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France takes home gold, bronze in men's biathlon 12.5-kilometer pursuit

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia --- Martin Fourcade won gold and Jean Guillaume Beatrix earned bronze in Monday's 12.5-kilometer pursuit, putting France onto the medals table at the Sochi Olympics.

Bouncing back from a disappointing performance in the first biathlon event of the games, the 10-kilometer sprint that set the starting positions for Monday's pursuit, Fourcade dominated the second half of the race and even celebrated with one arm in the air before starting his final lap around the course at the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center.

Fourcade missed one target in the standing shooting portion of the race, which he finished in 33 minutes, 48.6 seconds. Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic finished 14.1 seconds later to take silver, and Beatrix was 24.2 seconds behind Fourcade in third.

Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was fourth, missing out by 1.7 seconds on what would have been a record 13th Winter Olympics medal.

The gold is Fourcade's second Olympic medal; he won silver in the mass start event in Vancouver. The Frenchman also holds five world titles, including two in the pursuit discipline.

The victory confirmed Fourcade's strength this season. He has won four World Cup events and leads the overall standings by 121 points ahead of Norwegian rival Emil Hegle Svendsen.

Fourcade was a strong favorite in the sprint that opened the Olympic biathlon competitions Saturday, but he came up well short to finish sixth.

But he needed less than a kilometer on Monday to join up with the leaders of a pursuit race that started tight. He only missed one target, the second in his third round of shooting, but his fast skiing easily made up for the time lost during his circuit of the 150-meter penalty loop.

Jean-Philippe Le Guellec of Canada briefly grabbed the lead after the second round of shooting, but the tip of his left ski later broke after he slipped and fell head-first during a sharp right turn.

Rain had set in just before the race on a warm day in the mountains above Sochi, which made for difficult conditions. Several athletes slid off course at the point where Le Guellec fell and broke his ski.

After winning Saturday's sprint, Bjoerndalen opened the race and led after the first round of shooting. However, he missed once target in each of the three following rounds and had to ski an extra 450 meters in penalties.

While Bjoerndalen came just short of finishing third, he has several more chances — including two relays with the strong Norwegian team — to win what would be a record-setting 13th medal that would put him one ahead of cross-country skiing great Bjoern Daehlie.

Svendsen started 29 seconds behind Bjoerndalen after a disappointing showing Saturday. He finished seventh, 40.2 seconds behind Fourcade.

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Gold winner Martin Fourcade #6, of France, shoots alongside Dominik Landertinger #2, of Austria, Simon Eder #7, also of Austria, Simon Schempp #15, of Germany, and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, of Norway, as they compete in the Men's Biathlon 12.5-kilometer pursuit at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Monday, Feb. 10. (AFP)

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