With 30 biathletes starting all at the same time, the mass start is always a little chaotic. This year it's been even moreso -- but because of who hasn't started. The men's race, which was supposed to happen yesterday, was delayed twice due to fog. It's now scheduled to take place tomorrow. The male biathletes have found things to do during their unexpected days off:
Here is how ridiculously good Domracheva has been in Sochi: none of the other women's biathlon top three finishers over the last four races have repeated the accomplishment, and no woman has ever won three biathlon golds in one Olympics. Of Belarus' six medals in these Olympics so far, four (Domracheva's three golds and Teja Gregorin's pursuit bronze) have come from female biathletes. Domracheva alone accounts for half of Belarus' medals. Domracheva is now Belarus' most successful Olympian ever.
Domracheva took the lead early on and never gave it up. She missed just one target in the last shoot, but by then was far enough ahead that it didn't matter. She even had time to do a little premature celebration, swinging her ski pole above her head as she crossed the finish line.
"I was really thankful for these peoples here for this great support," Domracheva told NBC afterwards. She chalked her great shooting up to some "good advices" she sought from a shooting coach after she had a "quite difficult summer."
"I dreamed about it and dreams come true!" Domracheva said of her gold threepeat.
Twenty seconds behind her was the Czech Republic's Gabriela Soukalova. Her mother was a silver medalist in cross country three decades ago, something she has apparently never let her poor daughter live down. Soukalova told the AP: "I hope my mother is going to be happy that I am now as successful as her."
In third was a Norwegian, though not the one we expected. Tora Berger, who won a silver in the pursuit, fell early on in the race and just never got her groove back. She came in 15th, with two misses. But Tiril Eckhoff was able to get a bronze for Norway, taking third place from Germany's Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle in the final lap. Eckhoff told the AP the secret of her success: "I ate a burger and decided just have a good day." It's always a good day when you eat a burger! (Unless you are a cow.)
Switzerland's Selina Gasparin, who placed second in the individual race, placed 10th today, finishing in dramatic fashion:
Maybe she should've had a burger. But at least she finished! Her sister Elisa was the only racer who didn't.
So yes, America didn't win a medal again. But! Susan Dunklee was the first American to even qualify for the women's mass start (it only takes the top 30) and she came in 12th, missing three targets but skiing fast enough to finish ahead of several women who missed two and even one target. It's an American woman's best biathlon finish ever.
Unfortunately, this was probably Dunklee's last chance for a medal in Sochi. The final two races are team events, where the United States isn't expected to do much of anything. Nor is Belarus, so we'll probably see someone besides Domracheva on top of the podium next time.
Complete standings can be found at Sochi's official site.