France took its first gold of the Sochi Olympics Monday when Martin Fourcade won the biathlon pursuit but Norwegian legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen narrowly missed out on an outright winter Games medals record.
Bjoerndalen started the race equal with Norwegian cross country 12.5 km ski great Bjoern Daehlie on the all-time record of 12 medals won for the Winter Olympics.
But despite showing good ski speed, Bjoerndalen missed targets in the second prone and both standing shootings to come in fourth in 34min 14.5sec, just 1.7sec behind France's Jean Guillaume Beatrix in third.
True to his maxim of never giving up, Bjoerndalen attacked Beatrix throughout the final lap at the Laura biathlon centre and would have likely passed him if the track were 50 metres longer.
Fourcade, who took his first gold to add to his silver in the mass start at Vancouver in 2010, dominated the race from the mid-stage and even had the time to clench his first in triumph after a clear final shooting.
He finished in 33min 48.6sec, 14.1sec ahead of Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic who came in second for silver and was the only medallist to shoot entirely clear.
Fourcade, 25, has now finally converted the talent that has brought him five world titles into Olympic gold.
"It's my childhood dream. I'm so happy it's just incredible," he said, adding he was in combative mood throughout a tight race.
"On the skis I was like a boxer. It was a good fight," he said.
Fourcade's elder brother Simon, who came 18th, was delighted for his younger sibling. "I cried. I'm really happy. I am proud for my little brother. This comes after so many years of practice."
But Simon, 29, also admitted "mixed feelings. I wanted the podium."
All the medallists coped well with the technical challenge of a vicious corner after a quick downhill which dispensed with several skiers, including early leader Jean-Philippe le Guellec who fell flat on his face.
Hosts Russia were yet again out of the medals with Yevgeny Ustyugov managing fifth but the much hyped Anton Shipulin coming only 14th.
"Everything went wrong. The race didn't go well from the very beginning. I'm not satisfied with my shooting nor with my speed," said a disgusted Shipulin.
Bjoerndalen still have plenty more chances to surpass Daehlie's record and hold the status of the greatest ever winter Olympian on his own.
He should race in the men's individual on Thursday followed by the mass start on Sunday. The week after, come the mixed relay and the men's relay.