Russia's Anton Shipulin skis during the men's 20 km individual competition at the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Kerstin Joensson
February 18, 2017

HOCHFILZEN, Austria (AP) Anton Shipulin waved the Russian flag even before finishing as he helped the Olympic champion beat France for the gold medal in the men's 4x7.5-kilometer relay at the biathlon world championships on Saturday.

In the final leg, Shipulin missed one target but still held off a challenge by five-time overall World Cup champion Martin Fourcade.

It was the second medal for Russia after taking bronze in the mixed team relay on the opening day of the worlds last week.

On Saturday, the Russian team of Alexey Volkov, Maxim Tsvetkov, Anton Babikov and Shipulin beat France by 5.8 seconds.

In front of 20,000 spectators, home team Austria defeated Germany in the fight for bronze. It was the first time since 2011 that Germany failed to win a world championship medal in the discipline. Austria was 20.1 seconds behind.

The rest of the field, led by Italy in fifth, was more than 1 1/2 minutes off the pace.

The final 7.5K leg was a tense four-team fight as Shipulin and Austria's Dominik Landertinger started simultaneously, with Fourcade and Germany's Simon Schempp 13 seconds behind.

That margin was reduced to four seconds at the start of the prone shooting stage. Shipulin shot fast and flawlessly, giving him a 10-second advantage over Fourcade and Landertinger, with Schempp another 10 seconds back in fourth.

However, Shipulin had to reload once during his final visit to the shooting range, allowing Fourcade to close the gap to just four seconds again. But the Frenchman failed to make up time on the final 2.5 kilometers of skiing.

Russia had not won a relay world title since 2008 but it won at the Sochi Olympics three years ago with a team that included Volkov and Shipulin.

Defending world champion Norway, which had won five of the last six world championship relays, was more than two minutes behind in eighth.

Norway fell behind the other favorites in the second leg after Ole Einar Bjoerndalen had to reload twice in his second shooting stage, and it lost all hope of another medal in the next leg when Tarjei Boe missed three times and was forced to ski a 150-meter penalty loop.

The worlds end on Sunday with the women's and men's mass start.

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