Domracheva eyes 3rd straight Olympic biathlon gold

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Darya Domracheva of Belarus is aiming for her third straight gold medal in Monday’s final individual biathlon competition of the Sochi Olympics.

Domracheva starts as a favorite in the women’s 12.5-kilometer mass start after having dominated the pursuit and the individual race last week.

Tora Berger of Norway, Gabriela Soukalova of Czech Republic, and sisters Vita and Valj Semerenko of Ukraine are expected to be Domracheva’s fiercest competitors.

Here are five things to know about Monday’s 12.5K mass start:

DOUBLING UP: For biathlon fans, this is probably going to be the best day of the entire Sochi Olympics. At least, it’s the only day with two medal events since the men’s 15K mass start was postponed late Sunday due to fog. The men start skiing and shooting at 10 a.m. (0600 GMT), the women follow them nine hours later.

DOMINANT DOMRACHEVA: Domracheva has been in unstoppable form for the last two events. Winning a third gold medal would make the Belarusian only the fourth woman to win at least three events in one Winter Olympics - and the first to achieve it in biathlon. Kati Wilhelm of Germany is the only woman with three biathlon golds after winning the sprint and the relay in Salt Lake City in 2002 and the pursuit in Turin in 2006.

NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN: Despite Domracheva’s dominance, all events in women’s biathlon at the Sochi Games have a large circle of favorites. After three events so far, the nine medals have ended up around the necks of eight different athletes representing seven different nations. Belarus is the only team to win more than one medal - three, actually, as Nadezhda Skardino took bronze in the individual race last Friday.

GREAT GERMANS: The mass start format has only been part of the Olympic schedule since 2006. In the two events held so far, Germany has done remarkably well by winning four of the six medals awarded, including gold for Magdalena Neuner from the 2010 Vancouver Games. However, none of the four who medaled are still active. It leaves Andrea Henkel, who won the individual race and the team relay in 2002, the only athlete on the German team who has won an Olympic medal before.

SOLEMDAL OUT: Norway is ranked 1-2 in this season’s World Cup mass start standings, with Tora Berger and Synnoeve Solemdal ahead of third-place Domracheva. Berger will be eager to follow up on her pursuit silver medal, but Solemdal won’t start Monday. Only the 30 best biathletes from these Games and from the overall World Cup standings are allowed to start, and Solemdal has failed to qualify either way.

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