Norwegian Men Take Relay

09.12.2012, Hochfilzen / IBU Info JK
France, Russia Follow
Norway won the first relay of the season today in 1:17:55.2, with only one spare round. France needed six spares to finish second, 34.5 seconds back, while Russia used nine spare rounds in their third place finish, 46.6 seconds back.

Copyright IBU/Ernst Wukits
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Fourth went to the home team, Austria, 1;29.6 back, while the Czech Republic was fifth, 1:46.5 back and Germany in sixth was 2:02.7 back.

Spectacular Day

Today was the best day of the season so far, with spectacular winter weather, crystal clear blue skies, windless and seasonably cold. Twenty-five men’s teams left the stadium in a pack. The first leg was just a shake-out, but it separated the field quickly. By the first exchange, 6 teams were in the mix, led by Russia, Germany and the Czech Republic. Germany, Norway and sixth position France had all shot clean with no spare rounds. Notable in the first leg was France’s Olympic Sprint champion Vincent Jay, in the last competition of his career. Jay, perfect on the shooting range tagged teammate Jean Guilluame Beatrix just 11.7 seconds behind Russia.

 Björndalen Moves Up

The second leg changed things a lot as Norway’s Ole Einar Björndalen had an excellent leg that put his team in first position just ahead of the Czech Republic and France at the tag. Russia, in fifth, was now 41 seconds off the pace, after Makoveev struggled in standing, needing all three spare rounds to clean.

The third leg saw Norway maintain their lead, with France in second, but 20 seconds back after the prone stage. Velle Christiansen of Norway cleaned standing and was gone before France’s Alexis Beouf fired a shot; he cleaned with a spare round but lost 12 seconds, while Russia’s Evegeny Ustyugov, still in third closed the gap on France.

Perfect Henrik L’Abee-Lund

Henrik L’Abee-Lund, anchoring for Norway went out for his 7.5K trip around the Hochfilzen tracks with a 47 second lead over France’s Martin Fourcade, with Russia’s Dmitry Malyshko on Fourcade’s heels. The young Norwegian cleaned prone with five shots, while Fourcade needed a spare round, and Malyshko two. The order remained the same, but Norway held a 44-second lead. L’Abee-Lund cleaned, as did Fourcade, but the 32 second advantage was too much for even the speedy Fourcade to make up. Malyshko needed two additional spare rounds, but maintained third place.

Three from B-Team

The Norwegian team had an almost perfect day using only Björndalen using one spare round. Lars Helge Birkeland, one of the three men from the B-team on today's relay commented on the great shooting. "We practice for relays a lot in our group and today it paid off." All three of the young Norwegians performed like veterans, but the anchor L'Abee-Lund admitted, "I was really nervous before the competition."

Last Race with Friends

France's Jay was a bit emotional but happy with the final performance of his career today. "This was perfect, to leave with second in the relay and clean shooting. I shot clean in the sprint this week also. I think I had a good result today because my mind was clear and had nothing in my heart; I felt no pressure. Shooting clean is always hard... I wanted to finish with the relay; I wanted to celebrate my last race with my friends... It was a perfect ending."

We Will Miss Him

His teammate Martin Fourcade added, "He was a big man for the team. I was on the podium with him in my first World Cup victory. Many people talk about Olympic sprint, but there is no question that he was the best man that day in Vancouver and he proved it again with his medal in the pursuit there... We will miss him."

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