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CESANA, Italy - Her heart pounding and her mind racing, Anna Carin Olofsson stood still as a statue as she pierced all five targets.
The Swede’s poise and precision were so spectacular at the first standing shoot that she built enough of a cushion to win the Olympic gold medal in the women’s 12.5km mass start biathlon Saturday — despite having to ski a penalty lap later.
She finished 18.8 seconds ahead of Kati Wilhelm and 41.9 in front of Uschi Disl, both of Germany.
Competing in her first Winter Games as a biathlete, the former Olympic cross-country skier gave Sweden its first biathlon gold medal since Klas Lestander in 1960. It came in the first Olympic mass start race.
“I haven’t been thinking about it yet, what it means to Sweden,” Olofsson said. “But for me, it means a lot.”
With the Germans on her trail, Olofsson simply had built too big of a lead to be caught.
“It’s a hard fight, every competition, because they are so very good,” Olofsson said. “They are complete biathletes. Good shooters and good skiers.”
Oloffson added to her silver medal in the sprint. Because the Swedes did not have a team in the relay race, she had a full week off, which helped her dominate the competition on the high-altitude, highly technical San Sicario course.
Disl also had a week off because she was left off Germany’s silver-winning relay team. She thinks that absence helped her make up the ground needed to grab the bronze.
“I was a little more fresh than the others in the last loop,” Disl said.
Disl led over the first hill, then Wilhelm was ahead of the pack. At the first standing shoot, Olofsson was so quick and accurate she came away more than 24 seconds ahead of Wilhelm. The gap later grew to nearly 35 seconds, then narrowed when Olofsson was forced to ski a 150-meter penalty lap for missing one of five shots on her final, standing shoot.
The mass start, featuring the top 30 competitors in biathlon and no Americans, is the ultimate race in the sport combining the rigor of cross-country skiing with the calm precision of rifle marksmanship. With all the competitors starting at the same time, there’s the added elements of jockeying and tactical risks on the loops.