Ruhpolding, Germany. Winter weather arrived on the final day of the Youth/Junior Biathlon World Championships, with steady wet snow falling all morning that made the tracks deep and slow for both the Youth and Junior Relay competitions.
Before the start of the Youth Women 3 X 6K Relay, US coach Gary Colliander stated, â€œI hope we can have clean shooting with no penalties. That would be a good goal for this group.â€
The snow piled up the US Team of Hilary McNamee (Fort Fairfield, ME), Addie Byrne (Bovey, MN), and Grace Boutot (Fort Kent, ME) headed out of the Ruhpolding along with 15 other teams. The tough conditions took their toll early as McNamee, despite using only two spare rounds in each stage and picking up no penalties, passed to Byrne, 3:45.9 behind the leading German team.
Byrne seemed to be moving in slow motion, as she struggled in the ever-deepening snow. Nevertheless, she needed only one spare round in each stage, keeping Colliander’s hope fro a clean race alive. Byrne tagged to Boutot and immediately crumpled to the ground completely exhausted. After regaining her composure, although still sitting in the snow, she commented, â€œI am not very good in soft deep snow. That is for those small lightweight girls. I am completely exhausted.â€
Boutot left the stadium in 13th position, 7:47.2 back as the snow continued to deepen on the tracks. She needed one spare round in prone and two in standing to keep the US team clean for the day. One additional team passed her during her leg, which put the US in 14th place, 12:26 behind Germany. Although the US was near the back of the pack, the three young women never visited the penalty loop and was one of only six teams to escape penalty—free.
Germany set the tone for the Youth Women 3 X6K Relay during the first leg. Although leadoff Maren Hammerschmidt needed two spare rounds in each shooting stage to clean, she made up the time lost with her skiing. As heavy snow covered the Chiemgau Arena and the surrounding tracks, the lightweight Hammerschmidt seemed to be skiing effortlessly. Leaving the standing stage 20.9 seconds behind Italy, she easily closed the gap. By the exchange, the Italian team was 13.2 seconds back. The race for the Gold was over!
Maren’s twin sister Janin took over for the second leg, stretching the lead to 2:11.9 by the final exchange to Nicole Wotzel. Wotzel needed a mere two spare rounds to clean both of her shooting stages. She crossed the finish line in 1:14:28.5. Although the German women used eight spare rounds to claim Gold, the Silver medalists from Norway used 13 spare rounds and made five visits to the penalty loop. Synnoeve Solemdal contributed three of the penalties on the second leg. She was repeatedly passed by Italy during her leg, but each time, Solemdal powered her way past the Italian team. By the exchange, the strong Norwegian was 2 seconds ahead of her rivals, despite skiing an extra 450 meters. Norway finished 2:36.3 behind Germany, while Italy took Bronze, 3:30.1 back, with no penalties and seven spare rounds.
Conditions deteriorated during the early stages of the Junior Women’s 3 X 6K Relay, making for a rough start for the US team of Meagan Toussaint (Madawaska, ME), Laura Spector (Lenox, MA), and Brynden Manbeck (Grand Rapids, MN). Toussaint faced the brunt of almost blinding snowfall and changing wind conditions on the shooting range. As she approached the prone stage, the wind picked up from virtually nothing to a very strong crosswind. Accordingly, she used all three spare rounds while still picking up two penalties. She cleaned standing, but tagged Laura Spector in 11th position, almost 5 minutes off the lead. At the finish, Toussaint said, â€œI took some clicks on the shooting range in prone, one then two, but they must have not been enough. The snow on the penalty loop was very deep and so slow! I am still a bit under the weather from the bad cold I have, and now I am tired.â€
Shortly after Spector left the stadium, the snow virtually stopped. When she shot prone, the conditions were perfect, yet she had to do one penalty loop. In prone, her day brightened considerably as she shot clean in five fast shots and flew around the 2K loop, putting the US, although still in 11th position, close to both Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Smiling broadly after her leg, she said, â€œYesterday, Gary (Colliander) worked with me for a long time on my standing. It has not been very good lately. Obviously, it helped. The penalty did not discourage me. I have learned to not allow my shooting to affect my skiing.â€ She tagged Manbeck, in 11th position, 6:27 back.
Manbeck also had a prone penalty, coming to the standing stage 42.6 seconds behind Bulgaria, in 10th position. She shot clean with a single spare round and left the stadium chasing the Bulgarian team, now 32.5 seconds ahead. By the finish, she had pulled the US up to 10th place, 8:56.8 behind Germany and 23.3 seconds ahead of Bulgaria.
Germany won its eighth Gold medal of these Championships, but in a bit less convincing fashion than their other victories.
Anne Domeinski, in the anchor position was well in control after 5-shot clean prone stage. In the standing stage, she cracked a bit, picking up two penalties. With Russia on the shooting range at the same time, there was a chance that Germany might lose the Junior Women’s relay.
Unfortunately, Russia also needed all three spare rounds and picked up a penalty. thus the German team pulled away to win in 1:11:06.3, with two penalties and six spare rounds.
As Russia completed the penalty loop, the French team with ten spare rounds and one penalty slipped past them to claim Silver, 36.1 seconds back. Russia struggled home with two penalties and ten spare rounds, 1:18.3 back.
The relay competitions ended the 2008 Youth/Junior Biathlon World Championships.
The senior Biathlon World Championships opening next Friday in Ostersund Sweden will be the next competition for the US Biathlon Team.
Live streaming video coverage of all of the competitions at the Youth and Junior World Championships competitions as well as archived highlights of the World Cup season, is available by clicking the athlete photo at the top of the news column at www.usbiathlon.org.
Spector to Manbeck