Norway takes gold in women’s 15k biathlon

Norway’s Tora Berger had the early time to beat in the ladies’ 15-kilometre individual biathlon on Thursday, and held onto her lead for the duration of the race to take gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

28-year-old Berger was the second competitor out of the gate, setting the pace early. She missed only her last shot of the fourth stage in the race, adding a one minute penalty to her time, finishing at 40:52.8.

Berger will reach the podium for her first time in these Games. She was fifth in the 10-kilometre pursuit on Tuesday.

Falling only 20 seconds behind Berger was Elena Khrustaleva of Kazakhstan, earning her a silver medal.

23-year-old Darya Domracheva, who had the best chance at a medal for Belarus at these Olympic Games, did not disappoint, bringing home a bronze for her country.

This was the first time at the 2010 Olympics that a French woman did not reach the podium in a biathlon event.

Frontrunner Magdalena Neuner finished in 10th place, marking the first time she has missed the podium at these Games. The 23-year-old German has already captured two medals in Vancouver, earning a silver in sprint and gold in pursuit. Neuner had three misses in the four stages of shooting, giving her three minutes of penalty time.

Four Canadians took part in the race, with Megan Tandy leading the way.  Tandy did not achieve her personal goal, but was still content with her race.

“I missed three targets, so that was a few too many to make my goal of top 30,” Tandy told CTV of her 50th place finish. “In the big picture, I’m still really satisfied and I think it was an acceptable race.”

Tandy was the only Canadian female to make it to the pursuit on Tuesday, qualifying in the sprint with a 46th place finish, and ending up in 36th. In order to qualify for the pursuit event, competitors must finish in the top 60 of the sprint.

Canada’s Zina Kocher ended this race in a disappointing 72nd place, after a strong start. Kocher missed only one target in her first stage, but missed all five of the second stage, bringing her penalty total to six minutes halfway through the race.

“I was happy with the start of my race,” Kocher said of her first stage. “At the start of my race, I was really dialed in.”

Kocher is now looking to the future.

“I guess I just have to focus on the relay and supporting my team,” she said, referring to the upcoming event that will take place on Tuesday, day 12 of the Olympics.

As for her finish, Kocher was surprised, but is motivated for the next Games.

“It’s a bit of a shocker, and not what I wanted,” she said. “And now I have another four years to work hard.”

Canada’s other two biathlon competitors, Megan Imrie and Rosanna Crawford, finished 62nd and 76th, respectively.