Canmore, Alberta, Canada, January 31. Addie Byrne (Bovey, MN) placed sixth in the Youth Women 6K Sprint at the Youth/Junior World Championships this afternoon.
Byrne had one penalty on a very windy day that saw most competitors have two to five penalties. She finished 29.8 seconds behind co-Champions Olga Galich of Russia and Yan Zhang of China. The duo recorded the same time of 19:31.4. Galich had one penalty to Zhang’s clean shooting.
Byrne was all smiles at the Flower Ceremony, but has her sights set on a medal. She said, “Sixth is not quite, what I wanted. I really wanted a medal, but I have two more races left. I knew I could be top 10. I spent a lot of time on this course and worked a lot on the areas that were troubling me. I can visualize it in my sleep.”
Byrne’s sixth place was the second top eight finish for the US in the Youth category this week. Grace Boutot (Fort Kent, ME) won a Silver medal in the Youth Individual on Thursday. She finished 9th today, with one penalty, 40.6 seconds back and will contend for medals along with Byrne in Sunday’s Pursuit competition.
Boutot shot extremely well in the challenging conditions. Entering prone with on of the top first lap times, Boutot rapidly nailed all five shots. Back on course she maintained her skiing position entering the range once again with gusting winds, but hitting all but one target. On her final lap, Boutot managed to climb up the list to land in 9th place. After the race she commented, “I knew I had to be more aggressive today. The Individual is definitely a shooters race and the Sprint is a skiers race. I’m pretty happy with the way things went today and am in a good position for tomorrow’s Pursuit.” MWSC Biathlon Coach Gary Colliander commented, “This was a solid race by Grace today. Last year she was 55th in this race, so 9th is a great improvement. Her shooting times today were great, not much over a minute for the two stages combined and her skiing was solid.”
Canada was led by 17-year-old Audrey Vaillancourt, of Val Bélair, Que., won the bronze medal. Vaillancourt held onto the podium despite stumbling in her final lap to post a time of 19:46.6.
In the men’s race, Canada’s Kurtis Wenzel thrilled the hometown crowd by winning the gold medal one day prior to his 18th birthday at the Biathlon Youth and Junior World Championships in Canmore, Alta, on Saturday.
The Calgary native blazed his trail through the world-leading Canmore Nordic Centre and took advantage of a hot hand en route to winning the gold medal. After shooting perfect in the prone position, Wenzel missed just one shot in standing, to clock a winning time of 21 minutes 10.2 seconds in the men’s 7.5-kilometre sprint competition.
“This is the best birthday present I could ever get – being number one,” said Wenzel, who is also a golden Grade 12 student at the Calgary-based National Sport School, which provides young Canadian athletes the opportunity to pursue excellence in both their athletic and academic lives. “I had visions in my training that I could do this, but I guess I never thought it would actually come true. I was really on my game today.”
The sprint event consists of athletes racing three times around the 2.5-kilometre track. Athletes enter the shooting range for a 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.
Joining the beaming Canuck on the podium was Norway’s Eriend Bjoentegaard in second spot (21:14.2), while Switzerland’s Mario Dolder was third (21:26.5).
Wynn Roberts (Battle Lake, MN) finished 15th in the event, while teammate Leif Nordgren (Marine-on-St. Croix, MN) finished a disappointing 23rd. Both of the US biathletes had one penalty, but Roberts finished 1:36.5 back to Nordgren’s 2:12.3 back. “I had very good skis,” Roberts said. He continued, “On the shooting range, I do not remember anything in standing and they all went down. I was in the zone. I did hear the announcer keep talking about Florian Graf of Germany and that fired me up.”
Sources: US Biathlon, Maine Winter Sports Center, Biathlon Canada