Penalties to the two favorites made the men’s 10km sprint Sunday a wide-open event early, and with that, it created an electric atmosphere.
With the pre-Olympics predictions quickly irrelevant, it was Germany’s Arnd Peiffer who took home the gold medal Sunday at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Peiffer finished the sprint in 23 minutes, 38.8 seconds. He shot clean in both of his shooting bouts.
It was the 30-year-old Peiffer’s first Olympic gold medal and his second Olympic medal.
Michal Krcmar, of the Czech Republic, captured the silver medal and Italy’s Dominik Windisch got the bronze.
Krcmar finished in 23 minutes, 43.2 seconds for his first Olympic medal. He shot clean as well. Windisch closed at 23 minutes, 46.5 seconds but he had one penalty.
The two favorites, France’s Martin Fourcade and Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe, struggled with their shooting and as a result, had disappointing showings in the 10km sprint.
Fourcade and Boe fell out of contention after their first shooting bouts.
Fourcade finished in eighth place, closing the race in 24 minutes, 0.1 seconds, but his three missed shots forced him off the podium.
Boe’s run was going smoothly until his prone shooting bouts. He missed three shots, which forced him to take three penalty loops. That alone was enough to hurt his chances at a medal.
Then, during his next shooting bout, the 24-year-old missed another one, this time in the standing position. His four penalties ultimately proved too costly for the 24-year-old to overcome.
Boe finished in 24 minutes, 55.5 seconds, shot 6 of 10 and did not medal in the 10km sprint. He finished 31st.
It is Norway’s first Winter Olympics without the “King of Biathlon” Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who, at 44, did not make the Norwegian team for the 2018 PyeongChang Games, since 1990.
Bjoerndalen is the most decorated Winter Olympian of all-time with 13 Olympic medals.
In fact, Boe was not the lone Norwegian who struggled with shooting on Sunday. Norway biathletes combined to miss 10 shots between four biathletes.
U.S. Biathlon, which entered the PyeongChang Games with expectations of winning its first Olympic medal, had another showing leaving more to be desired.
Lowell Bailey was the highest-finishing American, coming in in 33rd place. Bailey finished in 24 minutes, 54.4 seconds and missed one shot.
The good news for Team USA is that Bailey, Tim Burke and Leif Nordgren all qualified for the men’s 12.5km pursuit by finishing in the top 6-. Sean Doherty was the lone American man who did not qualify for the men’s pursuit.
Emily Dreissigacker was the lone American woman to qualify for the women’s 10km pursuit.
Biathlon continues Monday with the women’s pursuit and men’s pursuit. The women’s pursuit begins at 5:10 a.m. EST, while the men’s gets underway at 7 a.m. Both can be streamed on NBCOlympics.com.