Lanny Barnes is known as a good shot. But coming into the Olympics, she said she had never shot perfectly in a race with four shooting stages over her entire ten-year international career.
That ended today, as the Colorado native went 20 for 20 to propel herself to a 23rd place in the women’s 15k individual start race—the best Olympic result from an American woman since Joan Smith was 14th in Lillehammar in 1994.
“It was amazing to do it here in the Olympics,” Barnes said, referring to her shooting.
After a disappointing 78th place in the sprint, Barnes said her only goal coming into the race was to hit all 20 targets, and to ski as hard as she could. That was exactly what she accomplished today.
The only thing that may have hindered her was the bib she was wearing. As the 66th starter on a rapidly warming course, Barnes might have gone a little bit faster if she’d had an earlier start.
Sara Studebaker, on the other hand, didn’t have that problem. She was the very first starter this morning in of a field of 87, and headed out onto an empty course.
“It was a little nerve-racking,” she said. “I had to calm myself down.”
By the time Studebaker skied into the range for her first shooting stage, though, the nerves were clearly gone, as she was calm enough to be able to hit all of her targets. She also hit the next five, before a lone penalty on her third stage knocked her a minute back. But she still finished 34th–a stellar result for someone who raced her first World Cup just last spring.
And Studebaker wasn’t complaining about 95 percent shooting—especially not after some struggles in Antholz, Italy, in the last World Cup before the Olympics. There, she shot just 16 of 20 and seven of ten in a pair of competitions.
Today, though, the shooting was dialed, and Studebaker was also aided by firm course conditions for her four loops, as well as a bit of a boost from skiing with Tora Berger (NOR), the eventual winner. Berger started 30 seconds behind Studebaker, catching her at the end of the pair’s first lap.
“She’s just got an engine, and in a way that’s really motivating—to see where I need to get to,” she said. “In four years, one miss—podium. That’s the goal, so we’ll see.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.