Ole Einar Bjørndalen shoots down Olympic records in biathlon
Norwegian legend becomes most decorated Winter Olympian of all time
When it comes to the greatest Winter Olympians of all time, you can usually count their medal totals on two hands.
Adding up the hardware for Ole Einar Bjørndalen, however, almost requires a calculator.
The Norwegian legend captured two biathlon gold medals in Sochi to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever. His total of 13 podium finishes is one more than countryman Bjorn Daehlie, the famous cross-country skier.
Bjørndalen’s victories in the men’s 10 km sprint and the mixed relay gave him a total of eight gold, four silver and one bronze in his illustrious career.
The 38-year-old biathlete made his Olympic debut at Lillehammer in 1994. Sochi marked his sixth and likely final Olympic appearance, as he is expected to retire this year.
Bjørndalen wasn’t the only man to leave the competition in his tracks in the biathlon events.
Frenchman Martin Fourcade, competing in his second Winter Olympics, won the men’s 12.5 km pursuit early in the Games, and followed that with another win in the men’s individual 20 km race three days later.
Fourcade had a chance to become a triple gold medallist in the men’s 15 km mass start event, and he almost accomplished the feat. The 25-year-old was in a dead heat with rival Emil Svendsen of Norway for most of the race, and it appeared as though the two skiers had crossed the finish line at the exact same time.
Unfortunately for Fourcade, a finish-line photo determined that the tip of one of Svendsen’s skis had crossed the line first, forcing the Frenchman to settle for silver.
Medals in their sights
Canada has been making great strides in biathlon in recent years, and that progress was in evident in Sochi.
Jean-Philippe Le Guellec's sixth-place finish in the 10 km sprint in Vancouver represented the best-ever Canadian Olympic result in the biathlon at that point, and he came even closer to the podium in Sochi, finishing fifth in the same event.
Le Guellec had another strong race in the men’s 15 km mass start, finishing 10th, and he helped the Canadian team achieve a seventh-place result in the men’s relay.
Calgarian Nathan Smith added a few respectable results of his own, placing 11th in the 12.5 km pursuit and 13th in the 10 km sprint.
Brendan Green, from Hay River, N.W.T., was the top Canadian in the 15 km mass start, placing ninth.
In the women’s events, most of the excitement involved the battle for second place, thanks to the dominance of Darya Domracheva of Belarus.
The 27-year-old biathlete captured three gold medals in Sochi, winning the 10 km pursuit, the 12.5 km mass start, and the 15km individual race.
She added a ninth-place result in the 7.5 km sprint, and anchored Belarus to a fifth-place finish in the 4x6 km relay.
Megan Imrie was the best of the Canadian side, with top-30 finishes in the 10 km pursuit, 15 km individual, and 12.5 km mass start events.
Zina Kocher, Rosanna Crawford, and Megan Heinicke rounded out the rest of the Canadian squad, which managed an eighth-place finish in the 4x6 km relay.
The women's biathlon also had the first doping scandal of the 2014 Winter Olympics, as German Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle tested positive for a banned substance and was immediately sent home.