Soukalova & Fourcade extend World Cup leads in Presque Isle, as Biathlon World Championships loom

World Cup leaders Gabriela Soukalova and Martin Fourcade were the standout performers in the eighth World Cup meeting of the year which took place in Presque Isle, USA

Soukalova & Fourcade extend World Cup leads in Presque Isle, as Biathlon World Championships loom
Martin Fourcade celebrates victory in the 12.5km pursuit in Presque Isle (image via: Gabe Souza/PortlandPressHerald)

Ahead of the Biathlon World Championships which take place in just over two weeks' time, it is clear to see who the two favourites will be for the men and women events. 

Gabriela Soukalova has stretched her lead at the top of the IBU World Cup standings, after eight of the nine meetings, following a hat-trick of wins last weekend around the Presque Isle course. The Czech athlete now leads the overall World Cup standings by 135 points from France's Marie Dorin Habert who also enjoyed a strong weekend in Maine

Dorin Habert's French teammate Martin Fourcade continued his excellent season-long form with two podium finishes, including victory in the pursuit, in the American leg of the World Cup. 

This was the final major event ahead of the upcoming World Championships, which will be held in Holmenkollen, Oslo, from the 3rd-13th March. The final World Cup event of the year then follows in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia a week later, with Fourcade and Soukalova set to be awarded the Crystal Globe trophies for topping the World Cup standings. 

Soukalova completes Maine hat-trick with relay victory

In the final event of the meeting on Saturday, Soukalova and her Czech teammates captured victory in the women's relay to make it three wins from three over the weekend for the World Cup leader. Soukalova went on the third leg, and found herself 47.7 seconds behind the leading team, after teammate Lucie Charvatova had had to endure a penalty loop following a dismal showing in the standing shoot. 

Gabriela Soukalova in action in Presque Isle (image via: yahoo)

Once Soukalova had completed her 6km leg of the relay, the Czech Republic team had a lead of 16 seconds over the French quartet. She then handed over to Veronika Vitkova who despite missing five targets, held off a fight from Ukraine's Olena Pidhrushna to claim victory by 25.2 seconds. 

Soukalova's golden weekend had begun in Thursday's 7.5 km sprint event, when she shot clear to win by 17.8 seconds from home favourite Susan Dunklee, with Poland's Krystyna Guzik a further second behind in third place.

The superb shooting effort Soukalova enjoyed over the weekend also saw her prevail in the 10km pursuit race, when she missed just three of 20 targets to beat Finland's Kaisa Makarainen into second by 34 seconds. 

Fourcade claims pursuit victory to extend overall lead

Fourcade, meanwhile remains the standout performer in the men's events, and now holds a 223 point lead in the World Cup standings of Russian, Anton Shipulin

His victory in Friday's 12.5km pursuit came after the Frenchman missed just two of 20 targets in the shoot, with none of his competitors bettering his shooting score on the range. The finishing time of just over 31 minutes saw him prevail by 24 seconds from Norweigen Johannes Thingnes Boe, with Shipulin a further 47 seconds back in third. 

The day previous to his pursuit win, saw Fourcade finish third in the 10km sprint, behind Boe and Shipulin who each went clear on the range, whilst Fourcade misplaced a shot on the standing shoot. He skipped Saturday's relay, yet the French quartet still managed to claim second spot behind Norway. 

The biathletes will now all take a rest after completing eight of nine World Cup events this season, ahead of the World Championships where Soukalova and Fourcade will both be hoping to add to their trophy haul in 2015-16.