Kontiolahti, Finland, December 1. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) bounced back today with 12th Place in the Men’s 10K Sprint, two days after a disappointing 49th place in the season-opening 20K Individual.
Burke looked like a new person on both the tracks and the shooting range today, with only one penalty while finishing just 54.4 seconds behind the winner Ole Einar Bjorndalen. At the finish line, he had regained his characteristic big smile as he talked about today’s competition. â€œI feel so much better than in the 20K. I still feel a bit off, but the improvements are huge between Thursday and today. It is so good to be back on the scoreboard (for World Cup Points).â€
Burke on his way to 12th place (Photo Credit: menzipics.eu / Christian Menzoni for US Biathlon)
With a single standing penalty, Burke continued to fly around the tracks, which feature a series of hills and a brutal uphill called â€œthe wallâ€ which can humble the best of skiers. Burke never let up as he picked off the 20K winner Vincent DeFrasne of France as well as Nicolay Kruglov of Russia among others in the final loop.
The effort paid off with the 12th place finish, 54.4 seconds back, going into tomorrow’s 12.5K Pursuit. As he left the finish area with a renewed spring in his step, Burke added, â€œThis puts me in a great position for the Pursuit.â€
Watch the video interview with Tim after today's competition:
Bjoerndalen delivered an impressive reaction to his 29th rank in the Individual on Thursday. The 33-year-old logged a total time of 23:13.4 minutes and defeated a very strong Dmitri Yaroshenko of Russia by 12.7 seconds. Yaroshenko missed one of his targets in the prone shooting session but actually skied faster than Bjoerndalen. Germany's Carsten Pump was the surprise second runner-up, shooting clean in both sessions and finishing 23.3 seconds behind the winner. Pump thus scored his best ever World Cup result at age 31.
2nd Place Dmitri Yaroschenko(Photo Credit: biathlonworld.com)
After his six errors in the Individual, Bjoerndalen put some special effort into his shooting: “It was my tactic to focus on the shooting today and start slowly.” Despite his lead entering the race, Bjoerndalen expects an exciting Pursuit: “There will be many lead changes tomorrow. The shooting will be decisive. I will have to fight very hard to stay in front.”
Continued Bjoerndalen, “I had a plan today and it worked out fine. The plan was to start with a rather slow first lap in order to have a secure and good first shooting. It was really hard to ski slowly in the beginning, to go below your own capacity. Especially now when I am in such good shape.”
Frenchman Vincent Defrasne defended his lead in the World Cup Total Score, finishing 13th today. Friedrich Pinter (AUT) ranks second, Bjoerndalen third.
While Burke was putting together an excellent Sprint, Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK) was trying to do the same. Like Burke, Hakkinen shot clean in prone and had a single standing penalty. At one point, it seemed as if he would also clean standing, but on the final shot, Hakkinen hesitated and missed. â€œI just missed,â€ he said. â€œIt is early in the season and I do not have that speed on the range yet.â€ Still Hakkinen battled for a good position and eventually finished 22nd, 1:10.9 back.
Live streaming coverage of tomorrow's 12.5km pursuit will begin at 7:45 EST at www.usbiathlon.org. Click the Biathlon World Cup logo at the top right of the page.
Sources: USBiathlon, www.biathlonworld.com