France's Martin Fourcade turned and gave onlookers a fist pump after he expertly hit every target with his rifle at the final range in the men's 12.5-kilometer pursuit biathlon at the 2014 Winter Games.
Fourcade simply dominated the field the entire way, and after his premature celebration he went on to cross the finish line with a total time of 33 minutes and 48.6 seconds with one penalty, a mark more than 14 seconds better than any other competitor.
It was rather easy to foresee Fourcade's gold very early in the race as he instantly distanced himself from the pack, as Douglas Gelevan of CBC illustrates:
The stunning display ruined the swansong for 40-year-old Olympic legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who had days prior claimed gold in the men's 10-kilometer sprint, which was his 12th Olympic medal.
Bjoerndalen finished in fourth place with a time of 34:14.5, a full 25.9 seconds out of first place despite his starting the race. His run at hardware was doomed by his sloppy three shooting penalties.
|Rank||Country||Name||Start Behind||Shooting||Total Penalties||Time||Behind|
|3||FRA||Jean Guillaume Beatrix||0:39||0+0+1+0||1||34:12.8||+24.2|
|4||NOR||Ole Einar Bjoerndalen||0:00||0+1+1+1||3||34:14.5||+25.9|
|7||NOR||Emil Hegle Svendsen||0:29||0+1+0+0||1||34:28.8||+40.2|
Fourcade's performance was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as he told reporters days before the event he wanted gold and to be happy with his showing, per Reuters via NBCOlympics.com:
"I come for gold, but at the end of the day, I just want to be happy with what I've done. I know I have to compete and to win but I also know I can't have an influence on others' performances."
Interestingly enough, Bjoerndalen was bit prophetic in his own pre-race interview:
"I will be happy with fourth place, if I give one hundred percent," six-times Olympic champion Bjoerndalen said.
Rounding out the podium behind Fourcade was Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic with his 34:02.7 total time, which earned him the silver. France's Jean Guillaume Beatrix took home the bronze with a 34:12.8 mark, just 1.7 seconds in front of Bjoerndalen.
The podium is especially sweet for Moravec, who finished a lackluster eighth in the 10-kilometer sprint. This time, Moravec was once again error-free with his rifle and quick enough to gain a measure of redemption and help to reinforce the Czech Republic's posture in the medal standings.
As Olivia Wittels of NBC points out, Moravec's journey was a rather easy one thanks to his accuracy and the misfires of those behind him:
After coming in at No. 14 in the 10-kilometer sprint, Guillaume Beatrix also redeemed himself with an impressive showing after starting 39 seconds behind the field and scoring bronze to ensure France's dominance on this particular podium.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day came from Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen, who figured to be a top contender considering his status as the sprint and pursuit world champion. Svendsen wound up in seventh place with a 34:28.8 mark, more than 40 seconds out of first place.
For the United States, the best hope for a medal once again fell on the shoulders of Tim Burke, who came in at No. 22 with a total time of 35:37.0 thanks to two penalty laps.
It was a disappointing showing overall for those who scored a medal in the 10-kilometer sprint. Austria's Dominik Landertinger, who won silver in the first event, finished an underwhelming 10th with three shooting misses and posted a 34:37.5 total time.
The last race's bronze medalist, Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic, wound up in 20th after a stunning four misfires and a total 35:35.0 mark despite starting just six seconds behind the first contestant.
Thanks to the strong showing from Fourcade and Guillaume Beatrix, France is effectively in the medal race in Sochi for the foreseeable future. The country's first two medals placed it in the top 10, well within striking distance of leaders such as the Netherlands and Canada.
On an individual level, Bjoerndalen must wait to pursue his record No. 13 medal after narrowly missing out on bronze. His three misfires that left him 1.7 seconds out of the bronze podium spot may prove to haunt the Olympic legend if it was indeed his last showing at a Winter Games.
Note: All results and info courtesy of Sochi2014.com unless otherwise specified.