BiathlonRacingWorld CupKocher Cracks Top Thirty in Biathlon Sprint, US Shoots Well

FasterSkier FasterSkierDecember 22, 2008

Hochfilzen, Tirol, Austria, December 20. Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) missed the final shot in standing today, his only penalty to finish 51st in the10K Sprint.

The snow that started during the Women’s 15K Individual on Thursday continued yesterday and intensified this morning. More than 18 inches of new snow was on the ground as by the time the men started today.

With his one penalty, Bailey finished 2:27.3 behind Lars Berger of Norway, who won in 25:23.1. The win was the first World Cup victory for the 29-year-old Berger and his first clean shooting race since he was 15 years old. Norwegian teammate Alexander Os, with one penalty followed 37.9 seconds later. Third went to Dmitri Iarochenko of Russia, 39.8 seconds back, also with clean shooting.

Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) had one more penalty than Bailey, yet finished 17 places farther back in 68th, 2:41.3 back. Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) also had two penalties while finishing 77th, 2:58.8 back. Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK) was 101st, with four penalties, 4:13.8 back and Leif Nordgren (Marine-on-St. Croix, MN) in his second ever World Cup start finished 110th.

Nordgren missed three prone shots, but cleaned standing, crossing the finish line 4:51.1 back.

Jean-Philippe LeGuellec (CAN), who has been posting career-best results all season, led the Canadian charge with a 56th-place finish in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint competition. The Shannon, Que. native clocked a time of 27:52.0. Brendan Green, of Hay River, N.W.T. was 72d (28:11.12); Scott Perras, of Regina, was 82nd (28:36.2); and Calgary’s Nathan Smith was 90th (28:52.4).

Snow continued to intensify during the Women’s 7.5K Sprint, which the Russian women dominated. Svetlana Sleptsova, with one penalty, powered to a 23:21 win, with teammate Ekaterina Iourieva, shooting clean, 2.7 seconds back. Vita Semerenko of Ukraine also shooting clean finished third, 16.6 seconds back.

Haley Johnson (Lake Placid, NY) almost mastered the miserable shooting conditions by hitting nine of the ten targets on her way to 54th place, 2;41.6 back. Tracy Barnes (Durango, CO) finished 87th with two penalties, 4:26.6 back, with Laura Spector (Lenox, MA) with three penalties in 90th, 4:37.3 back and Lanny Barnes, with four penalties, in 97th, 4:37.3 back.

Canada’s Zina Kocher is back on track to racing with the world’s elite biathletes. Kocher posted her best result of the season with a 25th-place finish in the women’s sprint competition in Hochfilzen, Austria on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Kocher has struggled to combine the best of both skiing and shooting this season which has resulted in some higher than normal results. However, the Red Deer, Alta. native put the disappointing early season results behind her, battled through heavy snow conditions and only missed two shots to clock a time of 25 minutes 9.7 seconds.

“I was not totally stoked about today, but I am very satisfied,” said Kocher. “I finally feel I have the confidence to tie both the skiing and the shooting together. Today I just let go all of the expectations and went for it just for the love of racing.”

The sprint event consists of athletes racing three times around the 3.3-kilometer track. Athletes enter the shooting range for set of shots in the prone position, then one set standing before the final sprint to the finish. Athletes must ski a 150-metre penalty loop immediately after shooting if they miss a target.

Kocher won a World Cup bronze medal in an individual competition two years ago, but the road back to the podium has been a difficult one for the 2006 Olympian and veteran of the Canadian squad. Kocher missed nearly the entire season last year with mononucleosis.

“After last year I have not been at this race state, with high intensity for almost two years,” said Kocher. “For sure I know I can get back to my top form and the podium, but it takes time. I know exactly where my mistakes were today, and it felt good to be able to just go for it.”

Competition in Hochfilzen concludes with relays on Sunday starting at 10:45 CET (4:45 EST).

Sources: US Biathlon, Biathlon Canada

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