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Dahlmeier grabs gold in difficult conditions

The Associated Press

Laura Dahlmeier aims at the target during the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint in Pyeongchang on Saturday.

The Associated PressPYEONGCHANG (AP) — Laura Dahlmeier was laying on the frozen ground at the Olympics, blocking out the glare of the lights from above, blocking out the bitter -12 C temperature and the gusts of wind, and fired five shots from her .22-caliber small-bore rifle at a target 50 meters away.

The German biathlete hit all five of the silver dollar-sized targets, then tossed the gun on her back and strode off on her skis against the backdrop of a night sky.

Easy for a biathlete who won five of six events at the world championships last year, but certainly not so easy for everyone.

As if the biathlon — a sport that mixes the endurance and speed of cross-country skiing with the focus and precision of shooting a rifle — isn’t already difficult enough, it just got tougher. Biathletes at the Pyeongchang Games will have additional challenges to contend with over the next two weeks at the Winter Games, including shooting under floodlights at night when temperatures are colder and the wind gustier.

Of the 11 biathlon events at the Pyeongchang Games, eight of them will be held at night.

That means bitter cold, wind and artificial light.

The wind is especially tricky for biathletes. Unlike some other Olympic events in Pyeongchang, there is no net set up to stop it.

Dahlmeier, the sport’s rising star, managed the conditions just fine on Saturday night, taking home gold in the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint after hitting all 10 of her targets. But she collapsed to the ground exhausted after what she called a “perfect race.”

“Certainly not the easiest conditions,” Dahlmeier said.

Of the 86 participants in Saturday night’s race, only three hit all 10 targets. Unlike Dahlmeier, the other two did not place in the top 15.

While Dahlmeier managed the conditions well, American rival Susan Dunklee did not.

Dunklee, who won gold and silver at the world championships last year to put herself in position to contend for an Olympic medal, missed five targets and finished a distant 66th.

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