Martin Fourcade didn’t have to do much at the final IBU World Cup weekend in Tyumen, Russia, in order to lock up the overall crystal globe. But the French biathlete came in guns blazing, so to speak, winning Thursday’s sprint by 33.2 seconds and claiming the Total Score title.
His only close(ish) challenger in the overall score, Johannes Thingnes Bø of Norway, had finished just 14th in the sprint. He raced up to second in the pursuit, but by then it was too late to take the globe from Fourcade.
It is the Frenchman’s seventh overall title; the last time anyone else won one was in 2010-2011.
“I am really satisfied with what I did today,” Fourcade told the IBU on Thursday. “It was mentally challenging all these days fighting with Johannes for the Crystal Globe. It seems easy watching on TV, but I can confirm that it is not. I must admit that it was not my main goal back [at the first World Cup weekend] in Östersund; it was the Olympics. But as the season went on, the globe became the most important aim for both of us.”
After that, Fourcade could relax a little.
“You know, before the race I planned to act like usual, be calm on the shooting range and being strategic,” Fourcade told German broadcaster ZDF after winning the pursuit, this time by 47.9 seconds. “But when I came to the zeroing [target practice] I told my coach ‘today I will play a little’. I don’t have many races to enjoy my biathlon [without pressure], to do what I would like to do. I told him ‘do not think (worry?) I will go full attack’, but I wanted to show that the strategy I had all year long is [just] a strategy not a need to shoot slow.”
On Saturday it worked; then came Sunday’s mass start. Fourcade had his worst race of the season, with four penalties and skiing to 19th place, over a minute behind winner Maxim Tsvetkov of Russia. But it didn’t matter – the globe was already decided, and Fourcade had already found his satisfaction.
The fight for the women’s crystal globe had much more drama. Coming into the weekend, Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina led by 41 points over Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen. But it was Belarus’s Darya Domracheva, in third in the standings, who won Friday’s sprint, by just 1.2 seconds over Makarainen; Kuzmina was 12th.
“Before today’s race I tried to focus only on this race, not think about the overall World Cup so much because I know that I am really [far] behind,” Makarainen told ZDF after the sprint. “But I know that everything is possible. I think that’s also the best tactic for tomorrow: not think about the others or the Total Score, just focus on a good race and enjoy that.”
Makarainen saw her chance and went for the win in the pursuit, edging France’s Anais Bescond by an even smaller margin – 0.2 seconds.
With Domracheva winning the mass start, Makarainen rallying for sixth despite three missed shots, and Kuzmina 11th with the same tally, the title went to the Finn. She edged out Kuzmina by just three points, while Domracheva was only another 15 points back.
Makarainen jumped up and down when she saw the score announced, and her teammates rushed her and placed a pink paper crown on her head. It is her third overall title; she also won in 2011 and in the 2013-2014 season, when she likewise secured the crystal globe in the very last race of the season.
The fields were somewhat reduced in size and depth as the Canadian, U.S., Czech, and Ukrainian teams all skipped the event due to Russia still remaining out of compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code. Other individual athletes skipped the races as well.
Simon Desthieux of France got his first career World Cup podium, finishing second in the sprint behind teammate Fourcade.
Maxim Tsvetkov of Russia claimed his first career win in the mass start, edging Norway’s Erlend Bjøntegaard by 2.7 seconds as each shot 20-for-20.
In the men’s mass start, Slovakia’s Paulina Fialkova got her first World Cup podium, finishing second, just 1.8 seconds behind Domracheva as each had a single penalty.
The top ranked North American biathletes in the Total Score are Susan Dunklee in 34th in the women’s standings, and Tim Burke in 32nd in the men’s standings, both from the United States. The U.S.’s Lowell Bailey and Sean Doherty ranked 35th and 36th. No Canadians were ranked in the top 40.
-Harald Zimmer contributed
Overall World Cup standings: