Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Laura Spector (Lenox, MA) finished 12th, with Brynden Manbeck (Grand Rapids, MN) 14th in the Junior Sprint competition at the European Biathlon Championships.
Cloudy skies and breezy conditions with a temperature of plus five Celsius, greeted the competitors today for the Sprint competitions. Even after some heavy rain on Thursday, the tracks at Nove Mesto are in decent shape, although the artificial snow is getting quite dirty in places. The groomers here have done an excellent job to this point, under less than ideal conditions.
Under these conditions, the US team struggled a bit on both the tracks and the shooting range today. In the end, the US women had better results than the men did.
Despite three penalties, Spector finished in 12th place, 2:52.4 behind Marine Bolliet of France, while Manbeck with two penalties was just 4.7 seconds and two places farther back.
Bolliet shot clean to win in a time of 26:46.2. The Gold medal here overshadows her results of 13th and 14th in the Sprint/Pursuit last month at the World Junior Championships in Ruhpolding. Karolina Piton of Poland took the Silver, also with clean shooting, 17.3 seconds back. Veronika Vitkova of the Czech Republic took the Bronze position, with two penalties, 23.6 seconds back. Vitkova won Silver in the Pursuit at Ruhpolding.
Conditions on the shooting range during the zero in the afternoon were about the same as in the morning, with a steady breeze from left to right. By the time Spector came to the shooting range, the wind was dying. Accordingly, she missed two prone shots on the left side. In standing, she missed three more for five penalties. However, she continued to ski at a much faster pace than many of the other women and finished 12th. Her overall ski time today was the third fastest in the field of 70.
As Spector was finishing, Manbeck and 21st place finisher Hilary McNamee (Fort Fairfield, ME) both had clean prone stages. Coach Vladimir Cervenka was holding his breath as McNamee came to the range, with the wind dying. â€œI hope she takes some clicks.â€ She did, and the targets fell. The two were both in the top 10, as they approached standing. In that stage, they each had two penalties. Manbeck commented, â€œI rushed those last two shots. But my race was better overall.â€
McNamee was all smiles at the finish, as her position when she finished was 15th. It looked like she would stay in the top 20, but just missed by three seconds. At the time, she said, â€œThe top 20 was my goal so I am happy (and she still is).I was getting tired near the end today. It was tough out there. You had to ski through the slow deep snow as the faster part of the tracks was muddy.â€
Coach Cervenka was pleased with the three women today. â€œThey all did a very good job, especially in these conditions. Laura was skiing especially fast. It will be very interesting in the Pursuits tomorrow.â€
Wynn Roberts (Battle Lake, MN) in 27th place, with two penalties was the top US finisher in the Junior Men’s 10K Sprint in the morning.
He was 3:57.3 behind Anton Shipulin of Russia, who claimed his second victory in as many days here. Shipulin missed one shot in standing today but otherwise was as dominant as in the Individual competition on Wednesday. In the Individual competition, Shipulin had two penalties, winning by 35.2 seconds. Today the Russian junior star topped clean-shooting Daniel Salvenmoser of Austria by 39.2 seconds. Salvenmoser now has a Silver medal from today to go with his Bronze form the individual competition. The Sprint Bronze went to Benjamin Weger of Switzerland, who like Shipulin had one penalty, but finished 1:10.7 behind the Russian. Weger’s medal is significant as he is still a youth category competitor.
Roberts was conservative on the shooting range today. He shot slowly in prone and cleaned. â€œThe wind was just a bit stronger than in zero, so I took a click in prone,â€ he said.
In standing, the wind continued, but he dropped the first three targets quickly. He hesitated as he set up for the final two shots and then missed both. He added, â€œThe first one was a low split, but on the second one, I wanted it to be perfect and overheld.â€ With only 2 penalties, he and 32nd place Leif Nordgren (Marine-on-St. Croix, MN), 11.3 seconds behind his teammate, were both a bit surprised at exactly how slow the conditions are here in Nove Mesto. The sixth place finisher was over 2 minutes behind Shipulin and the final Pursuit qualifier is almost six minutes back. Roberts looked at Coach Cervenka, saying, â€œI do not know why I am skiing so slowly!â€ Nordgren on the other hand, said he was not sleeping well and feels sluggish.
At the same time, Nordgren with three penalties was unhappy with his shooting, â€œI shot terrible today (three prone penalties).â€
Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME), 17th in Wednesday’s 15k individual placed 42nd today. Currier had only one prone penalty, but missed all five standing shots, to finish 4:49.7 back.
All of the US athletes qualified for the Pursuit competitions tomorrow. The competitions start at 10 AM CET (4 AM EST), with the Men, followed by Junior Men, Women, and the Junior women at 14:15 CET.
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