Dahlmeier wins individual race for 3rd biathlon world title

Germany's winner Laura Dahlmeier competes during the women's 15 km individual competition at the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

HOCHFILZEN, Austria — Laura Dahlmeier won the women's individual competition Wednesday for her third gold medal and fourth overall at the biathlon world championships.

In a series that started last year in Oslo, Dahlmeier has won a medal in nine straight world championship races, matching the all-time record set by retired Norwegian great Tora Berger.

The overall World Cup leader from Germany finished the 15-kilometer race in 41 minutes, 30.1 seconds to beat sprint world champion Gabriela Koukalova of the Czech Republic by 24.7 seconds. Both Dahlmeier and Koukalova missed one target in their first shooting stage but shot cleanly afterward.

"My looseness is the secret," said Dahlmeier, who has already won the pursuit and mixed team titles, and finished runner-up to Koukalova in the sprint. "I didn't let myself get distracted from missing that target. The race isn't over until you finish."

Dahlmeier became the fourth German world champion in the discipline but first since Kati Wilhelm eight years ago.

Contrary to most pre-race favorites, Koukalova had picked an early start number and led the race for a long time.

"In the finish I hoped my time was good enough to beat Laura," said Koukalova, who was third in Sunday's pursuit. "It's better than excellent to have a third medal. It's amazing."

Alexia Runggaldier of Italy hit all 20 targets and finished 1:45.6 behind to win bronze.

Defending world champion Marie Dorin Habert of France missed four targets in total and finished nearly five minutes behind in 40th. Three-time Olympic champion Darya Domracheva, who returned last month from a nearly two-year layoff, started well but the Belarussian lost her medal hopes when she missed twice in her final prone shooting before finishing 13th.

The world championships continue with the men's 20K individual competition Thursday.

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