Thursday, February 23, 2006

GUEST POST -- Nein Disl, Nein Goldmedaille

Posted by Craig Westover | 4:35 PM |  

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, and here. If you're from Bemidji, don't read this.

Would you play the Super Bowl with your second-string quarterback? Would you play an entire hockey game without a goalie? Would you try and vault without a pole?

Apparently so.

That’s exactly what the Germans did today in the women’s 4 x 6K biathlon race at the Winter Olympics in Torino when they left Uschi Disl, the most decorated athlete in Olympic biathlon history, out of the lineup. That opened the door for the Russian team of Anna Bogaliy, Svetlana Ishmouratova, Olga Zaitseva and Albina Akhatova to capture the Gold Medal, covering the San Sicario course in 1 hour, 16 minutes, 12.5 seconds.

The Germans team of Martina Glagow, Andrea Henkel, Katrin Apel and Kati Wilhelm skied slowly and shot horribly, finishing 50.7 seconds behind the Russians to take the Silver Medal, followed by Bronze Medal winner France, which overtook Belarus in the closing stage.

Of course, those of you who live within five miles of Lake Elmo knew this at 5 a.m. when you heard my screams of “Ach,” “Scheisse” and various and a sundry other German expletives. And it begs the question: Could they have made up that 50 seconds with the Turbo Disl on the team. I think they could have, both with Disl’s speed and her usualy outstanding shooting.

It is fair to note that the Russians were favored coming into the race. This is the same team that won the World Cup relay race at Ruhpolding Germany a month ago. But it was uncertain how the team would react to the loss of teammate Olga Pyleva, the Russian biathlete who was stripped of her silver medal in the 15K Individual race after it was discovered that she had used a banned substance.

The Russians answered that question fairly quickly. They jumped out to an early lead and shot masterfully, only missing two targets out of 40, while the Germans stumbled.

The format for the relay is a little different. Each skier shoots twice; once prone and once standing. They have eight bullets to hit five targets. If they miss and expend their five-round clip, they must load each extra bullet by hand, thus chewing up valuable time. If they fail to knock down all five targets with their eight bullets, they must then ski a 150-meter penalty loop for each target left standing.

Again, while the Russians only used two extra bullets, the Germans had to use eight. Apel had to ski one penalty loop, meaning that Wilhelm, who won the 10K Pursuit race, had little chance of catching Russian anchor Akhatova, who moved up to the bronze in the 15K Individual race when teammate Pyleva was disqualified.

Norway, which has fallen on hard biathlon times, finished fifth. The usually wretched U.S. team didn’t disappoint, finishing 15th out of 18 teams, 9 minutes, 7.8 seconds behind the Russians.

I’d also call your attention to the Polish team, which finished a respectable 7th. But more important, especially for Brian “Saint. Paul” Ward, is one Magdalena Grzywa, a 23-year-old beauty from Czernichow who prefers to put Lapua ammunition in her German-made Anschutz rifle and is known as “biathlon’s Anna Kournikova.”

You be the judge.