March 05, 2016

OSLO, Norway (AP) Martin Fourcade won his second title at the biathlon world championships in Holmenkollen, finishing a comfortable first in the men's 10-kilometer sprint on Saturday.

In a tactically perfect race, the Frenchman, starting eighth, shot cleanly and stepped up the pace in the skiing for his seventh individual worlds title. On Thursday, he led France to the mixed relay gold.

Tiril Eckhoff won the women's 7.5-kilometer sprint, earning an eruption of joy from her home crowd.

Fourcade beat Norway veteran Ole Einar Bjorndalen by 26.9 seconds. Bjorndalen, aged 42, shot cleanly and took his 41st worlds medal.

Sergey Semenov of Ukraine was third, 27.6 seconds behind Fourcade, after also shooting cleanly.

Johannes Thingnes Bo of Norway was fourth, with one penalty and 35.5 seconds back.

Among the favorites, Russia's Anton Shipulin and Germany's Simon Schempp both made mistakes in the shooting.

In the sprint, with two shooting stations, even one missed shot made it virtually impossible to reach the podium. Schempp missed his second attempt, in the prone position, and his maximum looked to be a fifth place. But he fell on the last stage and finished eighth, while Shipulin fared even worse - missing twice and finishing 45th.

Fourcade's win sets him up for further success. A 26.9-second gap to Bjorndalen at the start of Sunday's 12.5-kilometer pursuit will be hard to wipe out against the dominating Frenchman who has won 47 World Cup starts.

The decision of Shipulin and Fourcade to start first and eighth respectively raised some eyebrows as many thought that the track would be faster later on.

''My state of mind was not the best in the morning,'' Fourcade said. ''Despite the mixed relay win on Thursday, I felt a little doubtful because of some health problems earlier. But my strategy to give my everything in these worlds has been useful, and this win was important.''

Bjorndalen might end his career in this home event, and he seems to be going out at the top.

''Fourcade is extremely good, but even he can make mistakes' Bjorndalen said. ''And if somebody reaches an optimal performance and he has an off day, it is possible for us others to win.''

Eckhoff shot cleanly from both the prone and standing positions. She was a late starter who crushed the hopes of many fellow competitors for her first individual medal. She was on the mixed relay team which won Olympic gold in Sochi.

''To win gold on home soil is something you dream about when you are a small child,'' Eckhoff said. ''Everything went according to plan, and the crowd's cheering got me through the tough last lap.

Eckhoff was coached by her brother Stian: ''He is very demanding, and I have asked myself if he is the right one for me. But without him I would not be what I am now.''

Marie Dorin Habert, also with a clean shooting sheet, looked like a winner earlier on but was beaten by 15 seconds in the end.

Laura Dahlmeier of Germany took third, 19.8 seconds off the pace, after a superb finish. Missing once, she was 40 seconds behind Dorothea Wierer of Italy after the second shoot, with 2.5 kilometers of skiing left. Dahlmeier's furious action on the track earned her the bronze medal, after beating World Cup leader Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic. Wierer was fifth.

The pursuit races are on Sunday, 12.5 kilometers for the men, and 10K for the women.

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