Hochfilzen, Austria, December 9. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), once again finished in the top 20 in today’s Men’s 12.5K Pursuit, as the first major snowstorm of the season hit this valley in Austria’s Tirol region.
Change was in the air today before the competitions started. A week of sunny, warm, and dry days gave way to light mist early in the morning, with the weather report calling for —snow. The arrival of the heavy mist sent conditions from bad to worse during the Women’s 10K Pursuit. What was before just soft deep snow became slushy. As the men began zeroing, the mist turned to snow, which continued to intensify throughout the competition, dropping almost two inches of very wet snow in less than an hour. Despite this, the typical, boisterous crowds filled the Hochfilzen stadium to cheer on watch the men battle the elements.
Burke started 10th today, within striking position of the top three competitors. As the visibility dropped and the tracks deteriorated, he cruised through the first 2.5K, remaining in 10th position. A clean stage moved him up to sixth as he left the stadium. Half way through that loop, Head US Wax Technician Bernd Eisenbichler radioed that, â€œTim is right in the middle of the pack, letting the others do the work. He is in a good position.â€ In the second prone stage, he missed one shot, slipping to 14th position.
Before the first standing stage, Coach Mikael Lofgren commented, â€œWith the wind and the snow, standing is going to be hard today.â€ As Burke set up for the first standing stage, he had to clean the front sight. He reset his position and then snowflakes filled the rear sight. He had two penalties on that stage, falling to 26th position. â€œI had a horrible range time on that first standing stage. The sights continued to fill with snow and then I lost concentration,â€ Burke said later.
In the final standing stage, he had a single penalty, giving him four for the day. Still he moved up in the standings as several competitors ahead of him missed more shots and fell back.
Burke finished 20th, 3:50.5 behind the now five-for-five Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway. Bjorndalen was unchallenged through the 39:50.9 he spent on the tracks. He had two penalties, but still was 2:08.1 of second place Dmitri Iarochenko of Russia at the finish. His Russian teammate Ivan Tcherezov took third, 2:20 back. Iarochenko had two penalties while Tcherezov had one.
Like Bjorndalen, Burke has a streak going, scoring World Cup Points in all five competitions this season. He was philosophical about slipping from 10th yesterday to 20th today. â€œA week ago, I would have been thrilled with 20th, but after 10th yesterday, I am a bit disappointed. Still, I scored points and showed that I can compete up there.â€
The other two US Biathletes did not fare as well as Burke today. Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK), finished 36th, with four penalties, the same as Burke. Teela shot clean on the first stage, then followed with single misses, putting him in the mid-twenties. On the final standing stage, he had two penalties and dropped out of the top 30, finishing 5:05.5 back.
Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) had nine penalties on the day, with four coming in the first standing stage. This pushed him back to 50th place, 7:00.6 back.
On Sunday, the US will field teams for both the Women’s and Men’s Relay competitions.
The women’s start order is Lanny Barnes, Tracy Barnes, Denise Teela, and Sarah Konrad. Burke will lead off for the men, followed by Bailey, Teela, and Jay Hakkinen.
Source: US Biathlon