Ustyugov Battles Elements to Take Oberhof Sprint

09.01.2010, Oberhof / Jerry Kokesh
Blizzard-like Conditions Challenging
The young Russian Evgeny Ustyugov picked up his second victory of the season as he captured the Men’s 10K Sprint in Oberhof with a time of 28:45, despite three penalties in the standing stage. On a day when the strong gusty winds combined with blowing snow, Ustyugov’s three penalties in standing were fairly normal in the field of 110 men.

Copyright IBU/Christian Manzoni
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Greis Two Seconds Back

Second went to Germany’s Michael Greis, who had two penalties, but finished 2 seconds behind Ustyugov. Carl Johan Bergman of Sweden, the only man to shoot clean today, finished third, 8.2 seconds back. He stayed 2.2 seconds ahead of Halvard Hanevold of Norway, who had another strong effort, following his leadoff leg for the victorious Norwegian Relay team on Thursday. Hanevold with one penalty pushed his teammate Emil Hegle Svendsen with two penalties to fifth, 14.1 seconds back. Places six to eight went to Anton Shipulin of Russia, Martten Kalvee of Estonia, and Ivan Tcherezov of Russia, 26.2, 27.6 and 34.2 seconds back, respectively. The two Russian men had three penalties while the Estonian had only one.

Ustyugov Sets Pace

Ustyugov started with bib 24 and set the pace from the start, as he was one of the first men to shoot clean in prone. He was skiing so well that the three penalties had no effect on his lead. When he crossed the finish line and collapsed in the snow, he had set the bar for the rest of the men and no one else was able to match his effort.

Wind at His Back

On a day when most of the German men struggled with the wind, Greis provided the fans who braved the miserable conditions a reason to cheer. He cleaned the prone stage and moved near the top of the leader board. They roared with delight as he only had two standing penalties. Then as he came into sight near the finish, the fans who had been basically calm (or were frozen and unable to speak) reminded the world that the Oberhof crowds love their German athletes, as they cheered him home. He commented on that finishing stretch, “Usually when you finish in Oberhof, the wind pushes you back, but today the wind was in the opposite direction and it was perfect!”

The 2006 Olympic Champion, pleased with his performance today commented, “My goal for January was to be on the podium at least once and I got that today. I felt that I needed that to give me some momentum as the Olympics approach. This result does not so much take the pressure off, but it definitely allows me to relax a small amount.”

Step Forward for Bergman

Bergman’s third place, his best of the season, combined with the clean shooting left him with a big smile on his face. He commented, “Not bad; it was really a step forward for me. Today I was focused on the shooting range and had some luck on the shooting range. I did not care about the weather. The officials decided that we would do the competition and as athletes, we have to take what we get, so it was okay. I feel good about  where this puts me. I will compete next week in Ruhpolding and then go back to Sweden to get ready for the Olympics.”

Blasts of Snow

The fact that only one man, Bergman shot clean today offers some insight into the conditions. If the Women’s Sprint on Friday was “not nice,” according to second place finisher Helena Jonsson, the Men’s Sprint was just plain nasty. After a night of moderate snowfall accompanied by howling winds, this afternoon was possibly worse. The temperature stayed near minus 10 Celsius, while the snow that had tailed off in the morning picked up, and accordingly the wind blasted huge clouds of snow across the DKB-Ski Arena about every 30 seconds. Whereas in the Women’s Sprint, a few of the competitors were spared the ravages of the wind, all of the men suffered at one time or another. It was not uncommon to see an athlete wait for the wind to settle a small amount two or three times while trying to shoot. On the tracks, it was just as brutal. At times, the athletes looked like they were standing still, as the wind almost stopped their forward progress.

Since few athletes had much luck with the weather today or yesterday, the hope is that the weather is not as brutal on Sunday for the Mass Start competitions.