Biathlon gold for Olofsson

Anna Carin Olofsson of Sweden cruised to gold in the women's inaugural 12.5km biathlon mass start race at the Winter Olympics on Saturday.

It was remarkable victory for the 32-year-old Swede who only converted to biathlon in 2003 after failing to finish higher than 30th in an event in the cross-country in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

The win was Sweden’s first in the biathlon since Klas Lestander’s individual gold medal in the Squaw Valley Games in 1960, and Olofsson was immediately congratulated on the track by Swedish King Carl Gustaf XVI.

The silver medal went to Kati Wilhelm of Germany, the overall World Cup leader who dominated the field to capture the 10km sprint crown last week, and the bronze to another German, the veteran Uschi Disl.

The fast-skiing Olofsson, who last week picked up a silver in the sprint event, completed the five gruelling circuits of the 2.5km Cesana San Sicario course in 40min 36.5sec.

Her time was a comfortable 18.8sec ahead of Wilhelm and 41.9sec in front of Disl.

“It was good from start to finish,” said Olofsson. “I had a good day on the shooting range. I know the skiing is good, so if my shooting goes well I can be at the top.”

The Swede said she switched to biathlon from cross-country because she had reached an insurmountable plateau in the latter.

“I had reached a level where I didn’t get any better. So it was either change sports or stop,” she said. “I felt I had more to offer.”

Disl did well to make up a 15sec last-lap deficit on team-mate Martina Glagow, who went into the race with a 100 percent record in this season’s mass start events, winning the two World Cup races in Oberhof and Antholz-Anterselva last month.

Disl’s third place finish raised her Olympic medal tally to an incredible nine – two golds, four silvers and three bronzes – dating back to the 1992 Albertville Games.

“My big goal was to win one medal here so I had one from every Olympics I’ve participated in,” the 35-year-old said.

“The colour of the medal was not important. It’s like a gold medal for me today.”

Olofsson was one of a trio of an early breakaway pack that included Wilhelm and Sandrine Bailly of France.

Bailly fell by the wayside after missing four of her 20 targets in her four visits to the shooting range, two prone and two shooting, and eventually finished 10th, 1:45.0 off the Swede’s blistering pace.

Crucially, Olofsson, who is ranked fifth in current World Cup standings and picked up a silver medal in the mass start at last year’s world championships, only picked up one penalty loop of 150m for her one missed target.

Olofsson’s cross-country pedigree showed through as she dominated the latter stages of the race, regularly increasing her lead on the peloton thanks to her fluent fast skiing.

Her pace left Wilhelm skiing for second place after she too incurred only one penalty for errant shooting with her .22 calibre rifle in clement but overcast conditions with none of the heavy snow that had hampered the men’s mass start just one hour earlier.