Our golden star Darya!
Almost everyone who has been following the events on the biathlon tracks has realised that Darya Domracheva could not return from Olympic Sochi without a medal; she performed confidently at World Cup stages, despite missing targets. However, in Sochi, her stars aligned as no astronomer could predict, bringing her two gold medals over her three first races.
By Dmitry Baranovsky
Darya wasn’t a success in the sprint, seeming to ski with less than her usual fluidity, perhaps due to some shortcoming regarding the track: as much discussed, even since last year. Many of the leading skiers have been suffering similar problems. Nevertheless, doubts dispersed from the opening of the pursuit, with Domracheva just over one lap behind Slovak Anastasiya Kuzmina (twice Olympic sprint champion, gaining her first gold four years ago in Vancouver). Just half a minute behind her rival, Darya stepped up the pace before the firing range, and appeared at the second range alone, with only World Cup leader Norwegian Tora Berger seemingly having any chance of catching her. Darya eventually won the day, claiming Belarus’ first ever such gold.
The individual race has never been Ms. Domracheva’s forte, since each target error brings a whole minute of extra time. Even after her triumph in the pursuit, and remembering Darya’s victory in this discipline a year ago during the pre-Olympic week in Sochi, few could call her a favourite. It was impossible to tell how the race might progress until it was underway — and whether Darya would remain on form.
Looking back on the women’s individual race, it will undoubtedly occupy a worthy place in domestic sport for years to come. For the first time in the history of the Winter Olympic Games, the Belarus team managed to claim three medals: two being gold and won by a single athlete. Also, for the first time, two Belarusian women stood upon the medals podium.
Darya’s comrade in arms was Nadezhda Skardino — who has only managed two Cup medals so far in her sporting career: a completely different level. Ms. Skardino’s success rested on her target accuracy. Holding the world record for shooting accuracy (across 22 firing ranges), Skardino kept her nerve and fulfilled every fan’s hope, achieving her greatest success to date: a bronze Olympic medal. Almost all of the leading biathletes were experiencing problems with accuracy, yet Nadezhda showed her true marksmanship talent. Afterwards, she couldn’t conceal her joy, proclaiming, “The feeling of seeing your dream come true is amazing!”
Darya Domracheva shared the joy of her teammate. However, speaking after the medal ceremony, alongside other victors, she couldn’t help but focus on her own prospects. Taking into account her speed and confidence, she’s quite capable of beating German Kati Wilhelm’s record of three gold medals at a single Games. Darya needs only one more and tells us, “Why not? I’ll try to thoroughly prepare for the next race: the mass start. I can’t say that it’s my favourite but I enjoy biathlon in general, as well as each race in particular. I always enter competitions with pleasure.”