Anastasiya Kuzmina paced the competition with a blistering time during the women's 7.5km sprint, taking home the gold medal on Day 2 of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Kuzmina was the 2010 champion at Vancouver in the 10k pursuit, defeating Germany's Magdalena Neuner. Neuner ended up winning the silver medal, but she was heavily favored to win gold.
Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today puts her 2014 performance in perspective:
Make it two in a row. Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina won her second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 7.5 km sprint, with a time of 21:06:8. She earned the gold in 2010 in the Vancouver games with a time of 19:55.6. Although Kuzmina’s time this year was well off her 2010 pace, she obliterated the field, winning by 19.9 seconds.
Nearly a year ago in March, Kuzmina had said that her goal was to work hard enough to get back to the podium. It looks like that worked pretty well for her:
A Russian-born athlete, Kuzmina represents Slovakia in the Olympics. While it was probably great for her to win in front of her home fans, the spectators likely have mixed feelings watching her win in such dominant fashion.
Russia did get to see Olga Vilukhina take home the silver medal, though.
Here's a look at the top-10 finishers of the event:
|1||Anastasiya Kuzmina (Slovakia)||0+0||0||21:06.8||0.0|
|2||Olga Vilukhina (Russia)||0+0||0||21:26.7||+19.9|
|3||Vita Semerenko (Ukraine)||0+0||0||21:28.5||+21.7|
|4||Karin Oberhofer (Italy)||0+0||0||21:34.7||+27.9|
|5||Anais Bescond (France)||1+0||1||21:36.7||+29.9|
|6||Dorothea Wierer (Italy)||0+0||0||21:37.4||+30.6|
|7||Weronika Nowakowska-Ziemniak (Poland)||1+0||1||21:37.6||+30.8|
|8||Elisa Gasparin (Switzerland)||0+0||0||21:38.2||+31.4|
|9||Darya Domracheva (Belarus)||1+0||1||21:38.6||+31.8|
|10||Tora Berger (Norway)||1+0||1||21:40.6||+33.8|
The Italians finished with two athletes in the top 10 (Karin Oberhofer and Dorothea Wierer), though neither was able to medal. Oberhofer finished fourth in the event, about six seconds behind third-place finisher Vita Semerenko of Ukraine.
The United States didn't have a single finisher within the top 10, and as ESPN Stats & Info points out, they've actually never had an athlete win gold in the biathlon:
The 1st biathlon event of this year's Olympics starts in 30 minutes; only Winter Olympic sport in which the U.S. has never won a medal.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 8, 2014
Susan Dunklee was the closest, finishing 14th in this event. She finished with a total time of 21 minutes and 48.3 seconds, 41.5 seconds behind Kuzmina. She incurred one penalty and was 0+1 shooting.
The next closest American was Sara Studebaker in 44th place.
The women's slate of biathlon events is far from over. There's still time for Slovakia and Kuzmina to continue dominating the field. There will be several events spaced out between Feb. 11 and Feb. 21 for the women's competitors.
It will be interesting to see either of the 7.5km sprint pre-race favorites—Darya Domracheva and Tora Berger—fare better in other events.
Domracheva of Belarus finished in ninth, while Berger of Norway finished 10th.
Kuzmina will next compete in the women's pursuit event on Tuesday.