ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – Justine Braisaz-Bouchet may not have had the brightest of starts to the Beijing Olympics, but she finished it in the best way possible by striding to gold in the women’s 12.5 km mass start on Friday.
Braisaz-Bouchet burst out of the pack midway through the race to take control, eclipsing the Norwegian pairing of Tiril Eckhoff and Marte Olsbu Roieseland, who took silver and bronze, and cruising to an unexpected gold medal.
The 25-year-old finished in 40th place in the 15 km individual race and 48th in the sprint, but she put that disappointment behind her with Friday’s golden performance.
“The individuals and sprint, I really wanted to do something good I knew I was able to, but on the track I was so bad in the shootings too, despite the good conditions,” she said.
“If a biathlete does a bad race, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good biathlete. I really trusted my chances today and took it with a big smile.”
Amid a wicked wind and bitterly cold temperatures, Braisaz-Bouchet’s decision to put her poor start to the Beijing Games behind her paid dividends.
“It’s the first race of the Olympics that I didn’t think about medals or results. I was just happy and lucky to take part in this mass start, and I really wanted to race today, despite the conditions,” she explained.
The French athlete handled the conditions better than the rest of the field, keeping her cool on the final shoot before streaking away to victory with no thought for the Norwegians in her wake.
“Absolutely not … I had good skis and I thought that I will be okay on the track today, I just took the opportunities and I was really calm today,” Braisaz-Bouchet said.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)