By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Russian biathlete Evgeniy Garanichev gave himself a decent present on his 26th birthday by winning a bronze in the men's individual 20 kilometres, but he knows he was possibly one missed shot away from gold.
"I am so pleased with my bronze," he told reporters on Thursday after securing his first Olympic medal and on home snow at the Sochi Games.
"I received so many congratulatory messages and I think there are a lot more to come. What a race, it was the perfect birthday present."
The pre-race favourite Martin Fourcade claimed another gold medal and Garanichev, who missed one shot on the shooting range, finished 34.5 seconds behind the Frenchman.
"I understand that if I had not missed that one shot then I could have won the gold medal," said the Russian. "I am a bit disappointed, but I missed a shot and there is nothing that you can do about that. I am looking optimistically into the future. I need to keep on working."
Despite managing a bronze, things did not start well for Garanichev.
"At the first shoot, my rifle's belt broke and the hook was digging into my back, which was giving me a little bit of discomfort. However, I put that to the back of my mind," he said.
Patriotic Garanichev was quick to praise the workers who despite the warm weather managed to get the track into a good state.
"I would like to thank the workmen from the stadium. They kept the course in good condition and made sure that the snow did not break up. At the World Cup and at foreign courses, there are tracks which are in a worse condition," he said, before also hailing the home fans.
"They were saying that there would be pressure on the Russians because it is our home Olympics. But I certainly did not feel this. It really helped me that I was racing at home." (Editing by Mark Meadows; firstname.lastname@example.org; +44 20 7542 7933; Reuters Messaging:; email@example.com; To sign up for our Global Sports Forum chatroom, click on https://forms.thomsonreuters.com/global_sports_forum)