Canadian Stuart Harden 18th in Youth Individual at Biathlon World Juniors – Updated

Chelsea LittleFebruary 1, 20115
Sam Dougherty (USA) shoots during the youth men's individual race on Tuesday. All photos by Judy Geer.

How poor was the shooting on the third day of biathlon World Junior Championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic?

In two races on Tuesday – the youth men’s and women’s individual – only a single athlete, Pavel Hancharou of Belarus, shot clean for the four stages of the race. He was rewarded with a 48-second victory in the 12.5 k race and his first World Juniors gold medal.

Second-place Steffen Bartscher of Germany was so impressed with Hancharou’s shooting that he told IBU News, “You never wish a miss on anybody and he deserves the win today, with this performance!”

Casey Smith (USA).

Further down in the field, Stuart Harden of Canada had another exceptional race, finishing 18th with three penalties. Harden is actually 16 years old, one year younger than the technical definition of a youth, and is skiing up an age category, making his performances particularly impressive.

“I’m really pleased with my race and I’ve exceeded my hopes and goals,” he told FasterSkier. “I was disappointed in my prone shooting- I missed two total and I usually don’t have to worry about any errors in the prone position. [But] my standing was super with only one miss.

“I started out a little sluggish, but as my shooting improved at the end I increased the pace on the course. I received some good splits off of my teammate Macx Davies on my last loop so I knew my time was competitive. I was able to pick up some time on the more technical parts of the course and had an advantage on the downhills thanks to the team wax techs Tom, Pavel and Patrick.”

Harden began racing when he was 11 years old with Biathlon Canada’s Biathlon Bears program, which since the ’90s has been introducing 9- to 13-year-olds to the sport of biathlon.

“From there I joined the Rocky Mountain Racers and I’ve had John Jaques as a coach since then,” Harden said. “I owe a lot to my coach and parents who have helped me improve so much each year that I’ve been in the sport, the most recent season giving the most opportunities and results. I hope to grow as much as I have the last several years in the coming ones, and I hope to be competitive in my own age group at World Championships for the next few seasons.”

Davies was the next Canadian finisher, notching a 34th-place result. Davies, too, has had a successful race series so far: Tuesday’s race was his worst result to date, with the high point being a 19th-place finish in the opening sprint on Saturday. Unlike Harden, however, Davies is in his last year of eligibility as a youth and will have to move up to the more competitive junior division next season.

Sean Doherty (USA).

Christian Gow and Albert Bouchard rounded out the Canadian squad by finishing 53rd and 63rd.

For the U.S., Casey Smith finally hit his stride and led the team in 30th place. It was his best race in two years of World Juniors starts. Smith had four penalties and secured his spot by charging hard in the last lap of racing, finishing with the 12th-fastest fifth-loop time.

Sam Dougherty was the next U.S. finisher, like Smith notching the best result of his career. He finished 54th with five penalties. Normally, such shooting would be more disappointing; but in Tueday’s race, with only seven athletes having two or fewer penalties and twenty of them shooting 50% or worse, it was good enough.

“Unless you’re at the top of the podium, there’s always room for improvement, but I am really satisfied,” Dougherty said in an e-mail. “As long as I know I left it all out on the trail, I accept my results happily, regardless of contention… I really enjoy the individual discipline, although it’s becoming a rare event in American biathlon competition.

“I was disappointed in my Sprint result, and unfortunately didn’t qualify for the Pursuit competition the next day, which I felt was to be my strongest event. In saying that, I’m happy to prove to myself in the individual competition that if I shoot consistently and keep my skis pointed straight I can improve upon past results.”

Dougherty said that the talent of his competitors had impressed him so far, and that he thought the U.S. had a long way to go in order to be competitive on the world stage.

“It is becoming very obvious to me that ski ability plays a huge part in the contention of these races. After the race today I was hypothetically skeptical if a U.S. Junior National Champion could be anywhere close to some of these biathletes in a regular nordic competition. Biathletes are friendly people the world round though, and it’s hard to stay intimidated by people who are nice to you.”

