Whistler BC, Canada. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) continued to his streak of top performances that began two weeks ago in Oslo, with a victory in the 20K Individual competition at the Canadian National Championships.
Burke had two penalties, in each of the prone stages in this first-ever major biathlon competition at the Whistler Olympic Park. He covered the 20K in 52:44.7, topping Canadian Robin Clegg (Ontario) by 2:18.2. Clegg had three penalties, as did third place finisher Brendan Green (Northwest Territories). Green finished 4:53.4 behind Burke.
Less than two weeks after his back-to-back 7th and 8th places in the final two World Cup competitions of the year, Burke once again looked strong especially in the second half of his race. He explained at the finish line, â€œEver since I got home from Oslo, I have been skiing a lot, because there is so much snow in Lake Placid. Still, when the race started, I felt a little bit sluggish. In the two prone stages, I felt like it was the first race of the year. I had not picked up my rifle since Norway until I came out here on Monday. When I started the third loop, my skiing picked up and I cleaned the last two stages.â€
Burke was pleased with his first look at the 2010 Olympic Biathlon course today, â€œI really like the course here. It is pretty technical, which suits my style. I am looking forward to training and racing here in the future.â€
Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) finished fifth today, with five penalties, 5:16.4 back. For Teela, who did not compete in the final World Cups, it was like starting up all over again. He commented, â€œI was very tired after I came home from Pyeong Chang, so my training was limited. Today, I tried to be conservative on the tracks and the range and I felt OK.â€
A video interview with Burke and Teela discussing their races and their first impressions of the new
Olympic venue follows:
Walt Shepard (Brunswick, ME), who won three titles at the US National Championships, finished sixth today. Shepard had another strong shooting performance, with two penalties, finishing just 10.1 seconds behind Teela. US Biathlon Development athletes Jason Ray (Pinedale, WY) and Zach Hall (Nikiski, AK) finished 16th and 21st respectively, with five and seven penalties, 10:23.8 and 12:29 back.
In the Women’s 15K Individual, Sara Studebaker (Boise, ID) took third place with the best result of her career. Studebaker, also on the Development Team started biathlon last May. She had three penalties, finishing 2:32.5 behind Megan Imrie (Manitoba). Imrie, a first year World Cup competitor had one penalty in her 48:58.2 victory. Second went to veteran Sandra Keith (Alberta), with two penalties, finished 58.5 seconds back.
Studebaker commented, â€œI am pleased to have a race like this. I have learned a lot (about biathlon) in the past year, but I still have a long way to go.â€
Haley Johnson (Lake Placid, NY) started strong with two penalties in the first three stages, but missed five in the final standing stage, to finish fifth, 5:18.6 back. She said, â€œIn the final standing stage, I started to shake and could not control it. When that happens, there is not much you can do.â€ BethAnn Chamberlain (Fort Kent, ME) edged her for fourth place by 19.8 seconds. Chamberlain had four penalties. Laura Spector (Lenox, MA) in seventh place had eight penalties, 6:03.7 back while Denise Teela (Anchorage, AK) was 11th, with seven penalties, 9:12.4 back.
Leif Nordgren (Marine-on-St. Croix, MN) claimed his first podium spot in the junior category, with third in the Junior Men’s 15k Individual. At the finish, he said, â€œThis was not one of my best days on the shooting range.â€ Nevertheless, his six penalties put him a very close 1:25.9 behind Canada’s Tyson Smith (Alberta), with five penalties. Smith won in 47:30.4. Maxime Leboeuf (Quebec) finished second, with eight penalties, 1:07.9 back. Fifth went to Wynn Roberts (Battle Lake, MN) with 11 penalties, 4:49 back, while Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) had 13 penalties, 5:51.4 back in sixth. Looking at the results sheet, Junior National Coach Vladimir Cervenka shook his head and said, â€œThis was the worst shooting day collectively we (the Junior Team) had all season.â€
The US Junior Women did not follow the trend of their male counterparts on the shooting range. Hilary McNamee (Fort Fairfield, ME) finished fourth in the Junior Women’s 12.5K, with three penalties, 2:01.6 behind Canadian Megan Tandy of British Columbia. Tandy had four penalties and a time of 42:07. Brynden Manbeck (Grand Rapids, MN) finished sixth, with six penalties, 7:04.5 back.
In speaking to many athletes, today’s first impressions of the biathlon venue here at the Whistler Olympic Park were all positive. Burke added, â€œThis is a beautiful place. The courses do not have any big climbs and it is fast.â€
The venue is situated high in the Callaghan Valley, an area blessed with abundant snowfall. There is currently at least 2 meters of snow on the ground and although the weather was mild (just at freezing), it snowed on and off during the competitions all day. It is located 20 kilometers south of the world-renowned Whistler Ski area.
Vancouver 2010 Biathlon Manager Max Saenger was equally happy about the first big test for the facility, commenting, â€œI am very pleased with how the event went today. I like the look of the event and venue. Our volunteers are to be commended with the job they did in preparation for these competitions.â€
Friday is a training day here, with the Sprint competitions scheduled for 10AM PDT on Saturday.