Pokljuka (Bled), Slovenia, January 20. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), after being in fifth position before the final shooting stage finished a frustrated 11th today, 1:22.3 behind the winner, Christoph Sumann of Austria, in the Men’s 12.5K Pursuit competition.
Prior to the final standing stage, Burke, who started in 13th position, missed only one of fifteen shots in the twenty-shot Pursuit competition. That single penalty came on the second prone stage, early in the competition. By shooting well, and skiing equally as well, Burke stayed in contention throughout the first four 2.5K loops. With each loop, Burke inched closer to the top group, from 40 seconds back; to 30 seconds back, until he entered the range 20 seconds back in a group of five athletes, positions two through five, all shooting simultaneously. Conditions could have not been better for shooting all day, as the wind flags hung limply on their stakes throughout the competition.
In uncharted territory, Burke missed the first two shots, reset his position; hit the next two, and after a long hesitation missed the final shot. Three penalties for Burke while others around him shot either clean or had a single miss, took him out of contention for a top eight finish. While Burke toiled on the penalty loop, he slipped from the top 10, leaving in 12th position. He pushed the last loop and sprinted in the final stretch, trying in vain to take 10th place from Sweden’s Bjorn Ferry. Both leaned at the finish, with Ferry getting the nod by a less than a foot, although the results recorded it as three tenths of a second.
At the finish with his 11thplace glaring at him from the scoreboard, Burke was frustration personified. â€œI felt very good today. I skied comfortably all day. I was gradually moving up all of the time, even after I missed the prone shot. Coming to the last standing stage, in my mind, I was telling myself to shoot just like in practice. Unfortunately, you cannot practice being in fifth place in a World Cup. It was my first time in that position. I guess it got to me a bit. Still, it left me hungry. I have practiced it now and am ready for the next time. If I had shot poorly in the race and gradually moved up to 11th place today, I would be ecstatic. However, after being so close, I am not happy with the 11th place. The only consolation is that I scored some good World Cup points, and I get another chance tomorrow in the Mass Start.â€
Those 24 points Burke scored today moved him up to 24th place in the overall World Cup, up from 27th prior to today’s competition. As one of the 30 men in tomorrow’s 15K Mass Start competition, he has an opportunity to move higher as all competitors who finish the Mass Start score World Cup Points.
Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) and Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) also competed in today’s Pursuit competition. Bailey had only one penalty in the two prone stages, like Burke, while Teela had three. At one point, both moved up close to 30th position. Unfortunately, both had four standing penalties, which pushed them down in the results. Bailey also lost a magazine prior to the final stage, losing valuable time, when range officials reacted slowly to his raised-hand request for one from the US spare rifle. Teela finished 41st, with seven penalties, 4:18.5 back while Bailey was 4:57.3 back.
Today’s winner, Christoph Sumann won for the first time since a Sprint victory at Osrblie, Slovakia, in December 2001. The Austrian was near perfect on the shooting range with a single penalty, covering the 12.5K distance in 34:25.9. Thursday’s Sprint victor Alexander Wolf of Germany, with two penalties, placed second, 15.7 seconds back, while France’s Vincent DeFrasne, also with two penalties, was third, 27.6 seconds back.
The 31-year old Sumann, when asked how he would feel for tomorrow’s Mass Start, he replied, â€œTired!â€ If Sumann is tired tomorrow, he probably should be looking out for the 24 year —old Burke, who â€œpracticedâ€ today and will be trying to pass him and 28 other men in an attempt to end the week a few places higher in the standings than today.
Live streaming video coverage of Biathlon World Cup competitions for the remainder of the season is available by clicking the Biathlon World Cup logo at the top right of the page at www.usbiathlon.org