By ERIC WILLEMSEN
2014-02-16 09:01 AM
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- The individual competitions of men's biathlon at the Sochi Olympics end Sunday with the mass start event.
Two-time gold medalist Martin Fourcade of France and Norwegian standout Ole Einar Bjoerrndalen will be among the 30 leading biathletes battling it out for the fourth gold medal of the Games. Next up are two team events -- the men's relay and, for the first time at Olympics, the mixed team event.
Here are five things to know about Sunday's mass start event.
FOURCADE FAVORITE: Martin Fourcade's dominating run to back-to-back gold medals at the Sochi Olympics makes the Frenchman an obvious favorite for the mass start title. Also, Fourcade leads this season's World Cup standings in the discipline and took silver in the mass start in Vancouver four years ago.
ELITE RACE: It's called mass start but it is an elite race, actually. Entry is limited to only the 30 best biathletes from the Sochi Olympics and the current World Cup season. The breakdown: the eight medalists from the first three events (not nine as Fourcade has medaled twice) plus the next 10 best-ranked biathletes from the World Cup. The remaining spots go to best performers during the Games who have not yet won a medal.
RUSSIA TOO STRONG: Russia has won one medal so far -- bronze for Yevgeny Garanichev in the individual race -- but as a team, the home nation has been, well, too strong. Five Russian biathletes have qualified for the mass start but competition rules allow for only four starters per nation. The unlucky athlete having to sit out the race will be Alexey Volkov, who finished second in this season's only World Cup mass start event before the Olympics.
THIRD TIME: Men's biathlon has been part of the Olympics since 1960 but the mass start format was only added for the 2006 Turin Games. Michael Greis of Germany won the first event and Yevgeny Ustyugov of Russia took the second gold four years later. Greis retired in 2012 but Ustyugov is still competing and qualified in 14th place for Sunday's race.
BOE OUT: The reigning world champion won't win the Olympic title. Tarjei Boe won the mass start at last year's world championships but the former overall World Cup champion from Norway has failed to qualify for Sunday's race. His best result in Sochi has been 26th in the individual race and he is currently ranked 17th in this season's overall standings -- both not good enough to earn a starting berth. However, a Boe will be on the start list as his younger brother, Johannes Thingnes, has qualified.