A total of five penalty loops in adverse conditions at the shooting range cost the German biathletes a possible relay medal at the home World Championships in Oberhof.
The quartet with Justus Strelow, Kühn, Roman Rees and Benedikt Doll took fifth place in strong winds. After Kühn had to do the extra lap three times and Doll twice, the deficit was 3:51.8 minutes in a wild race with many thrilling twists and turns.
France secured gold ahead of Norway and Sweden. It was the first time that Norway's superstar Johannes Thingnes Bö did not win the title in Thuringia. The 29-year-old can no longer be the first ski hunter to win seven titles at a World Cup.
"I was half a minute late at the shooting range. That was a bit unfortunate, nobody shot for 40 seconds," said Kühn. During his standing shooting, it "threaded so that you couldn't shoot at all. I didn't even try," said the 31-year-old, adding: "It was very, very uncomfortable. I'm so sorry, but I didn't can do more."
The last time a German men's relay had won the world title eight years ago in Kontiolahti, Finland, the last medal was in 2020 with bronze in Antholz. After the medalless disappointments at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and at the 2021 World Championships in Pokljuka, the quartet went empty-handed at the third major event in a row. Previously, the German men had been on the podium in all four competitions this winter.
For a long time it was unclear whether the race over 4 x 7.5 kilometers could take place at all. A storm warning with wind speeds of up to 85 kilometers per hour had already led to a crisis meeting with the local organizers and the world association IBU on Friday evening. It was not finally decided until Saturday morning that the start could start in front of a sold-out crowd of 23,500 spectators.
"I already said last night that it will definitely take place. The weather report didn't say anything dramatic," said national coach Mark Kirchner, who comes from the region, shortly before the start. He also prepared his athletes accordingly and did not drive them crazy. Unimpressed by the turbulent preparation, starting runner Strelow hit his first five shots and immediately took the lead in high spirits.
On the course, the Saxon paced the pace and, after just one spare in standing, did not lose touch with the front-runners. Co-favorite Sweden already had a penalty loop, while Olympic champion Norway also had problems and ended up in 16th place. Before the start, the Norwegians had won every relay race for more than a year, in January 2022 in Ruhpolding it had not worked before.
Kühn started on the difficult course almost half a minute behind the leading French. The Bavarian had to do without the individual on Tuesday, but got fit again in time. With a clean prone stage, the 31-year-old kept in touch in fourth before things got chaotic. In strong winds, Kühn had to go into the penalty loop three times. The conditions were hardly manageable, and the Swiss, Ukrainians and Austrians were also hit with several extra laps.
At the top, France came through unscathed, with the Czech Republic in second place more than a minute ahead of the rest, with Germany down to tenth. Even before halftime it was impossible to repeat the German World Cup triumph of 2004 at the same place on the Rennsteig. However, Roman Rees hit all ten shots and was suddenly fifth again. In the next wild standing stage, however, the field was shaken up again. France lost the lead with a penalty loop, and Norway's super marksman Sturla Holm Laegreid also had extra meters.
Behind the surprisingly leading Czechs, anchor Doll was initially fifth and held this position after strong shooting. However, two more penalties at the end threw the team back again, France stormed all the way to the front.