There was double golden joy for France at the Winter Olympics on Sunday.
Vincent Jay won the men’s 10km sprint biathlon at Whistler before Jason Lamy Chappuis joined the party with victory in the individual nordic combined event.
First up, there was a surprise win for Jay as Norwegian legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen’s Olympics began poorly.
A perfect shoot and impressive ski, saw Jay come home with a time of 24mins 7.8secs.
That was 12.2secs faster than Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen, with Croatian Jakov Fak taking the bronze medal.
Bjoerndalen, a five-time Olympic champion in biathlon who arrived in Whistler with the chance to become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, could finish only 17th.
His chances were ruined at the first shoot when he missed three of his five targets.
The weather also played its part in the race with the early starters getting the better of conditions as heavy snow during the race meant those with high bib numbers were slowed down.
That was highlighted by the fact that the top seven in the final standings all started in the first 14.
Bjoerndalen said the weather had affected his chances.
“It was really bad – the skiing was OK but there was a lot of snow,” he commented.
The 36-year-old knows one medal in Vancouver will see him become the second most decorated Winter Olympian and his next chance will come in Tuesday’s pursuit, a race in which he feels “anything is possible”.
Briton Lee-Steve Jackson, a serving soldier in the Army, finished down in 55th, more than three minutes behind the winner.
However, that was good enough to earn him a place in pursuit – a reward for all the hard work he has put in since narrowly missing out on going to the Turin Olympics four years ago.
Jackson said: “When I was told I wasn’t going to Turin I knew I wouldn’t miss Vancouver, I was too determined.
“I was quite fortunate with the weather and I made the top 60 which makes me happy. I missed my final shots at both targets which was disappointing but I was quite fortunate I had an early start number.”
On racing Bjoerndalen, Jackson added: “His pursuit of excellence is second to none and to compete against an athlete like that is fantastic. He didn’t win today and I feel so bad for him because I know he has worked so hard.
“With Ole being so focused and self-motivated he has upgraded the quality of the rest of the athletes, who don’t want him to leave them behind. There are so many who came here to win a medal.”
Lamy Chappuis later added to France’s medal haul by winning gold in a thrilling sprint finish.
Johnny Spillane appeared to be on course to win USA’s first-ever nordic combined gold medal – the event combines ski jumping with cross-country skiing – as he led in the closing stages but Lamy Chappuis caught him with around 50m remaining.
Spillane managed to to take silver, finishing just 0.4secs behind the winner, with Italy’s Alessandro Pittin third.
Finn Janne Ryynaenen had led after the morning ski jump discipline but could not live with the cross-country pace and finished down in 26th.