By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Nobody in French history has won more Olympic gold medals than Martin Fourcade. Nobody has won more gold medals so far at the Pyeongchang Winter Games than the French biathlete. Yet Fourcade refused to make the night about himself despite anchoring France to a come-from-behind victory Tuesday in the biathlon mixed relay. It was his third gold medal in Pyeongchang, and the fifth in his decorated career.
“Tonight it is a big win for the team and all of the crew,” Fourcade said. “There is nothing that means more than when you can share (the gold) with your teammates. That is something that is incredible.” The 29-year-old Fourcade’s fifth Olympic title moved him past fencers Christian D’Oriola and Lucien Gaudin for the most in French history in either the Summer or Winter Games.
“He’s just incredible,” teammate Simon Desthieux said. Fourcade was coming off a narrow photo-finish decision over Germany’s Simon Schempp in the mass start on Sunday. While this race wasn’t as dramatic, it was no less impressive.
Fourcade was at his best, erasing a nearly 38-second deficit on the last leg of the relay by hitting all 10 shots with his .22 caliber rifle to help the French team of Marie Dorin Habert, Anais Bescond and Desthieux catch the Germans.
Arnd Peiffer, a late replacement for Schempp as the German anchor, inherited the huge lead but struggled to hit his targets on the final two shoots. Germany, which had three gold medals in the biathlon coming into the event — including one by Peiffer — finished off the podium in fourth place.
Fourcade had enough of a lead at the end to wave the French flag as he crossed the finish line for his team in 1 hour, 8 minutes and 34.3 seconds, more than 20 seconds ahead of second-place Norway. Italy took the bronze.
Bescond said she thought her heart was going to explode in her chest watching Fourcade finish. “Now we have that really big satisfaction to do that together, for all the French team and all the people who cheer us,” Bescond said. “So it’s big satisfaction.”
Said Fourcade: “We often say that we are doing an individual sport but we are living more than 220 days a year together as a team. Winning this medal together is something really emotional and we really enjoy it.”
It was a blown opportunity for Germany, which appeared to be a lock for a medal when Peiffer went off with a significant lead. But he not only let Fourcade get by him, but also the Norwegians and the Italians.
“Martin was good and I was not good,” Peiffer said. “I was not good on the track and not good on the range. I am really disappointed by my performance.”
There was some controversy over third place as the Germans believed Italian anchor Dominik Windisch illegally crossed over into Peiffer’s corridor on the stretch run. However, the International Biathlon Union reviewed the race and ruled that Windisch didn’t break any rules.
“I didn’t expect another result because my experience is there is not so much courage to change positions of the medal table,” Peiffer said. “Dominik was faster but he broke a rule and now there is no consequence. And that’s not good for the future because now every athlete thinks they can change the corridor.” Windisch didn’t see it that way.
“It happened really, really fast because you come down from the downhill,” Windisch said. “But I was convinced that I did the right thing because I was in front of Peiffer. The jury had a long meeting to make the decision and they decided for us. I think they had their reasons.”
Only Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (eight) has more Olympic gold medals in the biathlon than Fourcade, who has a chance for another gold medal on Friday in the men’s relay.