Jean Phillipe LeGuellec (CAN) is making the most of Canada’s first home Olympics in 22 years. With his 13th place finish today, he has now finished 6th, 11th and 13th on winter sports biggest stage.
He once again thrilled the home crowd with his strong skiing and solid shooting, finishing 2:24 behind winner Emil Svendsen of Norway.
LeGuellec overcame a slow third lap to finish strong. “I slowed down a little and focused on my rhythm…On the fourth and fifth laps I was just behins Svendsen and it gave me a push.”
His third lap ranked 44th in terms of ski time, but his fifth and sixth were 13th and 16th respectively.
He missed just two shots, the same as silver medalist Ole Einar Bjorndalen (NOR) – one each in prone and standing.
“It was most difficult with the wind for shooting. I made no mistakes at the beginning, but even with my two penalties, I am satisfied.”
LeGuellec will be in a good start position for the mass start, and will look to continue his strong run.
The day was less successful for the Americans. Medal hopeful Tim Burke had his third consecutive disappointing finish of the Games. The first two were a result of the snow squall that hit during the sprint, but today it was poor shooting.
After three shooting stages Burke was battling for the top-20 with two misses and fast skiing. But three missed targets in the final stage dropped him back to 49th. A fast ski loop moved him back up to 45th at the finish.
“The middle of the race went really well. I started feeling better and better every lap with my skiing, so I’m happy about that, but the three penalties at the end – that was a bad end of the day.”
Overall he posted the 15th best ski time, but his range time was quite slow, and the continued shooting issues concerning. Burke has not shot well in any of his race at the Olympics thus far, and will need to turn things around if he is to compete for a medal in the mass start.
“The first two days I was pretty frustrated with the skiing. I felt like I really wasn’t on form and that sometimes makes it harder for me to shoot,” Burke said after his race.
“He was really pissed off because he was screwed by the weather for two races,” said US Coach Per Nilsson. “But we talked about it the other night – we need to restart from zero and take every opportunity.”
“Today I felt like I was really starting to pick it up…feeling more normal, but I can’t say why I missed three. I really wasn’t tired or nervous.”
And he is quite pleased with how the skiing came around today. “The positive thing today is how I felt skiing and I have two more days before the mass start, and you will see a man with nothing to lose in the mass start. It will be go big or go home.”
Nilsson added “Tim was back in good running shape today, so if there is something positive it is that.”
With three World Cup podium finishes in the first half of the season, the goal of an Olympic medal seemed within reach.
Burke told FasterSkier that he has not been feeling any additional pressure and is confident he can turn things around.
“It hasn’t been easy. I had really high expectations coming here after a strong season, but things just haven’t been going very well.”
Unfortunately for the US, Burke’s disappointing performance was the best of the day.
Lowell Bailey finished 57th with four penalties. He got off to a good start, ranking 16th after the first shooting and the 31st best ski time. But he may have started too fast. He missed two shots the next time through the range, and his skiing slowed dramatically.
Jay Hakkinen’s Olympic struggles continued as well. The Alaskan native finished 76th, undone by 7 misses.
The final starter was scheduled to be Jeremy Teela, but he was a late scratch due to a head cold. Backup Wynn Roberts, who was not scheduled to start any races at the Games got the call at 9:00 AM the morning of the race.
“It was totally out of the blue this morning [getting the call to race]. I rode the bus up to Pemberton to visit my family and didn’t get back until 12:30.”
He has been preparing for each race as though he would be competing. Yesterday was easy training and the day before, intervals.
Roberts, a key component of US plans for the 2014 Games got his first Olympic race out of the way. He struggled on the range, missing 8 targets and finishing 86th.
“When asked if he felt any nerves, Roberts responded “For sure. The first couple of shooting stages I was [nervous], and then on my third shooting I kind of got in a rhythm, but I was getting pretty tired by the last stage and couldn’t focus on it.”
“It was cool for him,” said Nilsson. “He is one of the guys we see for the next games.”
But Nilsson would have liked to see better shooting from the rookie. “Eight misses – we would expect a little better.”
The 21-year-old also got to ski with Burke when the veteran came by later in the race.
Only 30 athletes race the mass start. The top 15 in the overall World Cup get spots. The remaining 15 are filled based on results from the last week. Burke earned a spot based on his World Cup standing, while Teela squeaked in, taking the 28th spot, despite missing today’s race.
Nat Herz contributed reporting.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.