Alex Almoukov has pulled off the best ever performance by a male Australian biathlete after finishing 45th in the 20km Individual on Thursday evening (local time).
Almoukov bettered the 47th place finish by Andrew Paul at the 1984 Sarajevo Games in the same event after finishing in a time of 54:35.40, just over five minutes behind Gold medal winner Martin Fourcade of France.
It could have been even better for the 23-year-old who shot clear through the first three rounds before missing two of his shots in the last shooting stage.
“Today was definitely a better race for me,” Almoukov said.
“I’m satisfied with how I went. I started off really well and my skis felt really quick through the snow.
“I had three clear shooting stages and then two of my last standing which is disappointing but I’m happy with my result.”
30 years on from Paul’s success in what was Australia’s first venture into Biathlon at the Winter Games, the Russian-born Aussie was proud to have written his name in the history books.
“That’s great that I got that (the record).
“I’m so happy that I got in the top fifty today. With two penalties and a top fifty, it is a really good result for me.”
The magnitude of Almoukov’s result was amplified by the fact that the Australian led Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the equal most successful Winter Olympian, through the first three shooting rounds.
“It’s pretty cool to have been beating him (Bjoerndalen) at the start of the race.
“But anything can happen in a Biathlon race – you can be beating World Champions and then lose it in a second.”
Almoukov’s tactics of selecting to start in the first group of athletes paid off after the snow continued to get softer. But despite being out of the gates sixth the course still had its challenges for the young gun.
“The conditions out on the course were really tough and my legs felt a little bit weak so it was really hard to stabilise yourself when shooting.
“I knew it was going to be tough on the last standing (shooting) stage and I tried to focus but I missed the first and the last shot.”
At only 23, compared to Bjoerndalen’s 40, Almoukov knows that there are plenty more Olympic Games ahead.
“I can’t wait for the next four years. The Olympics are a great experience.
“Each year you are improving and working towards this one event and I’m really excited to push myself to the limits for the next four years and then see what happens.”
Almoukov, who is coached by his father Nick, has made big improvements since his Olympic debut as a 19-year-old at Vancouver 2010. In the same event in 2010 he finished 78th.
With Almoukov’s competition now complete he is looking forward to taking in everything Sochi has to offer.
“I can now enjoy the Olympic experience I guess.
“I’m really happy how I’ve done and now I am going to see other events and support my teammates.”
Matthew Bartolo | sochi2014.olympics.com.au