SLOVAKIA won its first gold medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics on the second day of the games. Biathlete Anastazia Kuzmina, of Russian origin, is the first ever athlete to defend the Olympic gold in an individual biathlon competition. She also won the medal in 2010 in Vancouver.

Kuzmina won the 7.5km sprint discipline, finishing first before Russian Olga Viluchina and Ukrainian Vita Semerenko, who placed third.

“I want to thank the whole of Slovakia,” Kuzmina said in an interview for the public-service television after the competition. “I’ve been struggling the whole season and despite that, everybody was cheering for me.”

She added that she feels the support of Slovaks and is grateful for it.

Kuzmina has been living with her husband, who is also her coach, and their son in a modest block of flats in Banská Bystrica since 2007. Before that she competed for her native Russia, but after she became pregnant she was dropped from the team by national biathlon coach Alexander Tichonov, who told her that she had no future as an athlete.

Anastasia came to live with her husband, who had moved to Banská Bystrica years before and had taken Israeli citizenship to make travelling and competing easier. While her son was still a baby she returned to training and joined the Dukla Banská Bystrica sports club.

“The big difference for me was that in Slovakia they allowed me to be with my family while I was in training,” Kuzmina said in a 2010 post-race interview for the Sme daily.