PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - Pyeongchang was supposed to be about the joy and excitement of the Olympic Games for Japanese biathlete Mikito Tachizaki.
The 29-year-old was poised to share his experience over laughs with his wife Fuyuko, a fellow Self-Defense Forces member and biathlete, competing in her third Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Those hopes, however, fell apart spectacularly on Sunday. Mikito finished 84th in a field of 87 in the men’s 10-km sprint. His time of 27 minutes, 27.1 seconds was almost four minutes worse than that of the winner, Germany’s Arnd Peiffer.
Michal Krcmar of the Czech Republic and Italy’s Dominik Windisch took silver and bronze, respectively.
“The result was absolutely no good,” said Tachizaki, who was in ruins after the race. “I tried to leave everything out there, but I really wish I could have done much, much better. I’ve got the 20-km individual (ahead of me) and I hope I can be happier with my performance in that race.”
“Shooting prone, things went well. But standing, I just didn’t have the strength to shoot straight by then. I tried to factor the wind but missed the first three shots and that was that.”
Tachizaki started before Sochi Olympic double gold medalist Martin Fourcade and was hoping to catch the Frenchman’s wave, but it didn’t happen. Fourcade had a nightmarish evening of his own, missing three shots to end up eighth.
“He was so fast,” Tachizaki said of Fourcade. “I was hoping to latch on somehow, but he’s on an entirely different level, and I couldn’t keep up. I should have made better use of the start, but he was just too fast for me.”
Tachizaki was fighting an uphill battle even before the race began. He and his wife arrived in Pyeongchang three days late after Fuyuko tested positive for influenza.
Mikito had tested negative, but because he also had a fever, they both postponed their departures. Tachizaki did not deny getting sick affected his performance and said he spoke to his wife just before his Olympic debut. On Saturday, Fuyuko was 42nd in the women’s 7.5-km sprint.
“I’ve felt OK in training since I got here,” he said. “I tested negative for the flu. But I had a fever and wasn’t completely sure so just to be on the safe side, I had to stay back. It may have had an impact, but preparations were going well here, so I like to think I could have done a bit better than I did.”
“We spoke about (Pyeongchang) but it was nothing too special. We just talked about staying loose, approach the competition like we always do. We tried not to wind ourselves into a knot.”
As he looked back on Sunday’s race, Tachizaki was in tears, feeling like he had let down himself, but more importantly, his peers at the SDF who helped him on the road to Pyeongchang.
“This was a big goal for me all long, and to end up with this result kills me,” he said. “I feel especially bad for the athletes who couldn’t be here. It’s pathetic.”
“It took the support of so many people for me to be here. But it’s not over yet. I hope I can make up for it in the 20 km,” he said of Thursday’s race.