Anastasiya Kuzmina wins gold in women's 12.5-kilometer biathlon mass start

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- After two silver medals, Anastasiya Kuzmina finally won Olympic gold in 2018.

The Slovakian biathlete hit 19 of 20 targets and won the women's 12.5-kilometer mass start Saturday. She beat silver medalist Darya Domracheva of Belarus by 18.8 seconds to claim her sixth career medal -- and third gold. Tiril Eckhoff of Norway took bronze.

Kuzmina's two previous gold medals came in the 7.5-kilometer sprint, so when she didn't win the event in Pyeongchang, she figured there would be no Olympic gold medal this time around.

She said that helped take the pressure off.

"I was happy with two silvers, but today I was really relaxed and wasn't thinking about if I medal," Kuzmina said. "I just competed. I just enjoyed this race."

Laura Dahlmeier of Germany, the favorite in the event and a two-time Olympic champion already in Pyeongchang, struggled with two misses and finished in 16th place.

The hardest part of the night for Kuzmina seemed to be trying to unravel the Slovakian flag in her arms as she was skiing toward the finish line with a huge lead over the pack.

Kuzmina has now accounted for all three of Slovakia's medals at the Pyeongchang Games.

On Saturday, Kuzmina nearly pulled off a clean shoot, connecting on 19 shots before missing on her final attempt at the fourth stop. She was so far ahead at that point it didn't matter.

"In my career I never shoot clean four times, and today after three times zero, I was reaching for my last shooting, and I was worried about it," Kuzmina said. "I'm so happy that my ski time was good enough and saved my position."

Kuzmina became the second biathlete and the first woman to win an individual medal in all four events on the program in her career, after Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. Only one other biathlete has six medals in individual events -- Bjoerndalen with nine.

It turned out to be a power-packed podium.

Domracheva, who is married to Bjoerndalen, claimed her fifth Olympic medal.

"I'm really proud of her," Bjoerndalen said of his wife.

Domracheva had struck out in her previous chances to win a biathlon medal in Pyeongchang.

"I was so stressed," she said. "But I'm very happy that I overcame all these difficulties that I've had from the beginning of the Games. I'm happy that I had the power and the concentration for today's race."

Eckhoff, who won three medals at the 2014 Sochi Games, managed to take third place despite missing two shots. She was happy with a bronze, saying it has been a tough season leading up to the Olympics.

"To manage this today," Eckhoff said, "it was my last chance and I'm very happy."