Published February 18, 2010
WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Ole Einar Bjoerndalen taught his protege too well — and too much.
Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen denied Bjoerndalen his sixth Olympic gold, beating his mentor in the men's 20-kilometer individual biathlon race Thursday.
"I would say for certain that I wouldn't be sitting here as the gold medalist today without him, " said Svendsen, who trains with the Norwegian great. "Because when he was in Nagano in '98 taking gold, I was sitting at home and watching him as a little boy and ever since then I tried to copy him and train like him.
"So, I couldn't have done it today without him, and I want to say thank you to him."
Sergey Novikov of Belarus, who hit all 20 targets on a sunny but breezy day, tied Bjoerndalen for the silver.
They both finished 9.5 seconds behind Svendsen's winning time of 48 minutes, 22.5 seconds for the first double Olympic medal since biathlon was added to the Winter Games 50 years ago.
Although Novikov was simply outskied following his fourth and final trip to the shooting range, Bjoerndalen was in position to surpass his teammate to take the gold medal in biathlon's biggest and toughest race before missing the first target on his last shoot, costing him a 1-minute penalty.
In the individual race, a missed target results in 1 minute being added to the time instead of a 150-meter penalty loop as in other events. — it's the one race where Bjoerndalen can't outski his shooting mistakes.
"I tried to catch him, but Emil is really strong on the last lap," said Bjoerndalen, who shaved eight seconds off Svendsen's lead after leaving the range.
Svendsen missed one target and Bjoerndalen two.
Svendsen, who also won a silver in the 10K sprint on Monday, won the men's race hours after Tora Berger became the first Norwegian woman to win an Olympic race, dominating the women's 15K.
That eased the pressure on Norway, which hadn't won a biathlon gold since the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, where Bjoerndalen swept all four races.
"After the first week I was starting to think, 'Oh, my God. This is Turin all over again,'" Svendsen said. "But now we are coming back and hopefully we can finish strong in this Olympics. There's a lot more to come and a lot more to look forward to."
And not just in Vancouver.
Bjoerndalen said he's anticipated success for Svendsen for a long time, and that he should be on the podium aplenty for years to come.
"He has a talent that few others have in the world because he is a complete biathlete," Bjoerndalen said. "He is a good shooter and a good skier, and he's not one or the other."
After winning five gold medals in the 1998 and 2002 Olympics, Bjoerndalen hadn't added to his tally. He'll have two more chances at gold in these games — with a mass-start race and relay still to come.
Bjoerndalen is the first Olympic biathlete to medal in the same event in three straight Winter Games. He also took silver in this race in Turin. And he's the fourth winter Olympian to collect 10 medals, two shy of Norway's great cross-country skier, Bjoern Daehlie.
America's best biathlete, Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, N.Y., had another tough day. He missed five targets, including three on his final shoot, and finished five minutes back in 41st place in what he figured was his last shot at a medal at the Vancouver Games.
"It's a disaster," Burke said. "The sprint race was not fair, but today I did not succeed."
Burke is the first U.S. biathlete ever to don the coveted yellow bib as the overall World Cup leader, and he was hailed as America's best hope for a breakthrough at Vancouver in the European sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship.
But Burke was done in by a mid-race snowstorm in the sprint, which served as a double-whammy because the start times for the pursuit were based on results from that first race. He finished in 47th in the first race and 46th in the second.
He said earlier in the week that he didn't think he could contend in the mass start because he's not skiing well enough right now. But that's all that's left now for him to end America's drought before Sochi in 2014.
"I have nothing to lose for the mass start," Burke said.
Burke isn't the only American having a tough time at Whistler Olympic Park, where the U.S. team had more training time than any team but the host Canadians.
Jeremy Teela, of Heber City, Utah, awoke with sinus troubles Thursday morning and had to bow out.