Update Arnd Peiffer dominates Canadians, rest of field to win biathlon sprint

German covers 10 km Olympic course in 23:38.8 to win his 1st Olympic gold medal

Arnd Peiffer dominates Canadians, rest of field to win biathlon sprint
Arnd Peiffer of Germany posted a surprising victory in the men's 10-kilometre biathlon sprint at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Gold-medal favourite Martin Fourcade of France was eighth. © Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

By Doug Harrison, CBC Sports

In less than 24 minutes, Arnd Peiffer turned what has been a disastrous World Cup season for the German men's biathlon team into a positive start at the Winter Olympics.

Ranked fifth in the world, the 30-year-old from Wolfenbüttel pulled away from the pack with a flawless display of shooting on a cold and windy Sunday night at Alpensia Biathlon Centre to win the men's 10-kilometre sprint for his first Olympic gold medal.

World No. 1 Martin Fourcade — like many in the field of 87 — missed his fair share of the five shooting targets from the prone position and placed eighth, while fellow gold-medal favourite and world No. 2 Johannes Boe of Norway was 31st after missing three shots from the prone position and one of five from the standing position. Another medal hopeful, Lukas Hofer of Italy, finished 10th.

"I don't know how this could happen," Peiffer said. "The other two guys, Martin and Johannes, they were dominating the whole season. They were dominating with their ski time; they were dominating on the range as well. So I didn't expect it was possible to be in front of them. I'm quite surprised."

Boe and Fourcade, the French flag-bearer in Pyeongchang, entered the Games having combined to win 14 of 15 World Cup races this season.

Boe just shrugged his shoulders, offering no explanation for his performance.

"This is the biathlon and this is the Olympics," he said. "It's hard."

Peiffer has made huge strides the past two years in his favourite discipline — he also competes in the pursuit, mass start and relay — placing seventh in the 10 km at the 2016 world championships in Holmenkollen, Norway.

Medal drought continues for Canada

He failed to medal in his Olympic debut at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, finishing 37th in the sprint. He won relay silver four years later in Sochi, Russia, and improved marginally in the sprint, finishing 34th.

Michal Krcmar of the Czech Republic (23:43.2) and Italy's Dominik Windisch (23:46.5) rounded out the podium on Sunday.

Calgary's Nathan Smith was the top Canadian in 44th in 25:22.3, followed by Scott Gow (61st, 25:52.8), Christian Gow (62nd, 25:53.5) and Brendan Green (82nd, 26:48.0).

It's been more than 20 years since Canada last won a biathlon medal at the Winter Games.

Meanwhile Fourcade, coming off a two gold and silver performance in Sochi, has been the sport's most dominant competitor since the 2011-12 season, highlighted by his 24 podiums in the 2016-17 campaign, including 10 victories at the 15 individual World Cup events.

Entering a World Cup event at Oberhof, Germany in early January, the 29-year-old had only twice failed to make the top three in his previous 36 races.

Boe needs 'perfect' pursuit to be in medal mix

Boe, 24, was in top form entering the Olympics with victories in five of his first seven World Cup races this season.

The seeding for Monday's 12.5 km pursuit is based on the times from the sprint race, so Fourcade will start 24 seconds behind the leader, while Boe will begin one minute 24 seconds behind.

"I have no chance with mistakes," Boe said. "I have to make the really perfect race to be fighting for a medal. Even then I might be too far back."

Fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjorndalen, 44, was left off the team this year due to poor form, ending his Olympic career at six Winter Games.

In Sochi, the man known as "The King" to those who follow the biathon became the oldest individual Winter Olympic champion in Sochi, where Bjoerndalen also passed countryman Bjorn Daehlie for the career Winter Games medal record at 13.

He sits fourth on the all-time Games medal list behind American swimmer Michael Phelps (28), and gymnasts Larisa Latynina (18) and Nikolai Andrianov (15) of the former Soviet Union.

With files from The Associated Press