When American biathlete Kelly Kjorlien arrived in the Czech Republic for IBU Youth/Junior World Championships, she was confident – but she also came down with a cough.
Has that slowed her down so far?
No, not at all. After finishing 27th in Saturday’s youth women’s 6 k sprint, Kjorlien told FasterSkier that she was excited going into the pursuit, because shooting was her “strong point” and there were four shooting stages in which to best the competition.
And that is how it turned out: with only three penalties, Kjorlien moved into 26th place on Sunday. With no women shooting clean, and only one with one penalty and two with two, Kjorlien had some of the best shooting of anybody in the race. Besides being extremely accurate – she cleaned the third stage and missed one in each of the other three – she was one of the fastest shooters in the race as well. After the last shooting stage, Kjorlien was in 24th place, but a slow last loop dropped her back to 26th.
Not that 26th is a disappointing finish: in just her second year of World Juniors competition, Kjorlien now owns two top-30 finishes and is proving to be a consistent, talented racer.
Kjorlien also embodied a trend for the U.S. youth women: both the other starters also gained a single spot in the pursuit. Carly Wynn moved up from 53rd to 52nd. Her race was dominated by the opposing forces of poor shooting – she missed ten targets, or 50% – and extremely fast skiing. Wynn’s time on course was the 12th fastest of the day.
Teammate Tara Garaghty-Moates was in a similar situation. She started with bib 58, and her 20th-fastest ski time of the day should have gained her a lot of ground. But she missed 13 shots, which dropped her back to 57th – just one spot better than where she started.
But Garaghty-Moates has been training for biathlon for less than a year, so being in the pursuit at all was an accomplishment, especially considering that her ski training has been compromised this year: after she crashed while ski jumping, she had knee surgery in late April, was stuck on crutches for eight weeks, and then had a full-length leg brace for three more.
“I feel like I’m learning a lot of things that will contribute to my future biathlon career,” Garaghty-Moates said in an e-mail. “I’m pretty satisfied about where my skiing is stacking up against the Euro girls, especially given that fact that because of my knee surgery I really wasn’t able to skate until November. In the sprint race I was able to qualify for the pursuit only because of my fast skiing.
“My shooting is inconsistent,” she continued. “It’s tough because I’m at Junior Worlds and it goes without saying that I want to clean all my stages and ski fast, but given my lack of shooting experience that’s just not a feasible goal. By time I leave here I will only ever have competed in ten biathlon races, so I’m still making rookie mistakes like taking the wrong amount of wind clicks and throwing my zero way off- that’s what happened Sunday in prone.
“Overall I’m just trying to do my best and enjoy being here. So far this trip has been the best experience of my skiing career.”
The Canadians were led by Rose-Marie Cote, who won a sprint finish with teammate Sarah Beaudry. The two finished 39th and 40th, moving up from bibs 44 and 52. Cote had four penalties and Beaudry five. Beaudry had skied all the way up to 32nd place before the final shooting stage, where she missed three shots.
Canadians Julia Ransom and Danielle Vrielink finished 51st and 55th.
In both the youth and junior women’s races, the winners from the Saturday’s sprints prevailed again. In the youth race, Ekaterina Zubova of Russia took her second gold medal, and the rest of the podium was identical to Saturday’s as well: Anais Chevalier of France finished second and Elena Badanina of Russia third. In the junior 10 k pursuit, Dorothea Wierer of Italy and Aleksandra Alkina of Russia repeated as the gold and silver medalists.
The surprise finish of the day came from Laura Dahlmeier of Germany, who started in 14th place, two minutes and 16 seconds behind Wierer and over a minute off the podium. But Dahlmeier was one of only two women in the race to shoot clean, and as a result she finished third and collected the first World Juniors medal of her career.
“This is crazy, I never thought I would make it on the podium today,” she told IBU News. “I saw on the big screen [during the last stage] that the others missed and I also heard it. I tried to not notice it and focus on my own race but it’s not possible to completely shut that out.”
Even if she didn’t shut it out, she cleaned yet another stage and was able to finish a comfortable 13 seconds ahead of fourth-place Olga Galich of Russia.
Audrey Vaillancourt of Canada led the North American contingent in the junior race, finishing 32nd after starting 44th. She only had two penalties, which represented the best shooting of any North American woman all day.
“I knew that my chances to move up in the pursuit were very good, not only because I was starting 44th, but also because we shoot four times in that race and I have shot very well since the beginning of the season,” Vaillancourt told FasterSkier. “I started very aggressively because I wanted to keep up with the girls that were starting almost at the same time as I did. I knew that if I wanted to gain spots, I had to shoot very well- I felt very confident about it, and it worked. I cleaned my two first stages, which made me ski much faster!”
Her teammates Emma Lunder and Yolaine Oddou finished 38th and 39th, just four seconds apart despite being on opposite trajectories. Lunder started 31st but missed six shots, which led to her tumble through the rankings. Oddou started 48th and missed five shots, but fast skiing allowed her to gain nine spots.
Grace Boutot was the top American, finishing 42nd. She gained five places from her starting position of 47th.
“The race [on Sunday] still wasn’t great for me,” she said in an e-mail. “I did what I could do, and even though I haven’t had the results that I hoped for in the past two days, I can’t make any excuses or change the results. So I am really looking forward to the individual, since it’s usually my strongest race. We are only half way through [the championships], and there are still two opportunities to have some good results.
“The team has had a good dynamic so far, and everyone has been really positive even if they’ve struggled in their races,” she added.
Corrine Malcolm missed eight shots and was unable to capitalize on her 33rd-place start position. Instead, she slipped to 46th place.
Races continue on Wednesday with the youth individual competitions.