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Olympic Biathlon

Ukraine wins women's biathlon relay for country's first gold medal

Ukraine's Olena Pidhrushna crosses the finish line to win the gold during the women's biathlon 4x6k relay, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Ukraine's Olena Pidhrushna crosses the finish line to win the gold during the women's biathlon 4x6k relay, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) The women's biathlon team from Ukraine gave its country, marred by deadly riots, a victory it had been longing for.

The team won the Olympic 4x6-kilometer relay on Friday for its first gold medal of the Sochi Games.

Sergey Bubka, pole vault great and chief of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee, tweeted, ''Thanks to the girls - Vita and Valja Semerenko, Julia Dzhyma and Olena Pidhrushna!'' he said ''You made it for Ukraine!''

The team of twins Vita and Valj Semerenko, Dzhyma and anchor Pidhrushna missed five targets but avoided penalty loops to finish in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 2.5 seconds.

Defending champion Russia was 26.4 behind to take silver, and Norway trailed by 37.6 to win bronze.

It was the second medal for Ukraine these games, after Vita Semerenko took bronze in the women's 7.5K sprint.

It was Ukraine's first gold medal since 1994 when Oksana Baiul won gold in figure skating.

Ukraine was third at the first exchange, trailing leader Italy by six seconds.

Italy then lost its lead when Nicole Gontier had to ski a penalty loop. Dzhyma hit all 10 targets and gave Ukraine's third starter, Valj Semerenko, a 26-second head start.

Valj Semerenko stayed clear in her first shooting and left the shooting range just over 40 seconds ahead of Russia and Norway, while the rest of the field was already more than a minute behind.

She extended the lead but had to reload three times in her second shooting, losing more than half a minute.

Pidhrushna withstood the pressure, missed once in her first round but shot flawlessly in the second.

Germany failed to reach the podium in an Olympic women relay for the first time since the sport became part of the Olympics in 1992.

Its first starter, Franziska Preuss, fell and lost a pole, and lost even more time when she had to blow snow out of the sight of her rifle before starting her first shooting. Germany finished 11th, more than three minutes off the lead.

The first starter for France, Marie-Laure Brunet, was feeling unwell and vomited before the start and quit the race after collapsing during her second two-kilometer lap.

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