By Philip O’Connor
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 20 (Reuters) - France’s Martin Fourcade gave another brilliant display of skiing and shooting to erase a big German lead and claim the Olympic gold for his team in the Olympic biathlon mixed relay on Tuesday.
France’s greatest Olympian destroyed Germany’s Arnd Peiffer over the final leg to win by 20.9 seconds and collect his third gold medal of the Games and fifth overall.
Norway took the silver and Italy bronze in a thrilling sprint finish in which the Germans missed out on the podium after dominating much of the race.
The final result was delayed as officials reviewed video footage amid concerns that Italy’s Dominick Windisch had acted illegally during the sprint finish, but the result stood.
Fourcade spoke of his joy at winning the team medal, and sent a message to his friend Mathieu Faivre, who was sent home by the French Alpine team following disparaging comments he made about his team mates.
“I wanted this team medal, it’s such a different emotion from an individual medal. This is an individual sport and to win as a team is something beautiful, even if everyone cannot participate,” Fourcade told French television.
“I’m having a friendly thought for Mathieu Faivre,” added Fourcade who became only the second athlete from France to win three gold medals at a single Winter Games after Alpine skier Jean-Claude Killy in 1968.
Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier, who has collected two gold medals in Pyeongchang, left the Germans in prime position at the end of the second leg, but with Fourcade anchoring the race for France, no one in the field could feel safe.
After being over half-a-minute behind, Fourcade shot clean on his first visit to the range to cut the lead to six seconds and chased down Peiffer, passing him comfortably on a tough uphill stretch.
Shoulder to shoulder with Peiffer on the range for his last shoot, each of the Frenchman’s five shots was greeted with joyous cheers from the crowd as the German’s errant aim dropped his team down the rankings.
Johannes Thingnes Boe used his powerful skiing to drag Norway back into medal contention after two poor first legs, and Emil Hegle Svendsen finished the job to secure silver.
Peiffer’s woes on the range thrust him into a battle for bronze with Italy’s Windisch, who sprinted past the German to finish third by three-tenths of a second. (Reporting by Philip O’Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)