- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Anton Shipulin had Russia’s first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics all but won, heading toward victory in front of a frenzied home crowd.

Then, as so often happens in biathlon, a wayward shot ruined his race.

Shipulin finished fourth in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint Saturday after missing a target at the final shooting station. That forced him to ski a penalty loop and he ended up 6.4 seconds behind winner Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway - and just 0.7 seconds behind bronze medalist Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic.

That left Russia still waiting for its first medal in Sochi.

“I hate myself for it,” said a disappointed Shipulin. “Twenty minutes ago my fate was decided - my happiness, my dream, and I spoiled it myself.”

Biathlon is one of the most popular winter sports in Russia, and Shipulin and his teammates were cheered on loudly at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center. A victory here on the first day of medal events would have been the perfect way for the host nation to start its games, and a big cheer went up every time one of the Russian skiers hit the target.

“It was pretty loud here in the stadium, especially when the Russians were shooting or going by,” said U.S. biathlete Tim Burke, who finished 19th. “So that definitely made it fun.”

The cheers turned to groans with Shipulin’s miss. The other medalists had already finished by that point in the interval start race, and it soon became clear he wouldn’t match Bjoerndalen’s time.

“It was my fault. I deprived myself of the medal, even a gold one,” Shipulin said. “I felt I would win the medal and missed the target.”

His teammates weren’t close, with Evgeny Ustyugov - another of the pre-race favorites - finishing 16th.

Shipulin said he hopes he can make amends in the coming two weeks.

“I will try to kick this failure out of my head,” he said. “I want to be prepared for the next race and everything that I want will happen.”

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