February 12, 2011 (Fort Kent, Maine) – Emile Hegle Svendsen of Norway took the men’s 12.5km pursuit competition today after a thrilling final lap duel with Martin Fourcade (Fra) than ended in a photo finish. Both men had a single penalty and were timed at 35:46. Third went to Tarjei Boe of Norway, with three penalties, 1:00.3 back.
From the outset, the battle was between Svendsen and Fourcade. Although both shot clean in the first prone stage, Svendsen held a 9-second lead leaving the stadium. Fourcade quickly closed the gap and was locked on the Norwegian’s shoulder for the next two loops. They both shot clean simultaneously in the second prone. Their initial tight battle ended when Fourcade had a penalty in the first standing stage, while Svendsen shot clean and got a gap.
The tables reversed in the final standing stage, when Svendsen had to tour the penalty loop and Fourcade was perfect. They went back into the Maine woods separated by just 2 seconds. Fourcade quickly closed the gap and they were elbow-to-elbow for the next 2.2km. They entered the stadium in a full sprint side-by-side. Fourcade seemed to have the edge until the final five meters when Svendsen pulled up just a bit and out-leaned Fourcade who tumbled to the ground.
Svendsen almost seemed relieved that he won the competition after the battle with Fourcade. “I saw Martin shoot clean as I was on the penalty loop and thought, ‘Oh my god’. We were not actually skiing that fast in the first part of the final loop. I knew he was a very strong skier and I knew he was there with me.
“I tried to save some energy for one last attempt. I tried to do that over by the wax cabins and hold it until the finish. But he was super strong and stayed with me. It came to a sprint and I was sure he was before me at some point. But I think I was stronger in the final meters. I managed to pull it off and am very happy about that.”
Fourcade had similar feelings to Svendsen as they approached the final loop. “I saw Emil on the penalty loop and had to make a decision, take it easy and go on the final loop by myself or try to catch him. I decided to go after him and hit all five.”
He was philosophical about second place. “This is a strange weekend. In the sprint I missed the podium by a half second and today miss the win. I hope tomorrow to reverse that trend.”
Boe retained the yellow Jersey, but said he let down a bit in the final standing stage, missing two shots while knowing he could not move up. “I saw Martin hitting all of the targets and knew Emil was away. I thought ‘no chance to take the top two.’ I knew there was a big gap and I had no chance so I took it too easy.”
Lowell Bailey of the US continued his run of strong performances with a move from 31st at the start to 25th at the finish despite a rookie move as he came into his third shooting stage two clips short losing about 40 seconds. Despite the blunder, which likely cost him a top-20 result, he maintained his composure shooting clean and missed only two shots – one in the first prone stage and the second in the final standing stage – to finish 3:23.7 behind Svendsen.
“That was such a stupid mistake. I can’t blame anyone but myself,” said Bailey in a US Biathlon release. “I just took two out of the four needed clips with me. I had some troubles zeroing and focused more on the wind and my problems in prone. I simply forgot to take the two other clips with me. I waved at the coach but I probably lost more than 40 seconds waiting for some extra clips. Of course it’s not their fault. Something like that shouldn’t happen in the first place.”
American Jay Hakkinen also had another solid day, as he got away with just three penalties to finish 34th at 4:35.5 back. Beyond those two men, it was another less-than-stellar day for North Americans.
Canada’s Brendan Green had three penalties in 39th place at 4:51.1 back, just ahead of the USA’s Leif Nordgren, with five penalties. Canuck JP Le Guellec finished 44th, while Scott Perras was 48th, one place ahead of Tim Burke of the USA.
Michal Slesingr of the Czech Republic after falling back in the middle of the competition had a brilliant last 2.5km to move into fourth, with three penalties, at 1:19.6 back, just ahead of Sweden’s clean-shooting Carl Johan Bergman, 1:20.1 back. Sixth went to Christoph Sumann of Austria, with three penalties, 1:56.2 back.
Full results HERE.