Sunday, February 26, 2006

GUEST POST -- Disl, Disl, Disl!!!

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:16 AM |  

Mark Yost, Opinion Page Associate Editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and diehard biathlon fan (or is it just women with weapons) has reported on "only sport that really matters during the Winter Olympics" here , here, here, here and here. If you're from Bemidji, don't read this.

Ushci Disl, the ubergirl of biathlon, didn’t disappoint her legion of fans in Torino Saturday, taking home the Bronze Medal in the 12.5 women’s Mass Start event. The third-place finish was significant because, at 35, Disl is the most-decorated Olympic athlete in the history of the sport. Many believe this will be her last Olympics as a competitor.

Anna Carin Olofsson of Sweden captured the Gold Medal and Disl’s German teammate, Kati Wilhelm, took home the Silver, helping Germany maintain its overall medal count lead over the U.S., 28-23 as of this writing. Martina Glagow, Brian “Saint. Paul” Ward’s favorite biathlete, finished fourth, giving Germany three of the top-five spots. Florence Baverel-Robert of France, who won the 7.5K Sprint race (), finished fifth.

Olofsson won the Silver Medal in the women’s 12.5K Pursuit race, but that was the last time the former cross-country Olympian raced, so she had a week off to rest. She needed the extra juice.

Olofsson skied and shot flawlessly over the first three of four stages. In the 12.5K Mass Start race, the top-30 finishers in the 15K Individual competition all start at once. They stop four times to shoot; twice prone and twice standing.

Olofsson built up a lead of nearly 35 seconds over Wilhelm going into the final shooting cycle. But Olofsson missed one target in the final standing shoot, forcing her to ski one 150-meter penalty loop. That allowed Wilhelm to pull within 9.6 seconds, but that was as close as she would get.
Olofsson finished the San Sicario course 40 minutes, 36.5 seconds. Wilhelm finished 18.8 seconds back; Disl was 41.9 seconds behind Olofsson.

Disl now has nine Olympic medals (but an individual Gold has eluded her). Coming into the Torino Games, she had eight of the 14 Olympic Medals won by German women. Her outstanding performance in Saturday’s 12.5K Mass Start race also further questions Germany’s decision not to include Disl in the 4 x 6K Relay event on Thursday. The Russian women won the Gold Medal, shooting almost perfectly, while the German’s missed eight targets, including three misses by Katrin Apel. The Germans finished 50.7 seconds behind the Russians.

No Americans competed in the women’s mass start race.

In the men’s 15K Mass Start race, Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was snake bit again. The Olympic biathlon favorite coming into Torino, Bjoerndalen had a commanding lead going into the final shooting stage and missed two targets. That required him to ski two 150-meter penalty loops, allowing Germany’s Michael Greis, who missed just one shot, and Poland’s Tomasz Sikora, who also missed one target, to pass Bjoerndalen. Greis, who also won the 20K Individual race and was part of German’s Gold Medal-winning relay team, held on to take the Gold. Sikora earned Poland’s first Olympic biathlon medal, taking home Silver, 6.3 seconds behind Greis. Bjoerndalen finished third, 12.3 seconds back.

American Jay Hakkinen was America’s best hope for a Medal coming into the Games, but has struggled. In Saturday’s race he was as high as eighth, but faded in the closing stages to finish 13th, 1 minute, 9.6 seconds behind Greis.