Germany's winner Laura Dahlmeier skis during the women's 15 km individual competition at the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Kerstin Joensson
February 17, 2017

HOCHFILZEN, Austria (AP) Laura Dahlmeier led Germany to the title in the women's 4x6-kilometer relay on Friday, becoming the first biathlete to win a medal in 10 straight world championship races.

In difficult, snowy conditions, Vanessa Hinz, Maren Hammerschmidt, Franziska Hildebrandt and Dahlmeier missed a total of nine targets but avoided penalty laps before finishing in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 16.6 seconds. Olympic champion Ukraine missed four times and trailed by 6.4 seconds to take silver, while France had seven mistakes and came 8.1 behind for bronze.

''This is gigantic but I want to emphasize that we are a really great team,'' Dahlmeier said.

It was her fifth medal of the championships, after winning gold in mixed relay, pursuit and individual competition, and silver in sprint. Dahlmeier also won five medals at last year's worlds in Oslo.

The previous best mark of nine straight podiums was held by retired Norwegian great Tora Berger.

No biathlete, male or female, has ever won five gold medals at a single world championship. Dahlmeier can achieve the feat if she wins Sunday's 12.5K mass start competition.

Her teammates had given Germany a 10-second lead when Dahlmeier started for the final six kilometers. The overall World Cup leader initially extended the advantage but the race became close again when Dahlmeier had to reload two bullets in the final shooting stage.

''But in the end I hit all targets and that's what counts,'' Dahlmeier said.

France, which finished runner-up to Germany in all three previous World Cup relays this season, led the competition in the opening phase but had to stage a comeback from ninth place after Celia Aymonier had to reload three times.

Italy briefly went ahead but lost its lead to Germany when Alexia Runggaldier missed twice while Hildebrandt shot flawlessly for the eventual champions.

Defending champion Norway finished more than two minutes off the pace in 11th, and host nation Austria was disqualified after Julia Schweiger reloaded four bullets in a single shooting stage while rules allow only a maximum of three.

The men's 4x7.5K relay is on Saturday.

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