Czech Republic's winner Gabriela Koukalova celebrates on the podium after the women's 7.5 km sprint competition at the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Kerstin Joensson
February 10, 2017

HOCHFILZEN, Austria (AP) Gabriela Koukalova won the women's sprint Friday, earning the first gold medal for a Czech biathlete in an individual race at the world championships.

Koukalova hit all 10 targets and finished in 19 minutes, 12.6 seconds to beat Laura Dahlmeier of Germany by four seconds. Anais Chevalier of France finished 25.1 behind to take bronze.

Koukalova, the defending overall World Cup champion who previously competed under her maiden name Soukalova, won her sixth medal at major championships, including two silvers at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and a gold with the Czech mixed relay team at the worlds two years ago.

Koukalova won the overall title last season but failed to win a medal at the worlds in Oslo. This week, her preparations were hampered when she had to leave the team's training camp in Italy to have a splinter removed that caused an inflammation to her right hand.

Dahlmeier, the overall World Cup leader, earned her second medal after winning the mixed relay with the German team in Thursday's opening race of the championships.

While Koukalova and Dahlmeier were flawless in Friday's 7.5-kilometer sprint, other pre-race favorites struggled on the shooting range.

Marie Dorin Habart, the 2015 sprint champion who won silver with France in the mixed relay, skied one penalty loop and finished 42.8 behind in seventh.

Kaisa Makarainen, the Finnish leader of the World Cup discipline standings, lost her sight on a medal after missing two targets in her prone shooting. She finished 56.5 seconds behind in 12th, one spot ahead of last year's world champion, Tiril Eckhoff of Norway, who also missed two targets.

Hours before the race, the International Biathlon Union provisionally suspended Ekaterina Glazyrina of Russia on suspicion of doping, based on findings by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren. He accused Russia's national anti-doping agency and a drug-testing lab of covering up hundreds of failed tests.

''She has been suspended because it is plausible (that she doped),'' IBU general secretary told German broadcaster ZDF. ''We want this to be fully clarified.''

Glazyrina was replaced by Russian teammate Irina Uslugina, who finished 15th.

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