Neuner commented on finally winning here after previously being second and third. “Yesterday I thought I could win today and I did it. It was a near perfect race for me. I used some tactics today. I went a little bit slower on the first two loops. Then after being perfect there, I pushed just before the first standing.”
The conditions for the women’s mass start matched that of the men; clear, cold and with little wind. The first seventeen women, led by Neuner cleaned the first prone stage. Kathrin Hitzer, Henkel, and Kaisa Mäkäräinen were hot on Neuner’s tail. Those four came to the second prone all together.
Neuner and Henkel were clean and got away first, while Mäkäräinen and Hitzer had a single penalty but stayed third and fourth position, 32 seconds back, just ahead of Miriam Gössner.
Neuner continued to extend her lead building up over 50 seconds over Henkel and Domracheva by the final standing stage. Even though she had a penalty, Neuner left over 20 seconds ahead of Henkel who was just a bit ahead of Domracheva. Tora Berger, another 30 seconds back would not challenge the top three at that point. The battle was for second, with Domracheva getting a small edge over Henkel with 800 meters to go, but Henkel pulled out all stops and got back to second by the finish.
Henkel was all smiles despite finishing second. “I like winning, but being second to Magdalena today is fine. I am happy any time I am on the podium.”
With two first places, one second and now being in Yellow and Red Bibs; this was a big week for her. “I did not know until after the finish that I was in Yellow and Red. This is one of the best weeks in career, but I am not sure, because I have had a long career!”
After Neuner called the big hill just out of the stadium “the Mount Everest of biathlon” yesterday, Domracheva confirmed just how hard it was on their legs after tackling it 13 times in competition this week. “For the girls all of these times up this big hill so many times were very hard. My legs are very tired.”
Yet after missing the two prone shots and falling out of contention for a top 20 finish, Studebaker came back with two clean standing stages – a positive experience against all of the top women. Her recent performances should give her good momentum going into the World Championships next month.
Today’s Mass Start competitions wrap up the IBU World Cup events in Maine. The series resumes later in March following the 2011 IBU World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia from March 3-13.
Full results HERE.