While all of the medalists from Saturday’s youth and junior men’s sprints repeated on the podium in Sunday’s pursuits, there was still plenty of excitement on the second day of World Youth and Junior Biathlon Championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.
In the junior men’s 12.5 k pursuit, Germany’s Tom Barth, who started with bib one and a 16-second advantage over teammate Johannes Kuhn, had to fight just to stay on the podium after missing two shots in the third shooting stage. In the end, a clean fourth stage redeemed him and allowed him to add bronze to his medal collection.
While he struggled, Kuhn took over the lead after the second prone stage and never looked back. Over the last two stages he held a seven-second lead over France’s Ludwig Ehrhart, but then put in a furious effort on the last loop to win by 31 seconds.
“I was a bit tired on the tracks and knew that I had to hit all the targets,” he told IBU News. “When you are in the lead the entire time and then miss two or three during the last shooting, no one in interested in you anymore.”
Behind him, Scott Gow of Canada skied an even race and had only three penalties to maintain his start position of 16th place. After three stages, Gow had moved up to 13th, but two misses in the last standing stage dropped him back to where he had started. His teammate Vincent Blais also had three penalties, and moved from 56th up to 52nd place.
The Americans did not fare so well, with Raleigh Goessling missing seven shots and Ethan Dreissigacker six. Goessling started 37th after a good sprint race, but started dropping through the field immediately after two penalties in the first prone stage. With the 50th-fastest ski time, he couldn’t fall back on ski speed either, and finished 53rd.
Dreissigacker hadn’t had a good sprint, and started in 59th place, over a minute and a half behind Goessling. But with one fewer miss, he was able to make up thirty seconds on his teammate and finish 56th. Still, Dreissigacker has traditionally been a very accurate shooter, and he was disappointed with his performances so far at this championships.
“None of my races have been too great, but by North American standards none of them have been that bad either,” he said in an e-mail. “So I guess it just goes to show how good the competition is in the junior age group.
“In the sprint I missed three targets, and skied okay; in the pursuit i missed six, and skied maybe a little better than the sprint. When I came into shoot my first prone my fingers were totally numb, which was weird because it wasn’t that cold and I had warmed up well, but I missed three. That really got me off to a bad start. Things got a bit better after that, but I got dropped by a lot of people who started right around me because of that first prone shooting.”
In the youth men’s 10 k pursuit, Maxim Tsvetkov of Russia led from start to finish – but in the third shooting stage, he had a problem with his ammunition, which allowed Norwegian Vetle Sjestad Christiansen to come within 2.5 seconds of him. However, Tsvetkov didn’t let it get to him and went on to win by thirty seconds since Christiansen missed two shots to his one in the final shooting stage.
“There was a problem with the ammunition and I had to use a spare round,” Tsvetkov told IBU News. “That’s why I lost a lot of time… I knew it was a problem with the ammunition and not with the rifle so I was not nervous.”
Meanwhile, there were a number of strong performances by North American athletes. Canadian Stuart Harden led the way, using the second-best shooting in the field to move from 44th place at the start up to 23rd place at the finish. 19th-place Primoz Pancur of Slovenia was the only athlete with one penalty, while only Harden and 16th-place Jan Treier of Estonia had two.
“I’m really really happy with my pursuit race,” Harden told FasterSkier. “I moved up 21 places and came 13th in standardized times. The result definitely exceeded my goals and expectations for the competition- I managed to ski with some of the best in the world and also out shot almost all of them. I had to ski hard the whole race to maintain the group’s pace, but my training payed off and I was able to recover after each lap to shoot quickly and accurately.
This was especially gratifying for me since I am racing up an age category into youth men,” he continued. “I was very pleased just to make the Canadian team in the beginning. Now after Sunday’s competition I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s individual format, where shooting will matter even more.”
Harden’s teammate Christian Gow was only 16 seconds behind him, moving from 40th up to 27th place. Gow had four penalties but the 16th-fastest ski time on the day. The third Canadian starter, Macx Davies, dropped from 19th place to 29th. While it may have been disappointing for Davies to fall out of the top 20, putting three men in the top 30 was an impressive feat for the Canadians.
The Americans started even farther back in the field: Sean Doherty was bib 50 and Casey Smith bib 54. But Doherty, like the Canadians, was able to move up, ultimately finishing 37th. He skied a very consistent race, with loop times ranking between 38th- and 47th-fastest, and missed one shot in each of the four shooting stages.
Smith had a harder day, missing seven shots altogether. He finished 54th – the same position that he had started in.
“My shooting started out really well – in my first prone I missed zero, then one in my second,” Smith told FasterSkier. “Then I missed three in each of my standing. I am not really sure what I did wrong, it was just one of those days. As far as my results so far, I am not to0 disappointed; there are just a lot of really fast people who are really good shooters.”
Competition continues on Tuesday with individual races.