Domracheva, Belarus Handle Heavy Winds to Win Biathlon Relay

Team USA has one final chance in Pyeongchang to get their first Olympic biathlon medal

Darya Domracheva grabbed the Belarusian flag and headed to the finish line looking to celebrate her team's gold-winning performance in the 4x6-kilometer relay.

Then a funny thing happened.

A huge gust of wind whipped the red and green flag from the pole she was carrying in her hands and landed way behind her in the snow. Domracheva looked back at the flag as she crossed the line and couldn't help but laugh.

It was par for the course on a wintry night at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Snow and heavy winds created havoc on the shooting range for everyone and generally made life miserable on skis, too.

Domracheva said she was proud of how her team handled some difficult conditions and came away Olympic champions.

"It was very high pressure and a lot of challenges from the first day of the Olympic Games," Domracheva said. "All these (challenges) caused this gold medal. I think this is big, big, big for us."

Domracheva has now won four Olympic gold medals in the biathlon, more than any woman in history.

She won three gold medals at the 2014 Sochi Games, but this was her first at Pyeongchang. She teamed with Nadezhda Skardino, Iryna Kryoko, Dzinara Alimbekava to win the race in 1 hour, 12 minutes, 3.4 seconds.

Domracheva's husband, Ole Einar Bjourndalen from Norway, is the most decorated Olympic biathlete of all time with 13 medals. He was there to cheer her on in the race's closing minutes, shouting times as she skied on past.

"His emotions were the same as ours — he was so happy," Domracheva said.

Sweden rallied from nearly one minute behind early in the race to take silver, and France took bronze.

The winds at the Alpensia Biathlon Center had caused all sorts of problems during the first week of the Olympic Games, but had subsided over the last week or so. The winds returned in full force on Thursday night, whipping snow up in the faces of competitors as they attempted to ski and shoot.

It wasn't unusual for competitors to take more than 30 seconds on the shooting range to get a shot off, first having to clear the water from their eyes and focus on the target.

"I think they were tough conditions outside but the other teams, they could manage it," said Laura Dahlmeier, who was on the German team which finished in a disappointing eighth place. "For us, it was not possible. For me, the race was OK but in the end the time (difference) was too much."

Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf was on hand to watch the race and said he was proud of how the women represented their country.

"They have fought incredibly well, it was very hard conditions today," Gustaf said. "It's the same for everyone of course, but they did it really well in the last leg. Really, really well. It's great every time you're able to experience something like this, when they perform so well, that they can do what many people knowing this sport would have expected. I was hoping for this."

The United States was in contention for its first biathlon medal until the final leg, but finished a distant 13th.

The biathlon competition at the Pyeongchang Games will wrap up Friday night with the men's relay featuring France's Martin Fourcade's bid for a fourth gold medal.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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