March 20, 2016

KHANTY-MANSIYSK, Russia (AP) The biathlon World Cup season came to an abrupt end Sunday as the two final mass start races were canceled after strong winds damaged the course.

Gale-force winds in the Siberian town of Khanty-Mansiysk tore down banners and even brought down a lighting tower at the shooting range. No one was hurt, the International Biathlon Union said.

Following an initial attempt to delay the races until later in the day, the event was called off altogether, with athletes and spectators asked to leave the venue for safety reasons.

''We have a really extreme wind,'' race director Borut Nunar said. ''It's completely unsafe outside, all competitions are canceled. Safety is always and should be always the priority for us and for everybody.''

The cancellation of the 15-kilometer men's race and 12.5-kilometer women's race means that France's Martin Fourcade and Czech Gabriela Soukalova end the season top of the mass start standings.

Fourcade and Soukalova were earlier confirmed as winners of the overall World Cup competition.

Besides the overall trophy, Fourcade also won the small crystal globes for the sprint, pursuit and individual disciplines. Soukalova won women's sprint and pursuit, with the individual going to Italian Dorothea Wierer.

Norway won the men's Nations Cup, with Germany taking the women's trophy.

It was a particularly disappointing season for Russia, traditionally a biathlon superpower, with just five wins from 65 World Cup races. For the first time ever, Russia failed to win a single medal at the world championships in Oslo, Norway, earlier this month.

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