A Man of Steel
Jakov Fak won the first biathlon World Championship gold medal for Slovenia, with the team coming in second after a controversial incident.
Jakov Fak is a man with nerves of steel. In the World Cup his best achievement is a third place but he has also won an Olympic silver medal, a bronze World Championship medal and now the World Champion title in the 20 kilometre race in Ruhpolding, Germany. He finished ahead of Simon Fourcade of France and Jaroslav Sokoup of the Czech Republic. Fak missed only one of the 20 targets, the same as his closest rivals and gained the decisive advantage on the last lap (4 kms), where he started 15 seconds behind Fourcade but eventually won by 7 seconds.
“It is a great feeling. I was really suffering but it was worth it. It takes a lot of work to become the World Champion. There were no shortcuts for me; I have been through a lot of things, which makes me even happier today. Otherwise, I was relaxed and I adopted the right tactics,” the 24 year old said immediately after he realised he was the World Champion.
Jakov Fak is no ordinary champion. Originally from Croatia, he officially joined the Slovenian biathlon team this year. When he switched sides, it caused a major controversy and for a while it seemed that Fak would hang up his skis and rifle. Eventually, an agreement was reached between the Croatian and Slovenian Ski Associations.
Having been spotted by Slovenian biathlon coach, Uroš Velepec, Fak has spent his entire competitive career as a member of the Slovenian national team but representing his native Croatia. After the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Fak and Croatia were given an ultimatum: either we say our farewells or you become a Slovenian citizen and begin racing for Slovenia.
Despite the traditional rivalry between Slovenia and Croatia, Fak has virtually no ‘enemies’ in Slovenia. This is mostly due to his proficiency in Slovene, which he learnt during the time he spent with the Slovenian team. This, coupled with his down to earth attitude, meant he soon became one of the most highly respected athletes in Slovenia.
Adding to Slovenia’s success in the 20 kilometre race was Klemen Bauer who finished fifth, just four seconds behind the bronze medallist.
A few days earlier, Slovenia took a silver in the mixed relay event, although the team of Fak, Bauer, Andreja Mali and Teja Gregorin actually crossed the finish line first. The Norwegian team, who took the gold, had been deducted 30 seconds when one of their targets hadn’t gone down even though Ole Einar Björndalen had hit it, he then completed a penalty loop, which he shouldn’t have had to and to compensate for the mistake, he was given back the lost time.