Germany's Kathrin Hitzer elated with the win. © Peter Graves
February 05, 2011 (Presque Isle, Maine) – The German Mixed Relay team of Kathrin Hitzer, Magdalena Neuner, Alexander Wolf and Daniel Böhm posted a strong effort to win gold, with eleven spare rounds in 1:13:31.6 at the E.ON. IBU World Cup Biathlon in Presque Isle on Saturday.
The victory was appreciated by their big fan base in Europe, who did not expect the win after some of the top stars were not part of the team.
Although the competition started at 2:25 EST, it was shown live on Saturday prime-time 8:25 PM in Europe – the only biathlon telecast in that time slot this season. Several other competitions have been shown in the dinner hour in the past two months but none in this slot. The German broadcasters in Presque Isle expected over five million televisions to be focused on the mixed relay today. Friday’s sprints had just over four million viewers in Germany. Viewership for the other nations on the live broadcast is not available yet.
Mixed relay gets underway... © Herb Swanson
On paper before the start, four teams looked like they would battle for the podium; Germany, France, Italy and Russia. Germany had Kathrin Hitzer and Magdalena Neuner; France had three Olympic medalists, Italy which has been strong all season in relays, and Russia had stars Ivan Tcherezov and Svetlana Sleptsova.
Studebaker, Ponza and Crawford lead off... © Herb Swanson
Although the German team was one of the favorites, it was not their top line-up, as Wolf struggled in yesterday’s sprint, not making the pursuit field. Hitzer commented, “We are all good biathletes and we can pick very good athletes to have a good team. Alexander had a good zero yesterday and then had some problems clicking during the race and did not make the pursuit. It’s very hard here with three races in a row here, and Alexander cannot start in the pursuit, so the coach said he would start today. I think it was a good decision.”
Germany's Neuner strong as usual. © Nordic Focus
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, twelve teams hit the tough tracks here in Presque Isle. At the first exchange, France, Germany, Italy and Russia were closely bunched. Neuner opened up a lead for Germany, using just three spare rounds in her two shooting bouts. Her typically brilliant leg put her team well in front with a bulge of over 52 seconds at the exchange with her teammate Alexander Wolf.
Behind her, the former cross-country skier Anna Karin Strömstedt did a good job for Sweden, bringing them up to second. Italy, after strong legs by Michaela Ponza and Katja Haller put them just behind Sweden with Russia lurking just behind. Ivan Tcherezov had a typically strong leg for Russia as did Olympic Sprint Champion Vincent Jay for France.
The final leg was set up with Germany just over thirty seconds ahead of Russia and France with Italy another 30 seconds back. In the final standing stage, Böhm came in about 30 seconds up on his rivals. He used two spare rounds and was out, with Alexis Beouf just 16.8 seconds back. Russia and Italy were another 35 seconds back.
Second at the finish was France with seven penalties, 27.9 seconds behind followed by Russia with thirteen spare rounds at 1:01.6 back, just four-tenths of a second ahead of Italy, who used eleven spare rounds.
USA's Jay Hakkinen - best leg of the day. © Herb Swanson
The US Team of Sara Studebaker, Haley Johnson, Jay Hakkinen, and Jeremy Teela made a strong run for the flower ceremony, but fell short finishing seventh, with one penalty and thirteen spare rounds, at 2;47.2 back. Studebaker had a strong leadoff leg, but Johnson slipped back a bit, leaving the red, white and blue team, in tenth position.
Haley Johnson of the USA on the range. © Herb Swanson
“It was a tough race, but especially today it was nice to have the crowd here supporting us,” said Studebaker.
Hakkinen had the best leg of the day, shooting clean in prone with no spares and using only one in standing. He made up considerable ground putting the team in striking distance of sixth as he tagged Teela.
Jeremy Teela skis the final leg for the USA. © Herb Swanson
Teela was brilliant in prone, shooting very fast despite using a spare round. With a chance at sixth place, the veteran needed all three spare rounds in standing, but still picked up a penalty. That mired him in seventh at the finish.
“It was a good day overall and a lot fun to race here,” commented Hakkinen. “It was my first mixed relay and I think it’s really is a great competition. Especially in front of the home crowd – it’s a lot of fun.”
Canada's Claude Godbout passes of to Scott Perras. © Herb Swanson
The Canadian team of Rosanna Crawford, Claire Godbout, Scott Perras and Nathan Smith used only nine spare rounds, but finished out of the top-10 in 12th at 4:17.8 beind Germany.
Full results HERE.