And with a sensational winner, the Russian Anton Babikov, who celebrated his second World Cup victory ever in the Südtirol Arena.
Not the overall World Cup leader Quentin Fillon Maillet, not the individual leader Sturla Holm Lægreid, not Johannes Thingnes or Tarjei Bø, no, the winner of the opening race in Antholz is Anton Babikov. The 30-year-old from Moscow surprised the entire field with an outstanding performance, was the only one to stay clear in the shooting range and won the 20 km event with a time of 49:46.8 minutes. For Babikov this is only the second World Cup victory ever. The Russian already stood on top of the podium in the pursuit in Östersund in 2016. Nevertheless, only a very few people thought he would deliver an outstanding performance in the individual event in Antholz.
In the end Babikov was 9.7 seconds ahead of the second-placed, Norwegian Tarjei Bø. Thanks to his second place, the veteran from Stryn also won the World Cup in the individual event. Behind Babikov and Bø, Said Karimulla Khaliki also made it on the podium. The Russian was also a complete surprise, missing only one shot and finishing third, 48.5 seconds behind. Johannes Thingnes Bø was the fastest in the cross-country skiing but had to settle for fourth place with three shooting errors. His compatriot Sturla Holm Lægreid, who has only competed in four individual races in his career so far, achieving three victories and one second place, finished fifth today.
Hofer and Windisch disappointed
The Italian top athletes did not play a major role in this first Antholz event. Best Azzurro was Thomas Bormolini who finished 27th, second best Italian was Lukas Hofer in 43rd place (with six missed shots). Didier Bionaz (49th), Tommaso Giacomel (50th), and Dominik Winisch from Rasun, who only finished 77th with 8 misses in the shooting range, also delivered a disappointing performance. Only the best 40 athletes of the individual event will take part in the mass start on Saturday.
The World Cup programme in the Südtirol Arena continues on Friday with the women’s 15-km individual event. The race will start at 14:15 hrs.
Biathlon World Cup Antholz
20 km individual race men
1. Anton Babikov (RUS) 49.46,8 (0)
2. Tarjei Boe (NOR) +9,7 (2)
3. Said Karimulla Khalili (RUS) +48,5 (1)
4. Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR) +50,5 (3)
5. Sturla Holm Laegreid (NOR) +1.32,9 (3)
6. Simon Destieux (FRA) +2.08,2 (3)
7. Alexander Loginov (RUS) +2.16,3 (3)
8. Fabien Claude (FRA) +2.22,4 (3)
9. Paul Schommer (USA) +2.26,5 (2)
10 Emilien Jaquelin (FRA) +2.27,9 (2)
11. Benjamin Weger (SVI) +2.37,8 (2)
12. Benedikt Doll (GER) +2.44,6 (4)
13. Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen (NOR) +2.52,8 (4)
14. Michal Krcmar (CZE) +3.08,7 (3)
15. Campbell Wright (NZL) +3.09,8 (2)
16. Simon Eder (AUT) +3.13,9 (3)
20. Quentin Fillon Maillet (FRA) +3.31,5 (5)
27. Thomas Bormolini (ITA) +4.07,6 (3)
43. Lukas Hofer (ITA) +5.50,1 (6)
49. Didier Bionaz (ITA) +6.04,7 (4)
50. Tommaso Giacomel (ITA) +6.06,7 (6)
77. Dominik Windisch (ITA) +8.36,4 (8)