RUHPOLDING, Ger.—Nathan Smith wasn’t about to let the heavy snow that was plummeting down on the Ruhpolding biathlon track at the start of the men’s 15-kilometre mass start race to get in the way of a solid result.
Lining up with the top-30 athletes in the world, the Calgarian put his head down and ploughed through the slow conditions to turn in a solid 15th place outing with a time of 41:50.1.
“The ski course was extremely slow going with the fresh snow falling. The 15 kilometre time was close to what the winning time was for the 20 kilometre individual race,” said Smith. “I had been feeling kind of fatigued the last few races, but I am happy that I was able to overcome that by performing well on the shooting range and end up with a very respectful final result.”
Heavy snow wasn’t enough to throw Smith and the top biathletes on the planet off in their four rounds of shooting. After missing one shot in his opening prone round of shots, the 30-year-old Canuck was clean in his next prone and two standing bouts on the range.
“My shooting was really solid today. I would’ve expected 19 out of 20 to get me a little higher up the results list, but surprisingly 12 people shot 19 or better,” added Smith. “Since my miss came in the first prone, I ended up a little back heading out onto the second loop. With the next three cleans, I moved up a little each time but the field as a whole was shooting so well today, it was tough to make any big moves.”
Wearing bib number 30 didn’t deter Germany’s Erik Lesser from taking a charge at the podium. One of just two athletes to shoot clean on the day, the German locked up the gold medal with a time of 40:29.3.
Martin Fourcade, of France, was forced to ski the 150-metre penalty loop after missing one target in his final standing, but was still able to hold on for the silver medal with a time of 40:39.1. Russia’s Evgeniy Garanichev claimed the bonze medal despite also missing one in final standing. Garanichev clocked-in at 40:24.4.
Meanwhile, Rosanna Crawford of Canmore, Alta., secured the final spot in the women’s 12.5-kilometre mass start race. Crawford was competing in just her second race since returning from an extended holiday break where she got sick.
The slick-shooting Crawford also had a strong day on the range, missing just one shot in her final trip to the range. Crawford, 27, punched the clock at 43:29.7 for 19th spot.
“That was tough, tough skiing for me today. I felt like I was skiing through sand,” said Crawford. “But I am happy with my shooting. I am always amazed at the atmosphere here in Ruhpolding. 30,000 fans can make quite a lot of noise.”
The fans certainly had a lot to cheer about. With Gabriela Soukalova, of the Czech Republic, shooting clean to claim top spot on the podium with a time of 41:13.2, it was two Germans that grabbed the silver and bronze medals. Franziska Hildebrand was second at 41:27.1 (0+0+0+1), while Laura Dahlmeier finished just over 24 seconds off the pace in third at 41:37.6 (0+1+0+1).
The World Cup wraps up on Sunday in Ruhpolding with the women’s 4×6 kilometre relay.