Pyeongchang, Korea – Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) finished 11th in what he called “the hardest 10K I have ever done” at the Biathlon World Championships.
After a week of warm daytime temperatures and a full day of rain yesterday that destroyed much of the snow, few athletes expected to compete. Somehow, the organizers were able to spread their 2,000 cubic meters of stored snow over a 2.5K course to allow the competitions to proceed as planned. However, the snow was extremely soft and looked almost like snow-cone ice.
Under such adverse conditions, Burke was in contention for a podium spot the whole time he was on the course. He started aggressively coming through the first split just seconds off the lead. In prone, with the wind blowing, he shot clean and fast, putting him in the top six at that point. The race got tough at that point. Normally a 10K Sprint is 3 times a 3.3K loop. However, because of the lack of snow, today’s format was a 2.5K, followed by two times the same loop (5K) and then another 2.5K. The middle 5K changed the nature of the competition to some extent.
After two tours of the 2.5K loop, Burke sot standing on position 30, protected from the wind by a small building. He shot with a good, confident cadence but missed two shots; one of which was a split. When the split shot did not fall, Coach Per Nilsson said with disappointment, “it was so close!” After the two penalty loops, Burke was still flying around the tracks, finishing 11th, 1:19.9 behind Ole Einar Björndalen, who won his 11th Biathlon World Championship title, with two penalties in 24:16.5. Two other Norwegians Lars Berger, also with two penalties, 1.2 seconds back and Halvard Hanevold, with clean shooting, 12.5 seconds back followed.
At the finish, Burke was both happy and disappointed as he talked about his evening in Pyeongchang. “That was the hardest 10K I have ever done. I was watching some of the guys who started earlier struggling in that deep snow and realized if you try too hard, you would fall apart. I tried to relax. It felt like I was not going very fast.”
Unlike the uphills, the downhill approach to the shooting range is like falling off a cliff. Burke added, “That downhill into the stadium is the scariest I have ever seen in a race. You come off this big uphill and then go over and you have no control of your legs. I am not happy about the two standing misses, but I will learn from that and go for it tomorrow (in the Pursuit).”
Joining Burke in that Pursuit competition will be Lowell Bailey in 56th place, 2:47.6 back, and Russell Currier in 58th place, 2:55.7 back.
For the first time in several years, three US women will be in Sunday’s 10K Pursuit competition, matching their male counterparts. Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO) had a very good day, finishing 46th in today’s 7.5K Sprint. On a quite windy day, she shot clean, to finish 2:53.6 behind Kati Wilhelm of Germany who won her second individual World championship. Her previous victory came in 2001. Today, her clean shooting carried her to a 21:11.1 victory. Second went to Simone Hauswald from Germany, 9.9 seconds back, also shooting clean. Third place Olga Zaitseva of Russia, matched the two German women on the shooing range, but finished 27.1 seconds back.
Tracy Barnes in 56th place, with one penalty, 3:23 back joins her sister in the Pursuit competition. Laura Spector (Lenox, MA), finished 59th, inside the 60th place cutoff. She shot clean in prone, but struggled with the wind in standing and missed two shots costing her a higher finish. She was 3:30.3 back.