After a tough first day of competition at the World Youth and Junior Biathlon Championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic on Saturday, the American and Canadian men will be on the offensive in Sunday’s pursuit.
With the top 60 finishers from today’s sprint races qualifying to move on, the North American teams – which notched just two top-30 performances – will have plenty of pursuing to do.
“Overall the Canadian team didn’t have a stellar day,” said Scott Gow, whose 16th-place finish in the junior men’s 10 k was the best result on the day. “There were some great results, some good results and some not so great results… but [we’re] still optimistic about tomorrow.”
As seems to be true at nordic World Junior Championships, the Russian team is off to a strong start; they collected five medals in four races today, the most of any country, and were the only team to earn two golds.
Gow’s performance in the junior men’s 10 k was impressive, but hardly surprising. In December, Gow finished 15th in an IBU Cup race, the level below the World Cup which featured some juniors but also a hefty number of older racers. Earlier this week, he told FasterSkier that the result had given him confidence going into World Juniors.
He certainly didn’t disappoint today, but was still left unsatisfied.
“Skiing is still a little on the sluggish side because I don’t think I’ve completely adjusted to the jet lag,” he said in an e-mail. “But the skiing is feeling good enough that I’m happy with it. The only disappointing thing about today was my two misses. I missed my last two standing shots and I really should have only had one.”
Gow had the 19th-fastest ski time in his race, and one fewer miss would have moved him into approximately twelfth place. And besides missing a few shots, Gow’s shooting times hurt him: over two shooting stages, he was over 30 seconds slower than the fastest shooters.
At the front of the field, Germans Tom Barth and Johannes Kuhn took first and second place. Their success was no surprise, given that they combined for relay gold at World Juniors in Torsby, Sweden last year. Of the two, Kuhn was perhaps the favorite going into today’s race: he also collected individual gold and silver in Torsby, while Barth was stuck with two bronzes. But today, Barth shot clean, one better than Kuhn, and was much faster on the range. As a result he got a 16-second victory.
Raleigh Goessling led the U.S. team in 37th with just one missed shot.
“I had excellent skis, and some really great shooting,” he told FasterSkier. “My skiing was pretty average, and unfortunately I fell apart on the last loop and lost a few places there, but I was really great to put together good shooting in an international race. I was satisfied with my racing- there is a huge jump in the quality of the field from youth to junior. The junior men are a lot faster skiing and shooting.”
The result was Goessling’s second-best at World Juniors; he finished 32nd as a first-year youth. But against the junior field, today’s race was perhaps more satisfying.
“As far as the rest of the series I’m just going to take it day by day and try to capture that good shooting,” he said.
Vincent Blais, David Gregoire, and Aaron Neumann were the other Canadian racers, finishing 56th, 65th, and 81st. American Ethan Dreissigacker snuck into Sunday’s pursuit with a 59th-place result; he was followed by Ben Greenwald in 71st.
The lone North American to come close to matching Gow’s performance was his younger teammate Macx Davies.
“Macx was very impressive,” Gow said. “He arrived here yesterday and put on such a great race only one day later; it was pretty cool and we’re all really happy for him.”
Davies finished 19th in the youth men’s 7.5 k sprint. The top three biathletes – Maxim Tsvetkov of Russia, Vetle Sjastad Christiansen of Norway, and Tsvetkov’s teammate Alexandr Loginov – bested the field by a wide margin, despite each missing at least two shots. Fourth-place Alexander Chernyshov of Russia was a minute behind Tsvetkov and over thirty seconds off the podium.
With only one penalty, Davies shot better than any of the podium finishers. But it took him over 35 more seconds than Tsvetkov to hit those shots; range times are one area that the Canadians can clearly work on.
Gow’s brother, Christian, was the next Canadian finisher, in 40th place with three misses. He was followed by Stuart Harden in 44th and Albert Bouchard in 66th.
Sean Doherty and Casey Smith were the lone Americans to qualify for Sunday’s pursuit, finishing 50th and 54th. Sam Dougherty and Ray Wonders were 68th and 77th.