ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – There was no shortage of thrills and spills in Saturday’s biathlon mixed relay but once Johannes Thingnes Boe entered the fray on the last leg it seemed almost inevitable that Norway would win gold through the force of his character alone.
Illuminating the mixed zone with his megawatt personality, Boe, who has been isolated from his team as a suspected close contact of a positive COVID-19 case, leaned into a reputation for occasional brashness that he backs up out on the course.
“I knew it was going to end up this way, and I have been prepared for this,” he told reporters after his stunning last leg to snatch the gold medal ahead of France and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in a sprint finish.
The 2018 Olympic champion over the 20km distance does not suffer from a shortage of self-belief but it never tips over into arrogance.
“Since I came here on Monday I’ve seen what to do and my preparation for the last week, I already did it in my head a hundred times,” Boe said.
With the wind playing havoc on the shooting range, he did not allow himself to get bogged down when his team missed shots or had to ski penalty loops for too many misses.
For once, Boe took his time instead of attacking from the off on the last leg.
“I maintained my third place after the last shooting and I gained nine seconds quite fast, and I would have killed myself if I went in front in that wind,” he said, explaining his decision to hold back.
That left him with a sprint finish in front of the cameras that will have thrilled supporters at home in Norway, who had seen his countrywoman Therese Johaug nL8N2UG08K take the first gold of the Games just over an hour earlier.
“My feeling is that to anchor Norway to gold, it doesn’t get any bigger than that,” the newly-minted Olympic champion beamed before being whisked off back to isolation.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris)