UPDATED: Norwegian athletes at home in Oslo for the Nordic World Ski Championships weren’t the only ones winning medals during the past week. Budding biathlon star Tarjei Bø also led his team to victory at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Championships in Russia and won more over the weekend.
Bø overtook Germany’s Michael Greis on the anchor leg of the mixed relay to claim the gold in one hour, 14 minutes and 22.5 seconds. The Norwegian team of Bø, Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Tora Berger and Ann Kristin Flatland used just seven spare rounds to win the gold medal.
Germany finished 22.9 seconds back, with eight spare rounds, while France claimed the bronze medal, with eight spare rounds, 1:16.7 back. Several hundred biathlon fans braved wind and cold to watch the medals ceremony, although local fans missed having Russians among the winners.
Bø is already being called “the new Bjørndalen,” with biathlon experts speculating he’ll take over as a star of the sport from the multiple-medal-winning Bjørndalen. His performance in the Siberian enclave of Khanty-Mansijsk is fortifying the assessments, not least after he went on to win a bronze medal on Saturday in the sprint world championship. Arnd Peiffer of German won the gold and Martin Fourcade the silver.
On Sunday both Bø and teammate Emil Hegle Svendsen made it onto the winners’ platform again, winning bronze and silver respectively in the men’s pursuit. Fourcade of France won the gold.
Bø told the IBU the medals were “a dream for me,” with the bronze “bigger than people think, I knew this sprint would be very hard, so I’m very happy with this medal.”
Unlike the massive crowds at the Nordic world championships at Holmenkollen, Bø and his fellow biathlon stars aren’t attracting as many spectators in Khanty-Mansijsk as they’d expected. While more than 100,000 turned out in Oslo, only around 5,000 attended Saturday’s sprint final in the windswept Siberian city.
“I expected 20,000 people, since the Russian fans are so passionate,” Bø said at a press conference after the event. “I’m not sure what the problem is, but I want big crowds cheering. It helps us and the Russian ahtletes.
“Maybe the organizers should give away some free tickets,” he added.
Bø, Berger, Bjørndalen, Flatland and the rest of the biathlon athletes can hope for bigger crowds at the next World Cup event for the sport at Holmenkollen that begins March 17.