Bjoerndalen, Hakkinen falter as Germany wins second straight gold

Updated: February 14, 2006, 11:03 AM ET
Associated Press

CESANA, Italy -- Ole Einar Bjoerndalen's trigger finger is a bit shaky. His composure remains rock-steady.

"I'm not going to give up. There's still competition to come and I have confidence I'll be able to win gold medals," Bjoerndalen said after his 12th place finish in the 10km sprint allowed Sven Fischer to win Germany's second straight Olympic gold medal in the men's biathlon Tuesday.

Bjoerndalen had hopes of sweeping all five golds in Italy but is 0-for-2.

American Jay Hakkinen, a 10th place finisher in the 20km race, fell apart, finishing 80th out of 90 competitors.

Bjoerndalen, who stood atop the podium in Nagano and Salt Lake City after the 10-kilometer sprints, missed one prone shot and furiously tried to make up time but missed twice standing, relegating him to 12th.

His teammates did well, with Halvard Hanevold winning the silver and Frode Andresen taking the bronze to the delight of King Harald V of Norway, who was in attendance. But there were mixed emotions from the Norwegians, because this was supposed to be Bjoerndalen's moment to shine.

"Bjoerndalen did not have such a good day today," Hanevold said. "But I think that's also the strong thing about the Norwegian team is that if one man fails, then we have others to be on the podium."

Hanevold, who won the bronze in the 20km individual race, finished 8.2 seconds behind Fischer's winning time of 26 minutes, 11.6 seconds.

"That's the best race I've ever done," said Hanevold, who has been a biathlete for 21 of his 36 years. "I think I'm not better than I did today. I'm not going to be able to perform any better at these Olympics than I did today."

Andresen was in position to take the gold away from Fischer but he missed his fourth shot of his second shooting round and had to ski a 150-meter penalty loop with a heavy cough, crossing the finish line 19.7 seconds behind the gold-medal winner.

"I'm not disappointed with bronze today because the big difference is between gold and silver, not silver and bronze," Andresen said.

Simply too fast for Hanevold to catch, Fischer collapsed across the finish line and lay panting for more than a minute, enjoying the best race of his life and his first gold in four Olympic Games. Neither Fischer nor Hanevold missed a shot on a sunny day that slowed the steep San Sicario course.

"It's unbelievable. I feel very strange, I never expected this," Fischer said.

Hakkinen, America's Alaskan biathlete, never expected what happened to him, either.

He brashly predicted he was primed to give the United States its first biathlon medal after narrowly missing out on the bronze in the 20km race Saturday. But he missed all five of his prone shots Tuesday, something he can't recall ever happening before.

He checked his rifle after each shot but found nothing wrong.

After his fifth miss, he threw his poles down in disgust and dejection, then accidentally skied six 150-meter penalty loops instead of the required five.

"These games are done," a crestfallen Hakkinen said. "I think this will live with me for the rest of my life."

Bjoerndalen, who won gold in all four biathlon races four years ago, entered the Turin Games as the favorite to win each of this year's five races.

His two missed targets in the 20km Saturday allowed German Michael Greis to edge him for the gold, and his errant shooting Tuesday again allowed Germany to win the gold.

History, however, is still within the 32-year-old Norwegian's grasp. If he can recover from his shaky start to win out in the Italian Alps, he would tie fellow countryman Bjorn Daehlie, a cross country skier who collected his eighth gold medal at Nagano, as the most successful athlete in the history of the Winter Games.

Despite Bjoerndalen's struggles, the Norwegians have won four of the six medals so far, even though none of them are gold.

"I don't think we expected so many medals. I think it's a very good start," said Andresen.

"It's so hard to get gold medals," concurred Hanevold. "So, we're happy."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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