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Darya Domracheva, triple Olympic gold medalist in Sochi, retires

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Darya Domracheva, a triple 2014 Olympic gold medalist and Belarus’ most decorated Olympian, has retired from biathlon at age 31.

Domracheva is leaving the sport because she could not continue in biathlon while raising daughter Xenia with husband Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the 13-time Olympic medalist biathlete for Norway.

“All the time after the season, I was trying to find a compromise which would allow me to raise a child and combine with a professional career at the same time,” Domracheva said, according to the International Biathlon Union (IBU). “Unfortunately I did not find an optimal solution which would allow me to combine those two important life parts. This decision is well weighted and very tough, but I finish my sports career.”

Domracheva was one of the biggest stars of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games as the only athlete to claim three individual gold medals, four years after being put on a Belarus postage stamp for earning an individual bronze. Domracheva could have competed for Russia, having been born in Minsk but raised in the remote western Siberia oil boom town of Nyagan, the birthplace of Maria Sharapova.

She became Belarus’ first female Olympic champion, saying she was “the hope of” Belarus, then was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, “Hero of Belarus.”

After winning her only World Cup overall title in 2015, Domracheva missed the 2015-16 campaign with glandular fever, then in April 2016 announced she and Bjørndalen were in a relationship and having a child.

Domracheva returned to take a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships, then entered PyeongChang ranked fifth in the world. Domracheva struggled early in PyeongChang with finishes of ninth, 37th and 27th before earning mass start silver and relay gold.

Her six career Olympic medals are two more than anybody else from Belarus, and her four golds are double anybody else’s total from her country.

Belarus has only competed independently since the 1994 Lillehammer Games, having previously been part of the Soviet Union. Its top athletes who competed under other flags included gymnasts Olga Korbut (six medals, four golds for the Soviets) and Vitaly Scherbo (six golds in 1992 for the Unified Team; four bronzes in 1996 for Belarus).

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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World’s top biathlete returns three months after childbirth

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Belarus’ Darya Domracheva, the only athlete to earn three individual gold medals in Sochi, returns to the biathlon World Cup this week for the first time since March 2015.

Domracheva, 30, missed the 2015-16 season due to mononucleosis and the start of this season due to pregnancy.

She and Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time with 13 medals, announced April 5 that they were in a relationship and having a child.

The were married in the summer. Domracheva gave birth Oct. 1 to daughter Xenia.

Now she’s back competing in Oberhof, Germany, with World Cup events starting Friday.

The women’s biathlon scene has changed since Domracheva finished the 2014-15 season as World Cup overall champion and began her break.

This season’s World Cup leader is German Laura Dahlmeier, who didn’t finish in the top 10 in any of her five Sochi Olympic events and was eighth in the World Cup overall standings in Domracheva’s last season.

France’s Marie Dorin Habert earned medals in all six events at the 2016 World Championships, one season after finishing 15th in the World Cup overall standings.

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Ole Einar Bjoerndalen eyes 7th Olympics, family with another Sochi superstar

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen
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Norway biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time with 13 medals, plans to continue competing through the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

That wasn’t the only news the 42-year-old Bjoerndalen broke on Tuesday.

He also said that he and Belarusian biathlete Darya Domracheva, who won three golds at the Sochi Olympics, are expecting a baby in October. Domracheva plans to “get back on track” in January, according to her website.

Bjoerndalen previously announced after he earned two golds at the Sochi Olympics that he would not retire until after the 2016 World Championships at home in Oslo.

At the Oslo Worlds last month, Bjoerndalen captured medals in three of four individual races in a stunning success and then said he would take the offseason to decide his future.

Bjoerndalen had a resurgent 2015-16 season overall.

He won the first individual World Cup race of the season Dec. 2, his first World Cup victory since Feb. 12, 2012. At Worlds, he finished second to Martin Fourcade in the first two individual races and earned bronze in the mass-start finale.

If Bjoerndalen makes a seventh Olympics, he could try in Pyeongchang to break his tie with retired Norwegian cross-country legend Bjorn Daehlie for the Winter Olympic gold medals record of eight.

He could also keep countrywoman Marit Bjoergen from approaching his total Winter Olympic medals record. The cross-country skier at 10 Olympic medals took this season off due to pregnancy but, at 35 years old, plans to return.

The most decorated athletes in Sochi — speed skaters Ireen Wuest and Viktor Ahn — are at eight Olympic medals each.

Domracheva, 29, became the first female biathlete to earn three golds at a single Olympics in Sochi. She took last season off due to mononucleosis.

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