Ostersund, Sweden, November 29. Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO) finished 15th today in the season-opening Women’s 15K Individual at the Ostersund World Cup.
Barnes’ top-15 finish was a huge step for the US Women’s Biathlon Team. This was Barnes’ personal best World Cup finish, her first top 30 (World Cup Points scoring result), the best US woman’s finish since March 2005, and almost a perfect shooting race as she had but a single shooting penalty. â€œIn my mind, I hit that target before I pulled the trigger. But actually, I squeezed the shot just a split second before I should have.â€ she commented at the finish.
Asked how she compared this season with the Olympic year when she and her twin sister Tracy struggled with a series of illnesses, ending in mononucleosis. â€œWell, there is actually no comparison; no words can explain how much better I am physically. It also helps that we have such good support from staff and coaches.â€
With her first World Cup top 15, Barnes, with a single penalty, was only 2:13.5 behind the first time World Cup winner Irina Malgina of Russia. Malgina had two penalties on the day, while second and third finishers Liv Kjersti Eikeland of Norway and Zina Kocher of Canada had one each. They finished 3.6 and 23.3 seconds back. Kocher attributed her first podium result â€œin a long, long time, to taking the nervousness of the first race which everyone has and embracing it, which made me very relaxed.â€
If the calendar did not read November 29 in Ostersund, it would have been easy to think that today was March 29. Conditions for this opening competition of the World Cup Biathlon season were spring-like, with light drizzle in the morning giving way to high clouds and steady temperatures all day around plus 5 Celsius, until just before the competition started. Suddenly, the wind picked up, temperatures dropped about three degrees, and there was a brief rain shower. Before the women started, the men had trained on the tracks, leaving visible ruts and tracks in the soft wet snow on every turn and uphill. Under these conditions, a field of 92 women kicked off the 2006-2007 season.
Lanny Barnes was the second US starter at number 63 while her sister, Tracy started at number 44.
Neither Tracy, nor Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY) could match Lanny today. Tracy had four penalties, finishing 68th, 7:09.9 back. Konrad started well with a single penalty in the first stage, but collected eight more in the final three stages, finishing 77th, 9:36.8 back
After the rain and short-lived windy conditions, the later start time for Lanny was a bonus, as conditions did improve. Both Barnes sisters are excellent shooters and today Lanny was â€œon her game.â€ She flew through the first three stages of prone, standing, and prone flawlessly, even though one prone hit was a split bullet that fell for her. After three clean stages, the new US coaches Per Nilsson and Mikael Lofgren were visibly nervous, but smiling and confident. Lofgren commented, â€œI should have the heart monitor now, because my pulse is racing.â€
Approaching the final stage, Barnes was in sixth position. A clean stage would put her within reach of a podium position. She calmly set up for the final five shots. They fell, one, two, three, four, and then the penalty, her only shooting error of the day One minute was automatically added to her time, but she still left the stadium in 13th position. The coaches and staff scattered to the tracks to help her over the final 3K loop. She crossed the finish line in 14th, but another later starter eventually finished ahead of her. Smiling, but definitely tired at the finish, she talked about her day. â€œI am happy to have done so well this early. The skiing is not quite there yet, but it is early.â€
One of Lanny’s goals for the season was to shoot clean (no penalties) in every competition. She almost succeeded, drolly adding, â€œI guess I still have a bit of work to do on that.â€ Even with â€œwork to do,â€ Lanny Barnes efforts today opened not only a new biathlon season, but led the US women in an exciting new direction.
Source: US Biathlon