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Wilhelm Surprises Field, Wins Biathlon Gold

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posted: 01/01/2000

Midway, Utah Feb. 13, 2002 (AP by Landon Hall)--Kati Wilhelm, the least-heralded of Germany's biathletes in the 7.5-kilometer sprint, charged to an early lead and held on to win her first Olympic gold medal on Wednesday.

Wilhelm was precise in her shooting, making 10-of-10 on the Soldier Hollow target range. Teammate Uschi Disl, the most decorated female biathlete in Olympic history with six medals, finished 36.4 seconds back to take the silver.

Disl could have made the race a lot closer if she hadn't missed her final target, forcing her to head to the penalty loop before entering the final lap.

Sweden's Magdalena Forsberg, the sport's dominant woman for the past five years, needed a furious finish to win her second bronze of the games. Forsberg edged Norwegian Liv Grete Skjelbreid-Poiree by 2.7 seconds.

Forsberg, who missed a shot early and was sixth entering the final lap, slumped to the snow after charging across the line.

Poiree, whose husband Raphael Poiree shot poorly in the 10-kilometer race earlier in the day and finished ninth, made all five of her shots at the first station, from a prone position. But her third shot of the final round, while standing, was a fraction of an inch off to the top of the black, circular target.

The Americans struggled, with Kara Salmela finishing 49th, Andrea Nahrgang 50th and Rachel Steer 60th.

German Andrea Henkel, the winner of Monday's 15K race, slumped to 25th, taking herself out of medal contention with a miss at the first station, then another on her final shot. The fourth German in the race, Katrin Apel, took 12th.

It would have taken a sensational performance to beat Wilhelm, who did not distinguish herself as a cross-country skier at the 1998 Nagano Games. She did win the sprint gold medal at last year's world biathlon championships, but after she came off the course Wednesday, she said she'd never shot better.

After her second clean shooting session, she held a 26.3-second lead and breezed across the finish line.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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