ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Darya Domracheva of Belarus picked up her second gold medal of the Sochi Olympics on Friday when she blew away the opposition in the biathlon 15km individual race.
Domracheva, who won the pursuit on Tuesday, made one mistake at the shooting range but it hardly mattered as she produced a dominant display on the skis.
“It was so hard I had to try to recover in the downhill sections,” Domracheva told a news conference.
“On a few loops I was with (Czech Gabriela) Soukalova and she was following me easily so I was a bit concerned,” she added before thanking her service man for the job done on her skis - a decisive part on soft snow in unusually warm weather.
“I think everyone saw that I had fantastic skis, it’s thanks to my service man,” she said.
Swiss Selina Gasparin shot cleanly but had to settle for silver, a gaping one minute 15.7 seconds behind the winner, and another Belarusian, Nadezhda Skardino, claimed the bronze, 1:38.2 off the pace.
Gasparin became the first Swiss to win an Olympic medal in biathlon.
“It’s incredible. I realized I had the potential for a medal (in a major championship) after my (World Cup) victories (last December),” she explained.
“But making it here on the biggest stage of all, it’s just insane. It’s also the first time of my life that I hit all 20 targets.”
Skardino said her hopes were fulfilled after she shared the podium with compatriot Domracheva.
“It was my dream to be on the podium with Darya,” she told a news conference.
Norwegian Tora Berger’s disappointing Olympics continued. She finished almost four minutes behind Domracheva in 16th place.
It quickly became apparent that Domracheva, who had sent a clear warning by comfortably winning the pursuit, was on good form.
She shot quickly before letting her skis do the talking and although several rivals still had to finish their race, it was obvious the gold medal was in the bag as soon as she crossed the line.
Just like France’s Martin Fourcade on the men’s side, Domracheva is so fast on the skis that she can afford a mistake on the shooting range.
Others did not have that luxury and Soukalova and Frenchwoman Anais Bescond, who made two mistakes each, had to settle for fourth and fifth places.
The next women’s event is the mass start in which Domracheva will be the hot favorite.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond