By Philip O’Connor
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Sweden’s Hanna Oeberg made all 20 shots to pull off a shock victory in the women’s Olympic 15km individual biathlon on Thursday, holding off Germany’s double Olympic champion Laura Dahlmeier who had to settle for third after a costly early miss.
Oeberg shot clean and skied brilliantly to finish in a time of 41:07.2 minutes, 24.7 seconds ahead of Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia who missed two shots but still managed to add another silver medal to the one she won in Monday’s pursuit race.
It was a stunning victory for the 22-year-old Swede, who was awarded the International Biathlon Union’s rookie of the year honor in 2017 and is ranked 58th in the World Cup standings.
Germany’s Dahlmeier looked invincible in Pyeongchang as she stormed to two gold medals, but an early miss in the first prone shooting cost her the chance of a third gold.
The strong winds and biting cold of the early days of the Games gave way to warmer temperatures as Oeberg and Kuzmina made the early running, and with each miss bringing a one-minute penalty, clean shooting was at a premium.
Oeberg, who started 24th of the 90 athletes, shot clean and sprinted her last lap to take the lead ahead of Kuzmina, who missed twice but made up for it with fast work on the snow.
With Dahlmeier out 80th of the 87 competitors, a teary Oeberg embraced her team mates as she endured a long wait to see if her superb performance would be good enough for gold.
The 24-year-old German shot clean at the third shoot to reduce Oeberg’s lead to 32 seconds but she could not reduce the gap any further.
“I’m overwhelmed,” an emotional Oeberg told Eurosport. “I felt after the prone shooting that I’d hit the standing shots too. I’m actually impressed with myself.”
Wolfgang Pichler, who coaches both Oeberg and men’s silver medalist Sebastian Samuelsson, told Reuters that Oeberg’s sensational win was the result of a grueling training regimen that started last May.
“We train hard. I cannot explain in just a few words, but it’s a system that I prepared in 1992 – there are many ways to Rome, but I know one way to Rome, and I follow it directly,” Pichler said.
“We had luck also, we had a good start, and with a good start comes the flow, and then it goes from there,” he added.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)