Ostersund, Sweden, February 10. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), in 15th position coming into the final standing shooting stage, hit all five targets, then flew through the final 2.5K to finish 10th in the 12.5K Pursuit at the Biathlon World Championships today.
Burke’s 10th place gave him two top-10 finishes in the first competitions at these Championships. He finished 1:18.6 behind the â€œKing of Biathlonâ€ Ole Einar BjÃ¶rndalen, who won in 31:04.5 and like Burke had two penalties.
Nevertheless, the road to finishing 10th today was not an easy one for Burke. After morning cloudiness, the afternoon was crystal clear with virtually no wind to affect the shooting, so the weather was not a factor.
Burke started 1:05 back, in ninth position. He virtually cruised through the two prone stages, electing to follow others over each of the rolling 2.5K loops, and then shot clean in both stages. Regarding the prone stages, he said, â€œThe prone stages felt just like training, just easy and relaxed. I felt strong, never pushing very hard on the tracks. In fact, I felt like I was stronger than some of the other competitors, but I held back.â€
He came to the first standing stage in sixth position, within striking distance of the top three. At that point, things changed rapidly, as he missed two shots, falling back to 15th position as he left the penalty loop. Coach Mikael Lofgren, looking through the spotting scope, had a pained look on his face as Burke headed to the penalty loop. He commented, â€œSo close . . . look at these shots; just millimeters from being hits.â€
In the final stage, Burke downed the five targets rapidly, leaving in 11th position, just behind former World Champion Tomasz Sikora of Poland. He and Burke battled over the final 2.5K all the way to the finish line. â€œSikora kept slowing down in that last loop. I knew there was group close behind, so that worried me a bit. As we came to the stadium, I had to go wide to try to pass him. Unfortunately, that put me in some bad snow. But I got him at the finish line!â€ In fact, Burke lunged at the finish line, to insure the 10th place, banging his knee on the ice and tearing his ski suit.
On Burke’s performance, Lofgren added, â€œTwo penalties in this race is good, just too many. Still, Tim had a great race.â€
Likewise, Burke was far from disappointed. â€œThis equals my fourth best result ever. My shape is very good now and I am looking forward to the other races, especially the 20K (in which he placed seventh last year). Also, after today, I am in a position to be in the Mass Start next Sunday.â€
A video interview with Burke follows.
Haley Johnson (Lake Placid, NY) was the only US competitor in the Women’s 10K Pursuit, starting in 53rd position, and finishing 52nd. Johnson finished with five penalties, 7:04.3 behind Andrea Henkel of Germany who won another Gold medal to go with the one she won in yesterday’s Sprint. Henkel again shot clean, finishing in 28:56.
Johnson stayed near 50th position throughout the competition, picking up single penalties in the first three stages. In the final standing stage, she missed the first and last shots, resulting in two penalty loops, which dropped her back to 53rd at the finish. She commented on the final shooting stage, â€œI knew where everyone was as I started the fourth loop. Henkel was closing in on me. (If Henkel lapped Johnson, the US athlete would have been out of the competition). I pushed hard on the whole loop to keep ahead of her. When I came in to shoot, I was very tired and missed those shots. It was a good race for me.â€
Henkel was even more impressive today than in the Sprint. She started with a 13-second lead and never relinquished it, leading from wire-to-wire. Despite this, Henkel admitted, â€œI was nervous in the final shooting. It was good to shoot zero, because I do not do this very often.â€ With Henkel leading by 15-20 seconds throughout the competition, two Russian women, Ekaterina Iourieva and Albina Akhatova battled for the Silver medal, with Iourieva coming out on top. They matched Henkel on the shooting range, but finished 20.5 and 38.5 seconds back.
Live streaming video coverage of the Biathlon World Championships as well as Biathlon World Cup competitions for the remainder of the season, and archived highlights, are available by clicking the athlete photo at the top of the news column at www.usbiathlon.org
Burke and Sikora still at it