Ruhpolding, Germany, January 11. Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) crossed the finish line today in 7th place in the Men’s 4 X 7.5K Relay with a broad smile and a raised ski pole as the stadium announcer described the US finish as, â€œsensational,â€ several times.
In a relay won by Norway in 1:29:17, after a see-saw battle with second place Russia, the US Team of Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY), and Teela,,2;27.4 back, had a breakthrough day. â€œI told the boys after the 9th place in Oberhof, that they should be up there in 5th to 7th place; they are that good,â€ Coach Per Nilsson commented after Teela had sealed the 7th place finish. Today’s finish erases their season best from last week and the identical 9th in last February’s Olympic Winter Games, as a recent best. US Biathlon Executive Director Max Cobb punctuated the importance of the day, exclaiming above the din of the stadium packed with 15,000 fans, â€œI do not remember ever being in seventh place in a relay. It is pretty exciting!â€
The US used their same order as in the Olympic Games and last week, leading off with Hakkinen. He normally keeps the team in a good position, as a leadoff man. Today, Hakkinen shot aggressively in both prone and standing. He needed three extra rounds in prone and an additional two in standing to topple the 10 targets. Still, he fulfilled his job, tagging to Tim Burke in 10th position, just 50.2 seconds off the lead.
Burke’s performance today was one of the two legs key to the seventh place. The other was that of third man, Lowell Bailey. With a full staff covering all points of the tracks and shooting range, information was plentiful. Burke skied well right from the start closing the gap on the lead group of teams. In prone, he only needed a single extra round to be clean, moving up to eighth position. In standing, he dropped all five targets with a steady, confident cadence. On the final 2.5K, he passed another team while skiing just behind France’s Raphael Poiree, tagging Bailey in seventh position. Burke was happy with his day. â€œI felt good skiing behind Poiree; that was a big help. With only one extra shot, what more can you say?â€
Bailey’s effort was the second key to the US Team’s success. From the moment he started, the radios, were saying, â€œLowell is skiing well.â€ In prone, Bailey shot clean with no extra rounds. â€œThat was the first clean prone in a long time,â€ he said with a bit of satisfaction in his voice. The clean prone stage pushed the US up to sixth. Bailey delivered for the second time with only two extra rounds in standing, maintaining the sixth position. â€œMy range times were not the fastest today, but I tried to be patient. I have been working hard on this and it paid off.â€
The fate of the team fell directly into Teela’s hands. As he left the stadium, just four second ahead of Austria’s Christoph Sumann. Sumann cleaned prone rapidly and Teela needed two extra rounds to clean, as the US fell back to seventh position. In the standing stage, Teela needed all three rounds to clean, but maintained the seventh place to the finish and the roar of the crowd and announcer. At the finish, Teela talked about his day, â€œMy shooting was not the best or fastest today. The other guys gave me a good cushion (eighth place Czech Republic was 45.5 seconds back at the finish), so I tried not to be too aggressive. We have never been in seventh before, so I thought it was the day to take that and not risk any big mistakes (like penalties). It was fun hearing the announcer and the crowd as I finished. This is a big step for us.â€
Nilsson analyzed the big day for the US Men. â€œIf you look at the 13 extra rounds (but no penalties) and compare to Sweden and Austria, fourth and fifth, with four (plus one penalty), and six extra rounds, we were right with them. Each extra round takes 8-10 seconds, so do the math.
Our boys can ski with any of them; the difference is on the shooting range. We will get better. I am very pleased with the results today.â€
This is the second big day this season so far this season for the US men, who earlier placed, Burke, Bailey, and Teela all in the top 25 in the Hochfilzen Sprint for the first time ever.
Nilsson was smiling as he closed with, â€œI think there will be more days like this.â€
Tomorrow’s competition is the Women’s 7.5K Sprint, with Lanny Barnes, Tracy Barnes, and Denise Teela the three US starters. The Men’s 10K sprint is on Saturday.
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