How Denise Herrmann stole Olympic gold in the women's 15km

Denise Herrmann from Germany cheers winning the gold medal at the Flower Ceremony. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Denise Herrmann from Germany cheers winning the gold medal at the Flower Ceremony. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In a shocking turn of events, Germany’s Denise Herrmann took gold in the women’s individual 15km final. Crossing the line with a final time of 44:12.7, Herrmann was the first out of 78 to complete the five laps around the course. She only missed one target during the second stage of prone shooting which aided in her success.

There is little room to make errors in the shooting range, with each missed shot adding one minute onto an athlete’s time. France’s Anais Chevalier-Bouchet suffered from these conditions and took silver after missing a target in her last shooting stage in the standing position.

In order to make more accurate shots on the five targets, athletes first have to slow their heart rate and try to shoot in between beats. Precise range procedure is just one skill that Herrmann leaned on to win gold. 

While range procedure proved to be an important part of Herrmanns gold medal run, her endurance skills and elite execution of incline climbs is what landed her the top spot on the podium. Ukraine’s Iryna Petrenko completed all of her shooting stages with no misses, but ended the competition over a minute behind Herrmann. This speaks to how much skiing speed matters in this event. At just 21 years old, if Petrenko gets faster in the next four years, she has potential to earn Olympic medals in her career. 

Early on in the race, Herrmann pushed the pace. Coming into the first shooting stage, it was clear the event was going to be a race between Herrmann and Norway’s Marte Olsbu Roeiseland. In her second Olympic games, Roeiseland quickly familiarized herself with the terrain and had prepared for the competition with altitude training sessions. However, it was not enough for the Norwegian to catch Herrmanns time. Just out of reach of competitors and consistently at the top of the standings, in one last huge effort up the incline, Herrmann surged to the finish line to lower her projected finish time even further. 

Continuing Germany’s legacy as the leading nation in biathlon from four years ago, It was a brilliant race for Herrmann. For Sweden’s Oeberg sisters and favorite to win medals in this event, Hanna Oeberg and Elvira Oeberg finished in 16th and 13th place.

Deedra Irwin finished as the top scoring biathlete from the United States in the top ten. The U.S. has never won an Olympic medal in biathlon in either the men’s or women’s events.

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