Sweden’s Bjorn Ferry overcomes leader’s start to win gold medal in men’s biathlon pursuit

By Arnie Stapleton, AP
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ferry gives Sweden gold in men’s biathlon pursuit

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Bjorn Ferry of Sweden won the men’s 12.5-kilometer biathlon pursuit for his first Olympic medal, kicking up his right ski in jubilation as he crossed the finish line having secured his country’s first biathlon gold in a half century.

“I am 31, and I’ve waited for this my whole life,” said Ferry, who gave the Swedes their first triumph in an Olympic race since Klas Lestander won gold in the 20K at Squaw Valley in 1960.

Ferry took the lead on the final lap after his fourth shoot and had a winning time Tuesday of 33 minutes, 38.4 seconds, 16.5 seconds faster that silver medalist Christoph Sumann of Austria.

France’s Vincent Jay, who started first after winning the 10K sprint in his Olympic debut Sunday, took the bronze, 28.2 seconds back.

Ferry started 1 minute, 12 seconds behind Jay, and Sumann was 1:24 back.

Norway great Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who started in 17th place, was in position to challenge for the podium until his only two misses of the day on his final shoot. He slipped to seventh.

Jay and Ferry left the range together after both missed one of five targets on their fourth and final shoot and had to circle the 150-meter penalty loop.

They still were way ahead of the pack, and Ferry, who had just the one miss, quickly pulled away from Jay, who missed two targets, same as Sumann.

Just like in the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit earlier in the day, there were problems in the men’s race with officials who were supposed to make sure the athletes started their races on time.

While three women went off late in the first race, including the fourth-place finisher, Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek, two athletes went off too early in the men’s race, including Jeremy Teela, of Heber City, Utah.

Teela left 22 seconds before he was supposed to and that amount was docked from his finishing time, dropping him from 20th to 24th. Canadian Jean Philippe Leguellec was penalized 30 seconds for starting early, sending him from fifth place to 11th.

Norbert Baier, the International Biathlon Union’s technical delegate, called the blunders an embarrassment but acknowledged the IBU had been warned that there were inexperienced officials handling the start gates.

“It is embarrassing,” said Baier, who handled one of the start gates himself but didn’t have any issues. “I can’t understand why this can happen. It was so easy to start today. … Why do we have this incompetence?”

Baier said the official who erred in the women’s race was from Switzerland and wasn’t allowed to work the men’s race, where the official who goofed was from the Czech Republic.

Because the rest of the slate doesn’t include closely staggered start times like these, it won’t be an issue in the remaining races.

Because the starting times in the pursuit were based on the finish times of the previous race, America’s best biathlete, Tim Burke, of Paul Smiths, N.Y., didn’t go off until Vincent had been on the course for nearly three minutes, an impossible deficit.

“This was a training session for me,” said Burke, who was done in by a mid-race snowstorm in the sprint and moved up just one spot to finish in 46th Tuesday. “After that crazy sprint, I knew I didn’t have a chance.”

Burke, who two months ago became the first U.S. biathlete to wear the coveted yellow bib as the overall World Cup leader, still expects to contend for America’s first Olympic medal in the European-dominated sport that combines cross country skiing with rifle marksmanship.

His next chance is in Thursday’s 20-kilometer individual event.

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