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Biathlon: Unheralded Kuzmina makes Slovakia breakthrough

2010-02-14 14:45:00 VANOC

Feb 13, 2010, Whistler (AFP) - Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina ripped the form book to shreds Saturday to win a shock Olympic gold medal in the women's 7.5 km biathlon sprint, her country's first ever winter Games title.

Favourite Magdalena Neuner of Germany couldn't keep pace with the 25-year-old, Russian-born Kuzmina who triumphed by a margin of just 1.5sec. Marie Dorin of France claimed bronze at 10.9sec.

Kuzmina, ranked only 28 in the world, crossed the line in 19min 55.6sec, stunning Neuner, who couldn't find the extra bit of juice she needed over the final section after a tense dash for the line.

Anna Boulygina of Russia was fourth ahead of Kazakh Elena Khrustaleva as the race saw the likes of World Cup leader Helena Jonsson of Sweden make mistakes to miss the podium.

Kuzmina, mass-start silver medallist at the world championship last year, turned in a flawless shooting round as she grabbed gold to succeed 2006 champion Florence Baverel of France, who has since retired.

"I'm just as surprised myself," said the mother of one. "But I never looked back and I gave it everything. Three words explain my success - training, training, training."

With six world championship triumphs to her name Neuner had been heavily tipped to win but instead Kuzmina, who has just one 15km World Cup podium this season, produced a superlative performance marred only by one penalty loop.

Neuner also missed one target whereas Dorin hit all ten.

"I am surprised - I gave it all I had," said Neuner. "My staying power was crumbling towards the finish and I made a mistake in the final shooting."

The gold was Slovakia's first at a Winter Games, as Kuzmina went one better than 2006 snowboard cross silver winner Radoslav Zidek.

"I never thought I'd manage a medal. I wasn't thinking of the result - just how I was going to race," said Dorin after getting the French off the mark in the medals table on day one of the Games.

"I felt like I was on holiday just being here these past few days. Then I said - hey wait, this is important,"

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