fastest.
That was Shipulin, who left with a 6.7-lead. He extended it on the trails. Schempp not only shot slower, but couldn’t match Shipulin’s speed and was left to ski to second on his own.
“My impression was that Anton had shot zero,” Schempp told German broadcaster ARD about the final stage. “And then somehow I lost concentration, and the [last] shot was immediately gone. I just tried to keep the second place. I knew Anton would probably be stronger on the final loop, because he didn’t want to go in front on the fourth loop and didn’t want to trade off [leading] with me. So he saved a bit of strength, also for the last shooting. But I think he deserved to win, because he has often been within the front. And if I can still reach the second place I am absolutely satisfied.”
Shipulin is a new father; his son was born on December 15.
“I think whatever good I do, it is for my son and my family,” he said, cracking a smile in his IBU interview.
While Eder was stuck in the penalty loop, two of the most dangerous skiers on the circuit cleaned the stage: Johannes Thingnes Bø of Norway and Martin Fourcade of France. They headed out on course 10 seconds ahead of Eder and quickly widened the gap; Arnd Peiffer of Germany also passed him to take over fifth.
Between Bø and Fourcade, the fight was intense.
“After standing it was too far up to Simon [Schempp], and there was nobody behind me and Martin so I knew it was a fight for third and fourth place,” Bø said in the press conference. “He’s a very strong athlete, but I think I felt stronger than him today.”
Fourcade had shot clean to move up all the way from 28th, fulfilling a weeks-long goal to shoot clean.
But the effort required to move through the field took a lot out of him.
“It was good, but we did not have the same competition,” Fourcade told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “Johannes was eighth and I was number 28 from the start, and had to fight to catch the big gap. I think he had more energy than me at the end.”
Bø had the second-fastest ski time of the day, and was thrilled with his speed.
“It’s funny how things turn around,” he told NRK. “I was banging and banging before Christmas. Now I just keep getting better for each race. I had an insanely good ski weekend.”
Tim Burke was the top American, finishing 22nd with four penalties (+2:01.7).
“The shooting conditions were a little challenging today with shifting winds, but my penalties were definitely my fault,” he wrote in an email. “I felt solid on the range, but it was just one of those days when the close shots don’t fall. I felt strong on the course today and I had competitive skis, I just needed a few more hits. This was another one of those races for me that was solid, but not really what I was hoping for. I am still waiting for that race when everything comes together on the same day.”
Teammates Lowell Bailey and Leif Nordgren finished 28th (+2:11.0) and 48th (+4:00.6) with three and two penalties, respectively.
“I started a little slow and struggled to keep pace with the rest of the guys I was around on the first loop,” Bailey, who started 22nd, wrote in an email. “But then, the rest of the race improved from there, with my last loop feeling the best. It wasn’t my best day on the range, but not my worst. It just didn’t feel perfectly in sync during the shooting. Part of that is definitely the altitude. With less oxygen, the breathing cadence between shots becomes more difficult and it’s a bit more challenging to hold on the target. That being said, I can be better.”
Sean Doherty did not start, although he was qualified for the pursuit.
“Sean is focusing more on prepping for World Juniors, which start next week,” Burke explained. “He is healthy and we will be starting the relay tomorrow.”
For Canada, Brendan Green finished 31st (+2:18.4) and Nathan Smith 43rd (+3:14.9).
Things were setting up to be much better for Green, but it didn’t pan out.
“Unfortunately with just under 1km to go while skiing in 21st place I was involved in a crash with [Austria’s Julian] Eberhard coming out of the S-turn downhill in the meadow,” he wrote in an email. “He took and aggressive line with myself right beside him, crashed, and I got caught up and crashed into him. When the snow settled I was laying on my back looking up the hill just in time to see a pack of 10 guys whiz by me on either side. It was frustrating and unnecessary, but that sort of thing just happens once in a while and you have to roll with it. His stock snapped into two pieces and I got away with only a broken butt hook which was lucky. Crashing caused me to miss out on some valuable points, but I’ll chase those points back later in the season.”
Despite the disappointment, Green was actually very happy with his race.
“Today’s race was going really well, certainly one of my better of the season,” he explained. “The range here in Antholz I find can be tricky, so to finish today with only 1 penalty was really good… I think in general I’m starting to find my stride this season which is a relief. My racing is starting to feel stronger and I hope I can continue with consistent and strong form throughout the rest of the season.”
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.