ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – A few eyebrows were raised when Sochi bronze medal winner Denise Herrmann decided to move from cross-country skiing to biathlon in 2016, but it paid off handsomely on Monday as she won gold for Germany in one of her new sport’s biggest races.
Herrmann held off a strong field to win the classic 15 km distance, vindicating her switch in the best way possible.
“I come from a traditional sport in cross-country skiing. I made the decision to change (to biathlon) in Holmenkollen, in this Oslo traditional place (in Norway) – I think I like traditions,” a delighted Herrmann told a media conference.
Her decision to make the switch was not as surprising as it first seemed when she announced it.
“I was super-interested (in biathlon), with the shooting, and I tried it in 2012. It was super amazing, it was exciting, but I decided to wait some years more,” the 33-year-old explained.
“In my mind, all the time I had the idea to change and then I thought ‘now or never’. I’m really happy that I made the step. This kind of sport is totally different to cross-country skiing.”
On Monday she handled the shooting like she had been doing it all her life, missing only one of her 20 shots on the range as she swept to victory.
“I tried to focus on every target, not focus on range time or fast shooting. I think I was really slow in shooting, but it is not important in the individual (races), just to shoot clean,” she said.
Even though this is what she had worked for since changing sports six years ago, Herrmann could scarcely believe that it had finally become a reality.
“It was a dream, but I never believed that it is enough for gold,” she said.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Hugh Lawson)