Ostersund, Sweden, December 2. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), after a personal best 30th place finish in the Men’s Individual on Thursday, today moved up to 22nd place in the Men’s 10K Sprint.
The men’s competitions, with good conditions here seem to have all of the luck, while the women have struggled through two days of soft, slow snow. Perfectly fast conditions allowed Ole Einar Bjorndalen to win his 64th World Cup competition on Thursday despite two 1-minute penalties. On a similar day today after a hard overnight freeze, he won number 65, with one penalty, covering the glistening icy tracks in 24:16.2. The Norwegian again dominated the field, besting clean-shooting Russian Dmitri Iarochenko by 15.5 seconds. German Olympic star Michael Greis, with one penalty followed the Russian by 1.7 seconds.
Tim Burke had much better luck today than Thursday when he fell before the third shooting stage, breaking his rifle stock, forcing him to use the US Team’s spare rifle for two shooting stages. After several hours of woodworking repairs by Coach Mikael Lofgren, Burke had his rifle back the next day for training and the Sprint. â€œI made it over the whole course (in the Sprint) standing up, nothing was broken, so I consider today a success,â€ he chuckled at the finish.
Today was more than just making it through the whole competition for Burke. He picked up another personal best with his 22nd place finish, putting him solidly in the top 30 in the Overall World Cup standings after two competitions.
Burke started at number four, his first time in the first seed group, surrounded by all of the big stars like Bjorndalen, Greis, Poiree, and Gross. In the prone stage, the 24-year old Burke had two penalties, well of the mark. â€œI was pretty nervous starting up at the front today, so I am not surprised those were big misses.â€
Despite the two penalties, Burke was having another good day, just as in the Individual two days ago. He shot clean in the standing stage, flying around the ribbon of artificial snow to finish 1:38.8 behind Bjorndalen. On the skiing today, he added, â€œMy skis were really good and I felt good. But it was pretty scary out there, very icy and dangerous.â€
US Coach Mikael Lofgren added, â€œTim did a very good job out there today. He still has a lot of room to improve in both his shape and his shooting, as the season goes on.â€
Burke’s 2 penalties and 22nd place put him ahead of his three teammates, Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY), and Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK), who were battling to make the Sunday’s Pursuit field. All there had three penalties today. Still everyone took to heart, the words of Head US Wax Technician Bernd Eisenbichler who urged the team last night, â€œto fight for every second as it will be a very close competition.â€
Of the three, Teela made the 60-man Pursuit field, in 55th place, 2:33.9 behind Bjorndalen. The usually glib Teela at the finish was pleased to make the Pursuit, but not pleased with his shooting. â€œI really tried hard to clean prone (shooting very slow and deliberately), but still missed one.â€ When told he missed the two standing shots by about Â¼ inch each, he simply frowned.
For Bailey and Hakkinen, the day was pure frustration. The duo missed the Pursuit cut by 5.9 and 6.2 seconds respectively. Bailey placed 64th, 2:49 back with Hakkinen on his heels, 2:49.3 back. The men’s field was so tightly packed that both were less than one minute from 30th place and World Cup Points.
After two hard competitions, the Ostersund Biathlon World Cup winds down on Sunday with the Men’s 12.5K and the Women’s 10K Pursuit Competitions. Burke and Teela will start for the men, while Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO) is the lone US female entrant.
Although the conditions are up to very fickle weather gods, one thing is for sure; the men and women, starting just over an hour apart, will have the same conditions at least once this week.