Sochi (Russia) (AFP) - Darya Domracheva of Belarus on Tuesday won the ex-Soviet state's first ever women's gold at the Winter Olympics when she destroyed the field in the 10 km biathlon pursuit.
Domracheva, 27, crossed the line in 29min 30.7sec, 37.6sec ahead of her nearest rival Tora Berger of Norway, who took silver. Bronze went to Teja Gregorin of Slovenia (30:12.7).
Setting a blistering ski pace, the Belarussian missed no targets in the two prone shoots or the first standing.
She missed one of the five targets in the final standing but still had time after her penalty loop to pick up a Belarussian flag and wave it in triumph as she headed to the finish.
Hosts Russia missed out gold again, with their highest placed athlete Olga Vilukhina coming just seventh.
With no Russian in medal contention, the thousands of Russian fans in the stands at the Laura biathlon centre above Sochi gave "Dasha" Domracheva their vocal support.
"I'm so grateful for the support I got here for this high-class race," Domracheva said.
"The feeling was great, the support was cool, especially when I had enough time to dance with the flag at the finish."
Domracheva said she did not panic after missing her final target. "I knew I had enough time so I wasn't disappointed."
After a catalogue of falls on a high speed hairpin bend in the men's pursuit, Domracheva said she knew she needed to keep her concentration until the very end.
The warm conditions on the undulating course with slushy snow were also tough going. "It's really warm here. The snow is soft and together with the topography and the weather, it made me work hard."
- Brought up in Russia -
Belarussian freestyle skier Alexei Grishin won the men's freestyle aerials in Vancouver in 2010 but no Belarussian woman had ever won gold before at the Winter Olympics.
Domracheva had previously picked up a bronze in Vancouver and two world titles.
Anastasiya Kuzmina, Russian-born but representing Slovakia, led out the pursuit race after winning gold in the sprint. She was in contention for a medal throughout but finished in sixth after missing her final target.
Kuzmina's gold in the sprint left a bitter taste in the mouth of Russia's sports bosses given she had represented her native country before switching to Slovakia.
They might also now be regretting that Domracheva was allowed to get away.
Although born in Minsk, Domracheva moved to Siberia in Russia at an early age with her architect parents.
It was in Siberia that she took her first steps in biathlon and turned out for the Russian junior biathlon team.
But she returned to her native Minsk and was rapidly approached by Belarussian coaches with an offer to become a member of the Belarussian biathlon squad.
Along with tennis star Victoria Azarenka, she is now one of the most feted sports stars in her country, where strongman President Alexander Lukashenko takes a huge interest in sports.
Domracheva said that she thought of her mother back in the Belarussian capital as she claimed her gold.
"I had an image in my head. I imagined my mum in Minsk, sitting in front of the television and I could imagine how happy she was."