Darya Domracheva of Belarus made it a 2014 Winter Games gold-medal hat trick after she blew away the field in the women's 12.5-kilometer mass start on Day 10 in Sochi, Russia.
After scoring gold in the 10-kilometer pursuit and the 15-kilometer individual events, Domracheva posted a total time of 35 minutes, 25.6 seconds on Monday—a time more than 20 seconds better than the nearest competitor—to grace the top of the podium.
As Olivia Wittels of NBC Olympics pointed out before the race, a win would give Domracheva two slices of Olympic history:
Winning a 3rd gold medal would make Domracheva the 4th woman to win at least 3 events in one Winter Olympics (1st to do it in #biathlon)— Olivia Wittels (@owittels) February 17, 2014
Behind Domracheva's historic performance was silver medalist Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic with a 35:45.8 mark.
The race for bronze between Norway's Tiril Eckhoff and Germany's Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle was the most interesting moment of all, which saw the former come away with the last podium spot to round out a group that simply ran away from the rest of the field:
|25||28||NOR||Ann Kristin Aafedt Flatland||0+1+1+0||2||38:15.6||+2:50.0|
After a flawless first shooting range, Domracheva jumped out to a six-second lead and never looked back. It was a blistering pace many were right to wonder if she could keep without error, but the only issue for the star from Belarus was a single miss at the shooting range—on her fourth trip with the gold all but assured.
The end result was reminiscent of how events played out in the 15-kilometer individual race, as Domracheva told reporters after that event the credit should go to her service man for being able to get away from Soukalova, via Julien Pretot of Reuters:
"On a few loops I was with (Czech Gabriela) Soukalova and she was following me easily so I was a bit concerned. I think everyone saw that I had fantastic skis, it's thanks to my service man."
Suffice to say, Domracheva and her skis were once again in top form on Day 10.
For the 24-year-old Soukalova, the silver medal and a place on the podium is a relief after finishing in fourth place in both the 10-kilometer pursuit and the 15-kilometer individual events.
While relief is the right feeling for Soukalova, utter shock is the best way to describe the performance from Norway's 23-year-old Eckhoff. She had finished no better than 18th in the prior three events before Monday's action.
America yet again extended its medal drought in the biathlon discipline in Sochi. However, fans can take solace in the fact that Susan Dunklee, the country's only representative on Monday, came in 12th—the best finish for U.S. women in Olympic history:
At finish: @SusanDunklee 12th! Best ever finish for U.S. women in Olympic competition! 36:57.9/+3— US Biathlon (@USBiathlon) February 17, 2014
The host country had two representatives in front of fans, but Olga Vilukhina and Olga Zaitseva finished 22nd and 24th, respectively. The latter showed spectators early on in the race just how difficult the course truly was:
The brutal course was poetically dominated by Domracheva to end the individual women's biathlon events in Sochi.
Now, the focus shifts to relays, where Domracheva and Belarus should be the clear favorite. The mixed relay takes place on Wednesday, while the women's 4x6-kilometer relay takes place two days later.
Belarus figures to be a major player in both, especially thanks to the strong form of Nadezhda Skardino, who scored bronze in the 15-kilometer event.
As far as other contenders in the women's relay, Norway will obviously be strong thanks to Eckhoff and Tora Berger, while it would be unwise to sleep on the host nation considering Vilukhina won a silver in the 7.5-kilometer event recently.
Note: All info courtesy of Sochi2014.com unless otherwise specified.