Czech Republic have claimed the first gold medal of the 2015 International Biathlon Union World Championships with victory in the mixed relay in Kontiolahti, Finland.
Despite facing tough conditions, with soft deep snow and temperatures above freezing, the winning team of Veronika Vítková, Gabriela Soukalová, Michal Šlesingr and Ondřej Moravec finished in a time of 1:20:27.2.
The silver medal went to the French team of Anaïs Bescond, Marie Dorin Habert, Jean-Guillaume Béatrix and Martin Fourcade, who were 20.2 seconds back, while Norway's Fanny Welle-Strand Horn, Tiril Eckhoff, Johannes Thingnes Bø and Tarjei Bø, who finished 27.7 seconds back, took bronze.
Japan had been the early leaders through the standing stage of the first leg but Vítková managed to overtake before the first exchange.
The second leg saw Belarus' Darya Domracheva, Soukalová and home athlete Kaisa Mäkäräinen all shooting clean with 10 shots, however Domracheva had a 20-second lead over Mäkäräinen and 25.7 seconds over Soukalová by the time the men took over.
Vladimir Chepelin continued to keep Belarus in the lead, as Johannes Thingnes Bø and Béatrix started to close the gap.
Yuryi Liadov of Belarus then had to use a total of four extra bullets, which caused his team to drop outside the top three, while Moravec had an outstanding leg to take his team to first place ahead of Fourcade for France and Tarjei Bø for Norway.
"I was surprised that the Belarusian guy was up there with me," Moravec said.
"But I was confident that I would win.
"We were talking today about if this was better than the silver medal last year and we think the gold is better."
Béatrix admitted the race was particularly hard today.
"It was like running in a sand hill," he explained.
The Biathlon World Championships continue on Saturday (March 7) with the men's 10 kilometres sprint and the women's 7.5km sprint.
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March 2015: Opening Ceremony gets Biathlon World Championships underway in Finland