Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Laura Spector (Lenox, MA) and Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) finished 15th and 17th in the Individual competitions at the European Biathlon Championships.
Both Spector and Currier after the long trip from Sweden, performed well today. Spector, with five penalties finished 5:54.5 behind Elise Ringen of Norway, while Currier was 5:56.2 behind Anton Shipulin of Russia.
The European Biathlon Championships come just three days after the World Championships in Ostersund. Many athletes after competing five or six times in the past two weeks, made the trek from Sweden to Nove Mesto. This is truly a different place. Ostersund had plenty of natural snow and great conditions. Unfortunately, there probably has not been any natural snow here for weeks, as the forests and fields as you approach this newly built venue in the Moravia, look more like early spring than mid-winter, dry and brown.
Luckily, for the athletes, the organizers have been making snow for weeks and the tracks are covered with about a meter of manmade snow. Temperatures drop well below freezing at night, so snow maintenance and preparation are not a problem, but with a warm sunny day like today, the snow softened quickly.
The program at the European Championships goes for over 5 hours each day, with both junior and senior competitions each day.
Even before the final senior men were finished (after a 9 AM start), the Junior 15K Individual started.
The three US men finished close together, all in the top 20, with Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) leading the way in 17th, followed by Leif Nordgren (Marine-on-St. Croix, MN) in 19th and Wynn Roberts (Battle Lake, MN) in 20th.
Currier, with six penalties, finished 5:56.2 behind Anton Shipulin of Russia, with two penalties. Shipulin, who won Gold in the Sprint/Pursuit competitions and Silver in this event at the Junior World Championships last month had a winning time of 43:27. Karasmir Anex of Bulgaria, followed him with one penalty, 35.1 seconds back, and Dan Salvenmoser of Austria, with three penalties, 1:55.8 back was third.
Although he ( and Spector) competed in just two events ( Mixed Relay and the 20K Individual), they both made the long trip from Ostersund, driving six hours with the wax team to southern Sweden, spending the night in Torsby, driving two more hours to Oslo, then flying to Munich and driving another six hours to Nove Mesto. Under sunny skies with little wind, Currier picked up two penalties, in the first, second and final shooting stages. As in Ostersund, he cleaned the second standing stage. On his shooting, he commented, â€œI just did not have the confidence on the range today.â€ He garnered the top US finish on the 12th fastest ski time of the day, keeping him 6.9 seconds ahead of Nordgren.
Nordgren, with four penalties today was 13 seconds behind Currier after the final shooting stage, finishing 6:03.1 back. Although he gained ground, the softening snow and some jet lag hindered him. At the finish, Nordgren, with sweat dripping from his face, exclaimed, â€œBoy, it was getting soft out there! I still feel a little sluggish after the travel, but actually after a couple of laps, I felt better than before the race.â€
Two penalties kept him and the other US men out of the top eight today. Nordgren missed two shots in the first prone stage, following that up with only two more in the final three stages. Coach Vladimir Cervenka commented, â€œLeif shot pretty fast in that stage and missed low.â€
Roberts, with four penalties, in 20th had much better race than at the World Junior Championships, where he finished 62nd, with eight penalties. Today, he was 6:21 back,23.8 behind Currier. According to Cervenka, he has worked with Roberts on the mental aspects of the sport to help him improve his performances.
Roberts and Currier started earlier than Nordgren and seemed less affected by the rising temperatures and the softening snow. Roberts also looking like he just finished a summer competition, said, â€œIt really was not too deep, except in the stadium and in the lowest part of the tracks, where it is also really dirty.â€
Temperatures jumped to plus ten Celsius in the afternoon for the Junior Women’s 12.5K Individual. As Laura Spector approached the first shooting, Cervenka wondered aloud, â€œI hope she too some clicks(as the wind had died from the time she zeroed).â€ After missing the first shot, Spector did just that and hit the next four shots. She followed that up with a clean standing stage, moving to second position approaching the next prone stage. Unfortunately, she missed two shots there and in the final standing stage, pushing her out of the top ten to a still respectable 15th place.
The disappointed Spector talked after the competition, â€œI had a good one going. After I missed the two prone shots, I lost my focus. That was disappointing, but it shows me what is possible in a four stage race.â€ Regarding the long travel to this town of 10,000 people, that lies about 100 miles southeast of Prague, she replied, â€œIt was a long trip, but I am not too tired. I did some faster skiing yesterday to help clean out my legs and that helped.â€
Hilary McNamee (Fort Fairfield, ME), still a youth competitor by age, placed 26th in her first big international competition as a junior. Like Spector, she missed one shot in the first prone stage. Then, in the first standing, she had three penalties that pushed her down the results list. The last five standing targets finally went down in succession, with six penalties, McNamee finished 8:48 behind Ringen. Brynden Manbeck (Grand Rapids, MN), with nine penalties, finished 51st, 13;32.3 back.
Only one competitor, Iris Waldhuber of Austria out of the 143 junior men and women shot clean today. That clean shooting gave Waldhuber second place behind Ringen,1:11.7 back. Irina Maximova of Russia placed third, with two penalties, 3:11.6 back.
After the long travel to Nove Mesto and hard Individual competitions today, Thursday is a scheduled rest day. Competitions resume with Sprints on Friday, again starting at 9 AM CET (3 AM EST).
Live streaming video coverage of the Biathlon World Cup competitions for the remainder of the season, and archived highlights including those from the World Championships, are available by clicking the athlete photo at the top of the news column at www.usbiathlon.org.
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