The decisive scene happened, as so often in this sport, at the last shooting. In a duel: Denise Herrmann-Wick from Ruhpolding and Dorothea Wierer from South Tyrol. And it got tight, because first the German missed, then the Italian too. In unison, they pushed their reloading cartridge into the rifle, pulled the trigger again – and elicited a double whoop of joy from the audience in the grandstand.
On the final round on this fourth day of the Ruhpolding Biathlon World Cup, Wierer was no longer able to follow Germany’s Herrmann-Wick. Herrmann-Wick ran even close to the leading Norwegian in the last 2000 meters of this relay race. She took 20 seconds from Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold. Nevertheless, she was able to run relaxed towards the finish line and kept a 15-second lead. The events of the men’s relay race of the previous day were repeated: Norway won ahead of Germany.
And yet the Saturday of Ruhpolding showed some deviations, which was primarily due to 17,000 people who populated the biathlon stadium and the side of the track. The day before there were 12,000 fans, but the benefits of the weekend traditionally attract larger crowds. Five minutes before the start of the race, stadium announcer Karl-Heinz Kas then announced the flag anthem, as before every race, and hundreds of flags in all colors were waved through the air. At this point at the latest, it became clear that the renaissance of the Ruhpolding Biathlon Festival was underway.
They hadn’t been allowed to invite fans into the stadium for almost three years, so now the flags are back, which was not least due to the hard-working bartenders at the beer stands. The German start runner Anna Weidel could hardly benefit from the enthusiasm in the ranks, which was mainly due to the fact that she started the race with poor health. She needed four spares – and handed over more than a minute behind in twelfth place. Nevertheless, the black, red and gold flags waved. A turn for the better was still possible.
As if pulled across the cross-country ski run by an invisible cable winch
“It was so inspiring with all the spectators,” said Vanessa Voigt after the race, who started second, showed a flawless performance on the shooting range and improved the German team to fourth place. “It’s almost like being carried,” she said. Sophia Schneider, who lives near Ruhpolding and unmistakably speaks the same way, was similarly touched by the use of the crowds. “One almost flew,” she said. “The spectators just drove you incredibly.” Schneider also needed four spares, but ran across the trail as if the Ruhpolding chief preparator Alois Reiter had attached it to an invisible cable winch. In third place, she handed over to final skier Herrmann-Wick, who almost always plows through the snow like a winch – and she made it to the finish with a total of two spares.
“I had really fresh legs,” said Herrmann-Wick, who made a decision after the last shooting in a duel with Wierer. “Give it full throttle so that she might not even get the idea to run.” This plan worked pretty precisely. And so, at the end of the day, the German women could be happy about their second place in the season this season. But they were also allowed to be a bit annoyed: more than ten missed shots – four more than the Norwegians – which cost them first place. The German biathletes in Ruhpolding are still waiting for a win. Two chances remain: the mass starts are still on Sunday. The men start the race at 12.30 p.m. and the women at 2.45 p.m.