(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Leo Grandbois.)
The 2018 International Biathlon Union (IBU) Youth/Junior World Championships went out with a bang on Sunday, with four pursuit races in Otepää, Estonia.
Several North Americans had banner days, with American Chloe Levins racing up one spot to sixth place in the junior women’s 10-kilometer pursuit and Canada’s Megan Bankes and Nadia Moser placing eighth and 11th, respectively, in that same race.
In the youth men’s 10 k pursuit, Canada’s Leo Grandbois had his best result of the week, placing 15th (up from 33rd) at the start.
Starting with the junior women’s pursuit:
Levins started the race 1:32 minutes back in seventh, based on her sprint result on Saturday. She went on to clean three-consecutive shooting stages, working her way up to fourth after leaving the range for the third time, then missed two targets on the final standing to end the race in sixth. Levins finished 1:51.4 behind the winner, Markéta Davidová of the Czech Republic, who finished first in 32:52.6 with four penalties (1+0+2+1).
“In pursuit races in the past, I’ve come from behind,” Levins, who placed fourth in last year’s Youth Worlds pursuit, wrote in an email to FasterSkier on Sunday. “Today, it was a new learning experience for me to be in the mix for the duration of the race. My plan was simple from the start: enjoy being in the mix and trust your preparation.
“I found the zone today, which is what you dream about,” she continued. “I don’t remember much about the last stage. All I know for sure is that I went for it today…and I have no regrets.”
Asked what she’ll remember most about these championships, Levins explained that the U.S. team’s “happy and dedicated staff” made for a fun week.
“We are always joking and laughing in the wax room which helps keep the mood light during potentially stressful races,” she wrote. “It was really special and important for me to have this experience with my coach, Algis Shalna, behind the scope. We’ve worked together for a long time. I will cherish the competitions we get to share forever.”
While the championships didn’t turn out exactly as she’d hoped, Levins explained that she had a lot of positive takeaways for her final biathlon races of the season.
“Now, it’s time to go back to school and start preparing for golf season at Middlebury!” she wrote. “… I can’t wait to start training again.”
Bankes started ninth on Sunday and made up one place to finish eighth (+2:52.6) after placing ninth in three previous races at Junior Worlds. She had two penalties in both the first and the last shooting stages (2+0+0+2) and posted the ninth-fastest shooting time and ninth-fastest overall course time.
“Heading into today’s race, my goal was to try and shoot well and make up places. It was also my last international junior race so i wanted to try and have a good one!” Bankes, 20, wrote in an email. “To start, I knew that I could catch the Norwegian girl who started in front of me, and after I caught her, my goal was to make up time on everyone else in front of me.”
She described the wind on the range as “pretty strong” and variable.
“I was zeroed for a decent left to right wind, but when I came in for my first prone the wind had died and was blowing towards me for my first shot, and then it picked up again to be a little more than my zero wind, and I corrected back but didn’t correct enough for it,” Bankes wrote. “After cleaning the middle 2 bouts I really wanted to clean my last bout and there was definitely a little pressure going in with the Russian girl [Emma Timerbulatova, who was skiing just ahead of Bankes]. I actually thought that she had only missed one, so I was a little disappointed in myself when we went into the penalty loop, but when she didn’t leave after the first loop, I was determined to pass her and beat her to the finish.”
Like Bankes, Timerbulatova had two penalties in the last standing. She started the final loop just 0.1 seconds ahead of Bankes, and Bankes passed her to finish eighth.
“I’m overall super happy with my performance this week,” Bankes, a 2017 Youth Worlds gold medalist in the 10 k individual, concluded. “Definitely my most consistent European racing ever! I would have liked to have shot better overall this week though, I did give up some stupid shots, but I was super stoked with how I felt skiing. I’m also pleased that I was able to have consistently good races over the course of the week, which is something I definitely could not have done in the past.”
Moser picked off 10 places to finish 11th (+3:45.4). She started the pursuit in 21st and shot 18-for-20, cleaning the first two stages (0+0+1+1) and contending for the top 10 before finishing about 12 seconds out of 10th place. It was her second-best result of the week after placing eighth in the junior women’s 12.5 k individual.
“A top 10 finish was definitely the big goal for the pursuit, but I knew that was only possible if I shot really well and skiied well,” Moser wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, I missed my goal by one place.
“There were some pretty large time gaps in the starters today so it was a challenge to pick up places for me,” she continued. “For the most part I just tried to catch up with the people in front of me, or keep up with the people who passed me. I knew my best chance to move up was in the shooting range. … I was focused and trusting in my skills on the range today, and that is how I was able to hit most of my targets.”
She knew she was in 10th for her third shooting when she was shooting in lane 10.
“I was really happy that I had moved up as many places as I did, although slightly dissapointed that I was not able to reach the top ten,” Moser added. “I am satisfied with today’s pursuit. Moving up 10 positions is better than I’ve ever done before. Some things could have gone slightly better this week, but overall I am content with what I was able to achieve.”
Emily Dickson scored her first non-relay top 30 of the week in 26th (+5:31.6), up from 36th at the start, after missing just two targets (1+0+0+1). She had previously placed 36th in both the sprint and individual races, and ninth with Bankes and Moser in the 3 x 6 k relay.
