KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Her strong run to gold in Sunday’s 7.5-kilometer sprint has earned Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia a useful head start in the second women’s biathlon event at the Sochi Olympics.
Kuzmina will get on course 20 seconds ahead of the next starter in the 10K pursuit on Tuesday, making her a strong candidate for a second straight medal.
Russia’s Olga Vilukhina starts second and Ukraine’s Vita Semerenko has to make up 22 seconds coming from third.
Other medal contenders, including Darya Domracheva of Belarus and Tora Berger of Norway, are more than half a minute behind as the start order and interval have been determined by Sunday’s sprint results.
Here are five things to know about the Tuesday’s pursuit.
KUZMINA’S DOUBLE: If previous Olympics are an accurate predictor, Anastasiya Kuzmina will likely win silver. Since the women’s pursuit became part of the Winter Games in 2002, two of the three times the winner of the sprint ended runner-up in the pursuit. Kati Wilhelm of Germany did it in 2002 and Kuzmina achieved the feat in 2010. If Kuzmina takes gold this time, she would become the first woman to win an Olympic sprint-pursuit double. “We will see,” Kuzmina said. “It’s biathlon, you can never say what is written tomorrow.” History, maybe?
MAKARAINEN’S MALAISE: After five of eight World Cup events, Kaisa Makarainen leads the season’s pursuit standings. However, the Finn is out of the favorite’s circle for the Olympic pursuit title after missing two targets in her final round of shooting in Sunday’s sprint. She dropped to 30th and will start the pursuit a massive 1 minute, 12 seconds behind Kuzmina.
GOLDEN GERMANS: Germany has an excellent track record in the Olympic pursuit, winning four of the nine medals awarded in the three events held since 2002 - including golds for Kati Wilhelm in 2006 and Magdalena Neuner four years ago. By taking a third straight gold, Germany would become the first nation to win the same biathlon discipline at three consecutive Olympics. The first German starter is Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, who trails Kuzmina by 34 seconds. Two-time gold medalist Andrea Henkel has 55 seconds to make up.
FALTERING FAVORITES: One of the charms of any sport is speculating about who might be going to win. Another charm is these speculations often don’t come true - especially at Olympics. Not many predicted the three medalists in the sprint. Retired two-time Olympic bronze medalist Viktor Maigourov, now vice president of the Russian biathlon federation, expects more surprises in the pursuit. “We had an unexpected finish because these women were not ranked high during the season,” Maigourov said. “There will be more surprise wins during these Olympics.”
SEMERENKO SISTERS: After taking bronze in the sprint, Vita Semerenko of Ukraine goes after her second career Olympic medal in the pursuit. One of her toughest challengers, however, could become her twin sister Valj Semerenko. Vita starts third and Valj 11th, but only 10 seconds separate the pair at the start.
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