Alex Almoukov has earned his best finish at the Olympic Games after claiming 73rd in the 10km Sprint at the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Centre on Saturday evening (local time).
The 23-year-old, whose best finish was 78th in the Individual event in Vancouver, crossed the line 2:51.1 behind Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who made history by winning his 12th Olympic medal to equal the most ever by a Winter Olympian.
Almoukov was aiming for a top sixty finish that would have qualified him for the Pursuit event, but two missed shots following his second lap cruelled his chances of adding another event to his schedule.
After a strong first lap around the 3.3km course, Almoukov shot a clear first round in the prone position before returning to the arduous Sochi slopes.
But on his second venture to the range, the Australian missed two targets, forcing him to complete two penalty laps.
“I tried as hard as I could- I couldn’t have gone any harder,” Almoukov said.
“I’m not too happy I guess though as it wasn’t my best race. I missed the two on the standing and I usually don’t miss too much.
“I went clean on the prone but coming into the standing I had a stop in breathing and I was running short of breath on the second shot. I had a pause and then after that I missed two.”
In what is recognised as a grueling circuit that tested the world’s best biathletes, the Australian knows he left it all out on the track.
“I was trying for a top sixty today but it doesn’t look like that will happen,” said Almoukov as he awaited for the rest of the field to finish the race.
“I think my skiing was pretty good but it was one of the hardest courses on tour and that makes it hard to figure out how I went.”
The Russian born athlete will now turn his focus to his next event – the Individual 20km.
“I am now looking to the Individual event where the shooting is key. Every time you miss in that (event) you get a one minute penalty.
“You really have to focus on your shooting so I will now turn my attention to that.
“I’ll probably have an easy training day tomorrow and then start training again (on Monday).”
In what was a historic day in Biathlon, and Winter Sports in general, 40-year-old Ole Einar Bjoerndalen knocked off some of his more fancied rivals to earn his seventh Olympic gold medal.
The Norwegian beat home Austria’s Dominik Landertinger and Czech Jaroslav Soukup before local favourite Anton Shipulin finished just out of the medals in fourth.
Bjoerndalen has competed at every Olympic Games since Nagano 1998. He has now equaled the record for most Olympic Winter medals, and still has more events ahead of him.
The veteran went level with compatriot Bjorn Daehlie, who also gathered 12 medals in his Olympic Cross Country career, and he also became the oldest gold medallist in an individual event in Games history.
It was an outstanding day for the Norwegians up at the Laura Centre after they also won gold and bronze in the Women’s Skiathlon Cross Country event a short walk up the hill from the Biathlon course.
Almoukov’s teammate Lucy Glanville will kick off her Olympic campaign on Sunday when she competes in the 7.5km Sprint.
Matthew Bartolo | sochi2014.olympics.com.au