Martin Fourcade

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Martin Fourcade, France’s most decorated Winter Olympian, retiring from biathlon

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Martin Fourcade, France’s most decorated Winter Olympian with seven medals and five golds, announced a surprise retirement on Friday at age 31, the International Biathlon Union confirmed.

Fourcade is expected to make Saturday’s World Cup 12.5km pursuit in Finland the last race of his career. It’s also the last race of the season, which will end prematurely due to the coronavirus.

Fourcade has been a force for nearly a decade: seven straight World Cup overall titles from 2012-18, 28 world championships medals, including 13 golds, and five gold medals between the last two Olympics.

Last season, Fourcade struggled with zero world championships medals for the first time since 2010 and a 12th-place finish in the overall standings. This season, he is battling Norwegian rival Johannes Thingnes Bø for the overall title going into Saturday’s finale.

Only Norwegian Ole Einar Bjørndalen owns more Olympic biathlon gold medals (eight), world titles (20) or World Cup victories (94) than Fourcade.

Fourcade, born in Céret, near the Spanish border in the south of France, began cross-country skiing at 6 and switched to biathlon at 13. He followed older brother Simon, who competed in three Olympics.

Fourcade developed a successful method that other biathletes copied — making shooting accuracy his top priority, followed by speed at the range and then making up lost time skiing.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Il y a des décisions qui changent une vie.Je me suis souvent demandé si cela avait été le cas lorsque je suis monté…

Posted by Martin Fourcade on Friday, March 13, 2020

Men’s biathlon mass start comes down to a photo finish

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Ego almost got the better of Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen in the final moments of today’s men’s biathlon mass start.

Svendsen got by France’s Martin Fourcade in the last turn to set up a thrilling chase for the finish line.

And just before they crossed the stripe, Svendsen pulled up and raised his arms in triumph, believing he had the race won.

It nearly cost the Norwegian the gold medal, when an unexpected last burst from Fourcade at the very end created a photo finish and sent him tumbling into the snow.

But in the end, Svendsen was victorious after almost grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. The two finished with identical times of 42:29.1.

source: Getty Images
Emil Hegle Svendsen (left) nearly sends himself into Olympic infamy in his finish with Martin Fourcade (right) at the men’s biathlon mass start. Photo: Getty Images

Svendsen now has his third Olympic gold medal and fourth medal overall, while Fourcade adds a silver to his two golds he’s already gotten in Sochi.

Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic wound up with the bronze. Tim Burke finished 21st to lead the U.S.

MORE: NBCOlympics.com slideshow of today’s close finish

MEN’S BIATHLON – MASS START
1. Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR), 42:29.1
2. Martin Fourcade (FRA), 42:29.1
3. Ondrej Moravec (CZE), 42:42.9

21. Tim Burke (USA), 44:55.9
23. Lowell Bailey (USA), 45:19.2

WATCH LIVE: Biathlon men’s mass start, feat. Martin Fourcade & Ole Einar Bjoerndalen

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Two days after its originally scheduled start, the men’s biathlon mass start event is finally set to go off. You can watch on NBCOlympics.com RIGHT NOW.

France’s Martin Fourcade has already won in the pursuit and the individual at Sochi, and now, he’ll look to go one spot better in the event that he won silver in four years ago at Vancouver.

The man he finished behind, gold medal winner Evgeny Ustiugov of Russia, is back to defend his Olympic title and will enjoy the support of the home crowd.

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Also in the field is Norway’s “Biathlon King,” Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, as he continues his quest to earn a 13th Olympic medal and become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time.

However, Bjoerndalen is not considered to be a medal threat in the mass start. He does have a bronze from the 2006 event at Torino, but followed that with a 27th-place result at Vancouver.

WATCH THE EVENT LIVE.