By Evan Girard
OSRBLIE, Slovakia — Sunny skies for the first time at the 2015 World University Games in Osrblie, Slovakia, made for an ideal day for biathlon on Wednesday, with pursuit races that had racers start in the position they finished at Tuesday’s sprint in the hopes of catching the sprint winner.
After the Russian men swept the sprint podium, it was no surprise the 12.5-kilometer pursuit was yet again all about the Russians.
Shuffling up the order in which they finished, Russia’s Yuri Shopin, a two-time bronze medalist at the these Games, wouldn’t settle for anything less than gold for his third individual medal of the week. He started third and 15 seconds behind, then shot clean through all four stages, but didn’t take the lead until the final lap where he outsprinted his teammate Jaroslav Ivanov for the victory.
The sprint winner, Ivanov started first and pulled away from his competitors with each passing lap in the pursuit. His single shooting mistake came on his final trip to the range, but even after a penalty loop, Ivanov had a 12-second lead over Shopin. However, he couldn’t hold it on the final lap, and as he crossed the finish 1.5 seconds behind Shopin, Ivanov shook his head in disappointment.
Completing the Russian medal sweep for the second-consecutive day was Maksim Burtasov with three misses. He finished 42.6 seconds behind and was out of touch from first and second place, but had room to breathe over France’s Vincent Mathieu in fourth (+1:29.6).
Mathieu moved up from 11th to fourth and 1:29.6 with a single shooting error. Similarly Russia’s Oleg Kolodiichuk hit all but one of his targets and made the biggest improvement of the men’s pursuit, starting 18th and finishing fifth (+1:52.1) in a photo finish with another Russian, Stanislav Pershikov.
Pershikov ended up 0.1 second behind in sixth, giving Russia five out of the top six.
The Slovakian crowd was excited to see hometown hero Paulina Fialkova start the women’s 10 k pursuit first. Following her decisive win in Tuesday’s sprint race, Fialkova had nearly a 30-second margin on the second starter. Ultimately, three mistakes shooting would prove too much for Fialkova and she dropped to second behind Russia’s Evgeniia Pavlova, who only made two errors and started second to give Russia its first women’s gold.
Pavlova shot quickly and despite two misses, she held the edge over her competitors, finishing 38.2 seconds ahead of Fialkova. Russia put two on the podium with Kristina Smirnova placing third (+1:45.8) with two misses.
Anna Kistanova of Kazakhstan took fourth (+2:49.0), and Ukraine’s Iana Bondar finished fifth (+3:01.8). Finally, Russia’s Kristina Ilchenko had a fast final lap to move from 12th to sixth in less than 2 k, 3:16.7 behind Pavlova.
No North Americans completed the pursuit Wednesday.
Results: Men | Women