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Finland's new sports star: Laukkanen wins gold in both biathlon sprint and pursuit

Finland has a new world-class biathlon athlete in Mari Laukkanen, who won the gold in two events in World Cup cross-country skiing competitions in Oslo this weekend.

Video: Mari Laukkanen
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Finnish biathlon athlete Mari Laukkanen easily won the World Cup biathlon pursuit event at the Holmenkollen arena outside of Oslo, Norway on Saturday. Laukkanen had only one standing penalty and kept her lead throughout the entire race. Just 24 hours earlier she had secured her first World Cup victory in the women's 7.5km sprint.

She finished Saturday's race 26.5 seconds ahead of her clean-shooting competitor, Gabriela Koukalová of the Czech Republic, who took silver. France's Justine Braisaz took third.

Finland's Kaisa Mäkäräinen placed seventh, after having to ski two penalty rounds.

Friday's win was unexpected

After her first World Cup win on Friday, a smiling Laukkanen said during the press conference that the sprint had not been an easy day of skiing for her, and that she didn't expect to win.

Laukkanen gained the lead early in the windy field of 103 competitors Friday, and shot clean to win over clean-shooting Braisaz by 7.9 seconds. Another French woman Anais Bescond took third place. 

Earlier in the season, 29-year-old Laukkanen had also taken time away from biathlon in order to qualify for and compete in the cross-country World Championships in Lahti, where she reached the semifinal in the women’s sprint. At the IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, she narrowly missed a medal in the 15k individual, finishing fourth.

A moving dedication

Laukkanen competed with a black armband on Saturday, dedicating her win to the Finnish ski team's long-term shooting coach Asko Nuutinen, who had died the previous night.

"We lost our shooting coach. Today I did as he has taught me to do. I was thinking about him; I honour him with this victory,” she said.

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