After starting 26 seconds ahead of Davidová, Poland’s Kamila Żuk finished second in the pursuit, 28.1 seconds behind Davidová, after incurring six penalties (1+2+3+0). France’s Myrtille Begue placed third (+53.8) for the second-straight day after shooting 17-for-20 (0+1+1+1).
Onto the junior men’s 12.5 pursuit:
A day after placing third in the sprint, Norway’s Sverre Dahlen Aspenes shot clean in Sunday’s four-stage pursuit to take the win in 34:16.7. He finished 1:21.1 minutes ahead of France’s Martin Perrillat Bottonet, who placed second with one penalty (0+0+1+0). Norway’s Johannes Dale scored his first non-relay podium in third place (+1:46.4) with four misses (0+0+2+2).
Canada’s Adam Runnalls tallied his third individual top 30 of the week, placing 29th (+6:04.7) with six penalties (2+1+1+2). He had started the pursuit in 26th, based on his sprint result, and had previously finished 29th in the junior men’s 15 k individual.
His teammate Trevor Kiers started the pursuit in 16th and slipped to 34th (+6:44.4) with 10 penalties. Canada’s third man in the race, Teo Sanchez finished 57th (+10:32.5) with five misses (1+0+1+3) after starting 54th.
Cody Johnson was the lone U.S. skier in the junior men’s pursuit, racing to 48th (+7:40.0), after starting 37th, with five misses (2+0+2+1).
In the youth men’s 10 k pursuit:
Grandbois, a gold medalist at last year’s Youth Worlds in the 12.5 k individual, had his best race of the 2018 championships in 15th. After starting 33rd, he cleaned the first two stages to put himself in 16th halfway through the race, then missed two on each of the final two shooting bouts (0+0+2+2). But he didn’t lose much ground, leaving the range in 17th after the last shooting and passing two competitors to end up 15th (+3:37.2). Grandbois had previously raced to 24th in the 12.5 k individual this week and 16th with Canada’s youth men’s 3 x 7.5 k relay team.
“For the first bouts the wind was calm but for the second prone the wind picked up,” Grandbois explained in an email. “So I had to do some corrections that worked perfectly. I am really happy about it. First standing I came way too hard in the range and I could not manage to be precise. The last shooting was going well but the pressure to go faster made me miss again.
“I think that with a better standing shooting I could have done a top 10, but I was starting pretty far away so I am satisfied with my 15th,” he wrote.
“What I take back from those championships is that my ski speed is good but I will have to work hard next summer to keep it that way and to get it even better, for sure,” Grandbois added. “It wasn’t a good week for me in the range. I will have to work on my shooting speed and constancy. Those two things are my biggest weakness.”
Leading the U.S. men was Vasek Cervenka in 24th (+4:20.8). Cervenka had started the race in 24th and held his position despite six penalties (0+3+1+2) with the 19th-fastest course time. It was his third individual top 30 of the week after placing 27th in the 12.5 k (as well as ninth with his relay team).
Canada’s Rory Gilliland moved up 11 places to finish 41st (+6:12.2) with two penalties (0+0+1+1). His teammates Thomas Hulsman and Ryan Elden followed in 45th (+6:45.9) and 49th (+6:56.8) after starting 35th and 59th, respectively. Hulsman had six penalties while Elden had five (1+0+2+2).
For the U.S., Garrett Beckrich and Eli Nielsen finished 46th (+6:48.7) and 47th (+6:54.7), respectively. Beckrich had started 46th and incurred five penalties (1+1+1+2) while Nielsen slipped five places after starting 42nd and missing six targets.
After winning gold in the relay, Russia’s Andrei Viukhin notched his first individual podium and gold medal at his first Youth Worlds, winning the pursuit in 29:31.2. He had started seventh and missed four targets (1+1+1+1) yet led his teammates in a Russian podium sweep.
Viukhin handed his teammate Mikhail Pervushin his first loss of the week, as Pervushin settled for second, 16.8 seconds back, with four penalties as well (1+0+2+1). Aleksei Ogorelkov, who had not raced in Russia’s 3 x 7.5 k relay, finished third (+1:12.1) with two late penalties (0+0+0+2) for his first Youth Worlds podium.
Last but not least, the youth women’s 7.5 k pursuit:
Canada had three women finish in the top 40 of this race, with Benita Peiffer leading them in 30th (+4:28.2). She had started 51st and skied the 21st-fastest course time to pick off 21 places. Peiffer shot 17-for-20 (1+0+1+1).
Her teammate, Pascale Paradis slipped from 15th to 35th (+5:05.8) with eight penalties, while Jenna Sherrington improved from 46th to 39th (+5:28.1) with four misses (2+0+2+0).
For the U.S., Emma Stertz finished 48th (+5:58.0), up from 52nd at the start, with four penalties (1+0+2+1), and Grace Gilliland placed 57th (+7:21.0), after starting 55th, with four misses as well (1+1+1+1).
Russia’s Anastasiia Goreeva won her first individual gold at Youth Worlds, racing up from fourth at the start to cross the finish line first in 24:24.0 with three penalties (0+0+1+2). Germany’s Franziska Pfnür placed second for her first Youth Worlds podium, 17.5 seconds behind Goreeva, with just one penalty (0+1+0+0). In her second Youth Worlds, Switzerland’s Amy Baserga achieved her first podium as well, placing third (+29.0) with two penalties (0+0+1+1).