The single most dominating performance on the first day of Biathlon World Youth and Junior Championships came in the second race on Saturday, the junior women’s 7.5 k sprint. Dorothea Wierer of Italy shot clean to win the race by over a minute.
It wasn’t an entirely surprising result: Wierer has contested every Junior Worlds series since 2007, and won a gold medal in Ruhpolding in 2008 and one in Canmore in 2009. And of all the starters in the junior women’s field, she has the most and best World Cup experience, including a 24th place finish in Ruhpolding this year.
Still, the size of her victory was impressive.
“This was a perfect competition,” Wierer told IBU News. “The tracks are prepared well and the wind was no problem for me. At the beginning, I had a strange feeling because I am used to the very high level at the World Cup. So I was surprised.”
Behind her, Canadian Emma Lunder and American Corrine Malcolm each missed two shots and finished six seconds apart in 31st and 33rd places.
For Malcolm, it was the first World Juniors race of her career, and this is also the first year she has trained as a biathlete. Usually, skiing is her stronger suit, but two penalties was an impressive accomplishment for her.
“For the first time ever my shooting saved my butt,” she told FasterSkier. “It’s kind of an odd sensation to have my best shooting race ever at World Junior Championships! Skiing felt pretty terrible today, I didn’t feel like I could be very aggressive out on course. I like to feel that I can attack sections of trail and today the trail was attacking me and I was along for the ride. I felt strong on the bigger climbs out on course but the transitional sections are crucial and I just didn’t have it in me this morning.”
But to finish 33rd with tired legs is a huge accomplishment.
“A little disappointing for sure, but all in all, 33 is not a bad place to be at my first big European show. I’d like to be top 30 and came close today, and I’m happy about where I sit going into the pursuit tomorrow. It will be my first true pursuit format race in biathlon and should be really exciting!”
The top 60 athletes from each race will contest the pursuit on Sunday. Joining Lunder and Malcolm will be American Grace Boutot, who finished 47th with two penalties, and both other Canadian starters: Audrey Vaillancourt, who finished 44th, and Yolaine Oddou, who was 48th. While none of the women had the best days, all five still made the pursuit, and have the chance to improve tomorrow.
In the youth women’s 6 k, Kelly Kjorlien of the United States brought home the best women’s result of the day, finishing 27th with a single penalty.
“I felt pretty good today,” Kjorlien said in an e-mail. “We had perfect conditions. I am really happy about having early races because that means the course is in flawless shape and hasn’t been trampled by all of the boys yet. My race went well, after missing the first shot I was able to calm down enough to hit the rest. I’m proud of my teammates for some nice racing today and am looking forward to the pursuit tomorrow since shooting is my strong point. It should be a fun race.”
Her teammates Carly Wynn and Tara Garaghty-Moates also qualified for the pursuit with 53rd- and 58th-place finishes. Unlike Kjorlein, shooting is not their strong point: in two shooting stages, Wynn missed six shots and Garaghty-Moates seven. However, they had the 14th- and 23rd-fastest ski times of the day, which enabled them make up some ground.
The last American racer, Silke Hynes, just barely missed the pursuit. She finished 62nd with three penalties. Although she was only two places out, her time was twenty-three seconds away from the magic 60th place.
Rose-Marie Cote led the Canadians with a 44th-place finish, thanks to three penalties. Julia Ransom was next in 51st, followed by Sarah Beaudry in 52nd and Danielle Vrielink in 55th. Their teammate Scott Gow indicated that the women were not pleased with their races, but with all four earning a start in the pursuit, they were optimistic about moving up in the rankings.