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Neuner wins women's 12.5K mass start at Olympics

Biathletes at the shooting range during the men's 15 km biathlon mass start at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010. Biathletes at the shooting range during the men's 15 km biathlon mass start at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
By Mattias Karen
AP Sports Writer / February 21, 2010

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WHISTLER, British Columbia—Two missed targets weren't enough to keep Magdalena Neuner from leaving Vancouver with at least two Olympic golds.

With a quick burst of powerful skiing, Neuner overcame her shooting errors to win the women's 12.5-kilometer mass start biathlon race Sunday for her second gold medal at the Vancouver Games.

"I knew I could win a medal, but now I have three," said the 23-year-old German, who also won the 10K pursuit on Tuesday and took silver in the 7.5K sprint in her first Olympics. "I may need days or weeks to realize it."

Neuner pulled away from her rivals after the final shooting and had time to start celebrating as she crossed a short bridge leading into the stadium, pumping her fist to salute the German fans. She finished in 35 minutes, 19.6 seconds.

Olga Zaitseva of Russia took the silver medal after finishing 5.5 seconds behind. Simone Hauswald of Germany won bronze, 7.3 seconds back.

Neuner became just the second woman to win two individual biathlon golds at the same Olympics, matching Canadian standout Myriam Bedard's accomplishment from 1994.

The novelty factor of being an Olympic champion already seems to be wearing off.

"Maybe winning the first gold even felt a bit better," Neuner said. "But I am delighted that tonight, we (Neuner and Hauswald) will stand at the medals plaza together."

Neuner trailed by as much as 29 seconds after missing two targets in the first three shootings. But she pushed the pace and was only 7 seconds behind Zaitseva after a clean shoot in the final standing position.

"Then I saw only two athletes in front of me, and I thought 'OK, I'm on the podium,'" Neuner said. "Then I saw, OK, they're not that far in front of me. ... So I turned on the turbo."

She caught up with her Russian rival shortly afterward and then pulled away in the last major uphill climb, where neither Zaitseva nor Hauswald could match her speed.

"I saw that Magdalena was way up there, and I couldn't keep up," Zaitseva said.

Zaitseva was part of the Russian relay team that won gold in Turin four years ago, but this was her first individual Olympic medal.

"It is a hard-won medal, and they're not easy to get," Zaitseva said. "So I'm very glad and proud that I have a medal I can call my own."

Hauswald led going into the third shooting but missed two targets to fall nearly 30 seconds behind another Russian, Olga Medvedtseva, who shot cleanly to take a narrow lead.

Medvedtseva stayed in front going into the final shooting, where she again hit all targets, but spent so much time on the range that she left in fourth place, where she finished.

Hauswald, who will team up with Neuner for Tuesday's relay, didn't seem to rue her mistakes in the third shooting, which cost her the gold.

"I'm overwhelmed," she said. "I worked hard all those days and all the years, and now I'm very thankful to get a medal. When I woke up this morning I had a really good feeling, and I thought 'OK, this is your day.' And I just believed in myself and had a really good race."