Oberhofer: Belated Sochi Bronze has Bitter Aftertaste, But ‘Better Late Than Never’

Harald ZimmerDecember 4, 2017
Italy placed second in the mixed relay at the IBU World Cup in Canmore, Alberta, in 2016. Karin Oberhofer (second from l) is the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist in the sprint after the disqualification of Russia’s Olga Vilukhina for doping. (Photo: Daniel S. Guay)

With news of Olga Vilukhina’s disqualification from the 2014 Olympics for benefitting from a Russian institutional doping program, Italy doubled its haul of biathlon medals.

And not only Italy – but specifically, Karin Oberhofer.

The then-28-year-old was part of the mixed relay team which won bronze, along with Lukas Hofer, Dominik Windisch, and Dorothea Wierer. Oberhofer will now receive her bronze medal in the sprint as well, where she finished 27.9 seconds behind gold medalist Anastasia Kuzmina of Slovakia with ten-for-ten shooting. Before 2014, she had never stood on an individual podium at the top level of competition.

“I would be very happy to belatedly receive the Olympic bronze medal,” Oberhofer – who was officially fourth at race time, while now-disqualified Vilukhina was officially second – wrote in an email. Her comments were made in German and translated into English.

Vilukhina, meanwhile, has said that she refuses to give back silver medals from the relay and the sprint.

“I won’t just give up the medals,” she told sports.ru, according to a translation. “I’m a two-time Olympic medalist.”

The International Olympic Committee, however, has ordered that her medals be returned, and notified the Italian Olympic Committee that Oberhofer will be getting bronze.

“Of course everything has a bitter aftertaste, but I would say: ‘better late than never’,” Oberhofer wrote. “It would be wonderful for me if my performance on that day would now be crowned with the bronze. It would also mean to me that justice has finally won.”

Since the Olympics, Oberhofer also won two bronze medals at 2015 World Championships, in the mass start and the women’s relay. The same season, she was second in a World Cup sprint.

Then, Oberhofer took a break last season to prepare her first child, Paul, who was born in August. She has continued training but has not raced yet this season.

“I am very happy with my little family and about my new challenge,” Oberhofer wrote. “Every day with my little son is unique and indescribably beautiful. It’s not always easy, but my family helps me a lot and I love doing sports. I do it because I like to do it, and little Paul allows me to do it and is very well-behaved. At the moment I am at home and prepare myself individually for the competitions. I have to qualify again for the international competitions first.”

Oberhofer has known for nearly a year that her Olympic sprint was likely medal-worthy. When the McLaren report released its evidence packet, the names of four Russian biathletes, including Vilukhina, were not redacted in one of the documents.

“11 months ago there were already these rumors, and several members of the media contacted me about that,” Oberhofer wrote. “[Recently] I was contacted by Giovanni Malagó, President of the Italian National Olympic Committee, who informed me that Vilukhina had been banned and removed from the list of results.”

Oberhofer isn’t sure whether there will be some medal ceremony arranged for the one she missed out on in Sochi.

“Honestly, I don’t really know what to say about that,” she wrote. “It would be a big surprise for me if it took place in public. But that’s not so important. The most beautiful thing for me would be to get the medal at all. But what I do know is that I would belatedly celebrate this medal with my family and friends in a small ceremony.”

Harald Zimmer

Harald has been following cross-country skiing and biathlon for some 20 years since the Olympic Winter Games in Albertville and Lillehammer. A graduate of Middlesex University London and Harvard University, he now lives near the Alps where he likes to go skiing, snowboarding and hiking. He is a former track athlete in middle-distance running, as well as a huge NBA fan.

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