Norway's Bjoerndalen wins second goldPosted: Wednesday February 13, 2002 2:34 PM
Updated: Wednesday February 13, 2002 6:38 PM
MIDWAY, Utah (AP) -- Calmly hitting all 10 of his targets, Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen coasted to the gold medal in the 10-kilometer sprint Wednesday, winning his second gold of the games and becoming the first biathlete to win three in a career.
"Before the start, I was a little bit afraid because I went so late with the start number today," said Bjoerndalen, who was the last top contender to begin the Soldier Hollow Course. "For me, it was a little bit tough for my head. But I [did] my race, and it was OK."
Bjoerndalen, who also won Monday's 20-kilomenter race by making 18 of 20 shots, finished in 24 minutes, 51.3 seconds -- 28.9 seconds ahead of Germany's Sven Fischer, who missed once. Austria's Wolfgang Perner was a surprising bronze winner, shooting cleanly to finish 53.1 seconds back.
Bjoerndalen, who earlier defended the 15-kilomenter title he won in Nagano, now has four medals -- including one silver -- in the last two Olympics. He will race in Saturday's 12.5-kilometer pursuit with a chance to get a third gold in these games.
"For me, it's not important if I make one more gold or one less," Bjoerndalen said. "For me, it's more important to make every time that I race a perfect race, and if I'm good enough to win, I win. But if some other guy is better than me that day, I will be satisfied."
Jeremy Teela, a surprising 14th in Monday's race, was the top American Wednesday, taking 20th. The best U.S. finish ever in the event was 19th, by Lyle Nelson in 1980. Jay Hakkinen was 26th, and Lawton Redman 54th.
"Based on what happened Monday and today, these are our best results ever," said Jerry Kokesh, the U.S. Biathlon Association development director.
Not only did Bjoerndalen have a steady trigger finger, he's an exceptionally strong skier, finishing sixth in the 30-kilometer Nordic race earlier this week.
After quickly dispatching his final five targets, Bjoerndalen had a 30.6-second lead over Fischer entering the final lap. He took it easy the rest of the way.
"There's not many like this race you have in your life," he said.
Bjoerndalen's ability to ski fast, then slow down his heart rate enough to aim perfectly, didn't give the rest of the pack much of a chance, particularly when many of his rivals faltered badly.
Raphael Poiree, bidding to become the first Frenchman to win a biathlon individual medal, made the first five shots with his .22-caliber rifle and was the fastest skier after the first stage. But then he missed the first and fifth target on the final round, falling to ninth.
Frode Andresen, who finished second to his countryman Bjoerndalen in this event four years ago, repeated Poiree's mistakes on the final shoot and wound up eighth. But the biggest flub was by Russian Pavel Rostovtsev, who was flawless through nine shots but then missed to the upper left on his final attempt.
He let out a holler before taking his required penalty lap that ate up about 25 seconds. He finished sixth.