March 01, 2012

RUHPOLDING, Germany (AP) -- Six-time Olympic champion Ole Einar Bjoerndalen helped Norway win the gold medal in the mixed relay Thursday, the opening day of the biathlon world championships.

Norway successfully defended the title even though anchor Emil Hegel Svendsen crossed the finish line 8.2 seconds behind Slovenia's Jakov Fak.

The jury ruled Bjoerndalen, running in the third leg, should not have completed a penalty loop because one of the targets malfunctioned and didn't go down even though he had hit it. The Norwegian team was credited with 30 seconds, putting it ahead of Slovenia into first place by 20.2 seconds.

Germany earned the bronze after squandering a big lead with poor shooting, finishing 32.8 seconds behind.

Norway filed a protest after Bjoerndalen's leg. Bjoerndalen has 17 gold medals from world championships, an annual event.

Germany was nearly a minute ahead at the last exchange, but Arnd Peiffer had to complete a penalty lap and was overtaken by the Norwegians and Slovenians.

"All us have been in such a situation before, not a single one of us has not done it before," German star Magdalena Neuner said. "At the beginning you are disappointed, but at least we got a medal."

Neuner put Germany within striking distance of the gold with a strong second leg, with France still leading. But poor shooting dropped France to 11th at the end.

Neuner is seeking to win medals in all six events. The two-time Olympic champion is retiring at the end of the season and is in the final competition before home fans.

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