Darya Domracheva earned the first medal for Belarus at the 2014 Sochi Olympics with her gold medal-performance in the Women's 10-kilometer pursuit biathlon.
Unlike many other Olympic events, there is a direct connection from a previous race as the start times line up based on the finishes for the sprint. Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina started things off with a 20-second lead thanks to her win on Sunday.
However, no one has ever won both the sprint and the pursuit at the Olympics and that did not change at Sochi. Despite a 32-second deficit to start, Domracheva finished with a time of 29 minutes and 30.7 seconds.
Douglas Gelevan of CBC provided a look at the exhausted competitor on her way through the finish line:
While speed is obviously important in any race, shooting accuracy is the biggest factor in the biathlon pursuit. There are four shooting stations, two prone and two standing, and any miss leads to an extra penalty lap.
This was a big story early on as the leader Kuzmina missed a shot on the second shooting bout. Domracheva then took the lead, which was built up to almost a full minute. However, even she missed on her 20th and final shot, according to Gelevan:
Domracheva misses he final shot! Opening the door to the rest of field— Douglas Gelevan (@DGelevan) February 11, 2014
It left the door open for any competitor to close the gap, but the pressure eventually got to Kuzmina, who was in second at the time. She missed on the final set as well, knocking the sprint winner out of the running, as noted by Olivia Wittels of NBC Olympics:
Kuzmina was not going to discount her chances heading into the race despite history not being on her side. The 29-year-old champion was asked if she could win a double and responded, "We will see. It's biathlon, you can never say what is written tomorrow," via Eric Willemsen of the Associated Press (h/t Sacramento Bee).
Unfortunately, her two missed shots dropped her to sixth place despite her outstanding skiing.
It took Domracheva's overall accuracy and great cross-country racing up and down the course in order to take gold.
Tora Berger of Norway had a similar showing and earned a silver medal after finishing 37.6 seconds back. Slovenia's Teja Gregorin rounded out the podium with a bronze medal.
While these are the best competitors in the world, the shooting struggles truly proved how tough the competition can be. Only two athletes—Ann Kristin Aafedt Flatland and Olga Zaitseva—hit all of their targets. Unfortunately, they each started over one minute behind and could not catch up.
Still, the story of the day was Domracheva and her outstanding run from start to finish, highlighted here:
Near-perfect race for Domracheva: 95% hit rate, best ski time, best isolated pursuit time, highest bib No for a Olympic pursuit winner (m/w)— real biathlon (@realbiathlon) February 11, 2014
The Belarusian dominated the field and was well-deserving of the gold medal in this competition.
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