KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Darya Domracheva's dream to be a flag bearer for Belarus at the Sochi Olympics has come true, just four days after she turned down a chance to carry the red and green flag in the games' opening ceremony.
The biathlete was asked to carry the Belarus flag during the first celebratory night Friday. She was honored and said she would have loved to have done it, but coaches advised her not to.
But Domracheva grabbed the next chance to wave her country's colors with both hands as she skied the final meters in celebration on her way to victory at the women's 10-kilometer biathlon pursuit on Tuesday.
"You can easily get sick when you're standing so long in the cold," Domracheva said about the opening ceremony. "I am so happy that I got the chance to carry our flag today."
Domracheva put in a dominating performance in the pursuit, taking the lead after three kilometers and never looking back. She started 32 seconds behind sprint champion Anastasiya Kuzmina, but overtook her Slovakian rival after the first shooting and raced ahead.
Even though she missed the 20th and final target, she still easily won the gold medal with a time of 29 minutes, 30.7 seconds.
Tora Berger of Norway was 37.6 seconds behind to take silver. Teja Gregorin trailed Domracheva by 42.0 to claim bronze, Slovenia's first ever biathlon medal at the Olympics.
"I was really calm and confident before the race," Domracheva said. "I was the hope of my country. I didn't read the papers but I felt that everyone had hopes on me. I felt their nerves. But I just tried to be myself and rely on myself as I have a lot of experience."
It was Domracheva's second Olympic medal but first gold. She won bronze in the 15K individual race in Vancouver four years ago.
Shooting conditions at the Laura biathlon center were perfect, with no wind, but the track caused many athletes problems because days of mild temperatures had softened the snow.
Domracheva finished ninth in Sunday's sprint, which determined the start order and interval for the pursuit. But she attacked from the start and at the first shooting had already reduced her deficit to Kuzmina to just 10 seconds.