16 Feb 2009

Norwegian picks up 12th biathlon world title

5:47 am on 16 February 2009

Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen has become the world's most decorated biathlete after re-claiming the men's world pursuit title in South Korea three hours after winning the race, then being demoted by the jury.

The victory initially earned Bjoerndalen a record 12th world title but confusion reigned after the International Biathlon Union's decided to impose a minute's penalty on Bjoerndalen, and a group of around 10 other athletes.

Race officials said a number of competitors erred by taking the wrong direction on the course and Russian Maxim Tchoudov was subsequently promoted to gold, with Alexander Os moving up to silver and Bjoerndalen dropping to bronze.

Norway and a number of other countries appealed and officials decided to overturn their decision after a study of the race video showed all the athletes who had gone the wrong way had not gained a time advantage.

Bjoerndalen, a multiple Olympic champion, won the sprint competition yesterday and now becomes the first athlete to win 12 world championship gold medals.

As the world championships count towards the World Cup, the 35-year-old's 86th victory in the series means he has also equalled the 86 World Cup victories of legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark.

Until yesterday Stenmark, who ruled the slopes between 1975 and 1983, had been the most decorated winter sports athlete.