Road To The Olympic Games

Gabriela Soukalova, Erik Lesser win mass-start biathlon events

Gabriela Soukalova stayed perfect on the shooting range in driving snowfall and beat two Germans to win her 10th career biathlon World Cup event in a 12.5-kilometre mass-start race on Saturday.

Canada's Nathan Smith finishes 15th, Rosanna Crawford 19th

Czech Republic's Gabriela Soukalova competes to win the women's 12.5 km mass start competition at the Biathlon World Cup in Ruhpolding, Germany, Saturday. (Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press)

Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic and Erik Lesser of Germany stayed perfect on the shooting range in driving snowfall to win mass-start biathlon World Cup events on Saturday in Ruhpolding, Germany.

Overall World Cup leader Soukalova picked up her 10th career win by covering the 12.5-kilometre women's distance in 41:13.2 seconds to leave two Germans behind.

Franziska Hildebrand was second, 13.9 seconds behind, after one penalty lap. Laura Dahlmeier had two penalty loops for two missed targets and finished 24.4 seconds behind in third.

Nathan Smith of Calgary plowed through the slow conditions to finish 15th.

"The ski course was extremely slow going with the fresh snow falling," Smith said. "The 15-kilometre time was close to what the winning time was for the 20 kilometre individual race," said Smith.

"I had been feeling kind of fatigued the last few races, but I am happy that I was able to overcome that by performing well on the shooting range and end up with a very respectful final result."

After missing one shot in his opening prone round of shots, the 30-year-old Smith was clean in his next prone and two standing bouts on the range.

Canmore, Alta., athlete Rosanna Crawford finished 19th, 2:16.5 behind. The 27-year-old represented Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

"That was tough, tough skiing for me today. I felt like I was skiing through sand," said Crawford in a press release. "But I am happy with my shooting. I am always amazed at the atmosphere here in Ruhpolding. 30,000 fans can make quite a lot of noise."

Halfway into the 26-event season, Soukalova has 611 points, while Marie Dorin Habert of France is second at 538. She was ninth in Saturday's race. Hildebrand is third overall at 520 points.

Lesser clinched his second career win by beating overall World Cup leader Martin Fourcade of France by 9.8 seconds. Fourcade had to do one penalty loop after missing one target in the last of four shootings. Lesser covered the 15 kilometres in 40 minutes, 29.3 seconds. Evgeniy Garanichev of Russia was third, 13.1 seconds behind after one extra loop.

Fourcade is seeking a record fifth straight overall title and has a comfortable lead with 655 points. Tarjei Boe of Norway is second at 468 after finishing only 11th in the race.

The World Cup continues Sunday with the women's 4x6-kilometre relay.

With files from The Canadian Press

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