Berger started with bib number 2 today and looked like she was well on her way to her fifth individual win in a row. She shot clean in prone, and held the lead. Then she missed a single shot in standing and opened a slight opportunity, which Ekholm seized. The Swedish star who claims that there is no secret to her shooting skill, other than “I am calm and believe in myself and maybe good genes,” was at her best and cleaned both stages with supreme confidence.
Ekholm moved ahead of Kaisa Mäkäräinen (FIN) to take the overall World Cup lead with her victory. Mäkäräinen had controlled the Yellow Bib since the first competition of the season in Ekholm’s hometown of Östersund, Sweden. Several weeks ago, Ekholm said she enjoyed pursuing Mäkäräinen rather than being pursued by everyone. Ekholm won the overall World Cup title in 2009 and finished third last season after a disastrous Olympic Games. The personable Ekholm was an overwhelming favourite to win several medals in Vancouver, but struggled with the pressure and went home empty-handed.
She commented on the win in a place far from the crowd-filled stadiums of middle Europe. “After Antholz, I was not so satisfied, so this is really good. . . It was a little easier to concentrate here, with less people and it is more relaxed.” She is more at ease than earlier in the season as she now has recovered from a disappointing Olympic experience last February. “I am quite relaxed this year. I am sure that nothing can be that bad again. I am just relaxed when I ski and think everything is better than the Olympics.”
With everyone preparing for the Biathlon World Championships in Russia in just over a month, Ekholm thinks the US events offer a good respite from the pressure of last month’s big high-pressure World Cups. “We are far away from home and there are no journalists here from Sweden, so it is nice to get away from all of that for a little bit.”
Berger was not so disappointed to finish second saying, “I am happy with second. It was a good race today, but Helena was a little bit better.” She commented on the course. “I like the course here; it was a little bit hard, so it was good for me. It was not so fast, because the snow is quite cold.”
Semerenko who had a career best today only arrived in Presque Isle less than 36 hours before her start. After a series of fourth place finishes this season, the podium was quite satisfying. “This was very satisfying for me. Like any athlete, I have goals and today I reached one of them.”
Studebaker’s teammate Haley Johnson of Lake Placid, NY finished 43rd, with two penalties, 2:00.3 back. The top Canadian was Rosanna Crawford in 46th place, with one penalty, 2:34.6 back. Crawford is the younger sister of Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford.
Michaela Ponza of Italy had her best result in almost two years in fourth place, 22 seconds back with clean shooting.
Full results HERE.