Oberhof, Germany, has been kind to the Canadian biathlon team so far this year.
After the men finished 11th in the relay on Wednesday, they had a banner day on Friday with finishes of 14th, 16th, and 34th from Brendan Green, Jean-Phillipe Leguellec, and Scott Perras.
With a mass start competition coming up on Sunday, the team is feeling good.
“With Brendan’s 14th place, we both managed to squeeze in the mass start race this Sunday,” Leguellec said in an e-mail.
“This is a historical first for Canada to have two men in the mass start. The selection criteria changed this year, which allowed us to get in. The mass start used to be only for the top 30 athletes in the general ranking. Now, the first 25 are pre-selected with five open spots to the next five athletes in the race before any given mass start. So Brendan and I [snagged] the 4th and 5th spots, and we get to start!”
Leguellec was among the leaders early in the race after shooting clean in prone, but missed two shots in standing to fall back a few places. He wasn’t alone in his struggles on the range: only four men shot clean over two stages.
“In both stages, the range was pretty foggy,” Leguellec said. “It was at the point where, through my sight, I could not see the targets very well, so I pretty much had to guess where they were and had to lend an ear to hear them fall or hear my miss.
“My ski shape was on point,” he continued. “It’s nice to feel good on the boards again… All in all, I’m very happy with my 16th place. I seem to be getting back on track and turning the page over the rough first tour ending before Christmas.”
Green shot one better than his teammate, missing one shot in prone and cleaning the standing stage. At the end of the day, he beat his more decorated countryman by eight seconds and two places. His result tied his best-ever World Cup performance, matching a finish from Antholz, Italy last season.
“I was decent on the skis, but the shooting really came together today despite the conditions,” Green said in a Biathlon Canada press release. “I have been pretty tired coming out of the last training block so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I shot well today and it was a good result.”
And Perras had his fourth-best career result. He managed the foggy conditions well, missing one shot in each shooting stage.
Mar-Andre Bedard, freshly promoted from the IBU Cup squad, finished 72nd with five penalties.
For the Americans, the change in mass start format was less positive.
Tim Burke is ranked in the top 30, so under the previous guidelines, he would have started the race on Sunday. But with the new rules, he is not ranked highly enough to get an automatic start slot, and his 31st-place finish today didn’t get him in, either.
“I am very frustrated that I will not be in the mass start even though I am ranked in the top 30 overall,” he told FasterSkier. “I feel like I have the fitness to have a top result now, but hopefully my time will come.”
Nevertheless, he was pleased with his race, despite missing three shots in prone and one in standing.
“I was very happy with my performance today,” Burke said. “This was probably the best performance that I have had this season. Unfortunately, the race was somewhat of a lottery with huge clouds of fog rolling through the shooting range at times. I could not see anything when I came in for prone. I was actually very happy to hit two targets, considering that I would shoot when I saw a shade of darkness.”
Lowell Bailey was next for the U.S. His four penalties presented a challenge, and he finished 52nd. Leif Nordgren missed as many shots in prone alone, and one more in standing, and finished 66th.
Norway’s Tarjei Boe missed only one shot over the entire race and collected a 16-second win over Arnd Pfeiffer of Germany; it was his third individual victory of the season, and Boe will retain the yellow overall leader’s bib after this weekend.
“Everyone asked me about the fog after the race today,” he told IBU News. “I really did not notice it so much in standing, shooting on lane thirty. In prone, the targets were gray but I could see them. I took two breaths between each prone shot so my brain could concentrate better. It was a bit slower than normal, but was a good tactic today.”
Racing continues on Saturday with the women’s sprint.