Les Rousses, France, Jan 12 : French crowds found reasons to celebrate as Jeanne Richard and Mathieu Garcia combined to claim the biathlon single mixed relay gold medal at the Winter Youth Olympic Games here on Sunday.
The event requires female and male athletes to exchange relays each with 20 shots on prone and standing positions. In sunny weather conditions and with the crowds' fervent cheering, the French duo shot clean with seven spares and clocked a leading time of 42 minutes and 3.5 seconds. "The crowds pushed us forward.
Without a doubt, we could use it to gain some seconds in skiing. Thanks to the crowds," said Richard, who won the silver medal in the women's 10km individual on Saturday. Garcia finished third in the men's 12.5km individual race before Sunday's win.
"I just wanted to come here with no thoughts and leave here with no regrets. I just did that on the track. I had nothing in my head, just go go go," he pointed out. Fierce competition was displayed on the track as all top five sides finished within 43 minutes.
Italy and Sweden bagged silver and bronze medals respectively. Russia, a combination of Saturday's individual race winners of Alena Mokhova and Oleg Domichek, fared below expectation to finish seventh with three penalties. Suffering seven penalties with 18 spares, China's Ding Yuhuan and Gou Zhendong ranked 17th among 30 pairs.
"I performed normal in skiing and shot well in my first relay, but my shooting accuracy slumped in the second relay, which imposed huge pressure on me," Gou noted. Ding shared a similar viewpoint: "My skiing was good today, but I felt too nervous when shooting in my second relay."
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet visited the Les Tuffes Nordic Center, the only competition site outside Switzerland to host the Games. "It's really impressive. The crowds are very excited. The athletes are very happy. I'm very impressed about it," Estanguet told Xinhua. Biathlon at the Winter Youth Olympics will resume action on Tuesday with the men's 7.5km and women's 6km sprints. (Xinhua)