Kelly Kjorlien (USA).

Sean Doherty and Ray Wonders finished 65th and 69th.

In the youth women’s 10 k individual, Norwegian Thekla Brun-Lie won by 11 seconds over Russia’s Elena Badanina. The top four finishers all had two penalties, and no women shot clean.

Brun-Lie, whose sister Celine represented Norway in skiing at the Vancouver Olympics, was contesting her first race of the series.

“I was sick before the sprint and the pursuit and simply not fit,” she told IBU News. “I knew this was my only chance today to do well so I was very nervous. I thought I could win only on the last lap.”

Galina Vishnevskaya of Kazakhstan finished third.

Sarah Beaudry of Canada, Kelly Kjorline of the United States, and Beaudry’s teammate Julia Ransom made the best of a handful of penalties and finished 33rd, 34th, and 36th.

“I was really looking forward to the individual and I felt like it went pretty well,” Kjorlien said in an e-mail. “I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t shoot a little better, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m never completely satisfied. Having a rest day on Monday was very helpful. I felt fairly fresh this morning and was comfortable on the course.”

Ransom was less satisfied with her results.

“It has definitely been an interesting tour,” she told FasterSkier. “I went into it expecting top ten results, just based on my performances last year. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned. Saturday’s sprint and Sunday’s Pursuit were really disappointing for me as I felt as though I was severely underperforming. Nothing more frustrating than knowing that you can do better.

“I went into the Individual excited and focused knowing that I was starting with a ‘clean slate’. Skiing felt better than it had all week and prone shooting was great. Standing however, was not so nice. I couldn’t settle into it and my rhythm just wasn’t there. As disappointed as I was with my results, I am so happy with my experience. I have learnt a tremendous amount of valuable lessons and feel as though I have grown as an athlete.”

Rose-Marie Cote and Danielle Vrielink finished 44th and 47th. For Cote, a World Juniors medalist from 2010, the result wasn’t what she was hoping for. But for Vrielink, who is at her fist World Junior Championships, it was the best finish of her career.

Carly Wynn (USA).

“I started the race with really cold hands so it was very hard for me to shoot,” Vrielink told FasterSkier. “I think I really pulled the shooting together on my second prone and then continued to be very pleased with my second standing. 17/20 is very good for an individual, although I wish that I could have skied just a little bit harder. But all and all I was very happy to have been able to race here.

Vrielink is at 15 years of age one of the youngest competitors in the field, and she said that the races made her realize that she needed to up her game.

“It has been quite the opportunity to race in Nove Mesto for team Canada at my age. The competitions has been quite eye-opening in regards to just how fast my competition can ski and how well they can shoot. I guess in Canada, you can get away with just being able to shoot well, but out here, it’s a whole new playing field and you’ve got to ski fast if you want to win. Despite my results, I have really enjoyed this opportunity to race and look forward to next years Youth and Junior World Championships.”

Carly Wynn was the second U.S. finisher, missing eight targets and skiing to 43rd place. She was followed by a pair with opposite problems: Silke Hynes had only five penalties, but the 62nd-fastest ski time of the day, which left her in 57th place. Tara Garaghty-Moates was the 20th-fastest skier, but missed an excruciating 16 targets and finished 66th.

Racing continues on Wednesday with the junior men’s and women’s individual races.

Full results: youth men / youth women

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Chelsea Little

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  • nyctvt

    February 2, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Not sure US Biathlon made the best decision to select Tara for the World Juniors Biathlon Championship. She is obviously a fast skier but is she dedicated to Biathlon to make that kind of investment, taking her to the Worlds. It should be remembered that Tara was a discretionary selection based on her ski speed and not overall performance at the trials. Tara doesn’t seem to know whether she wants to be a pure xc ski racer, a ski jumper or biathlete. Maybe it would have been better to give her another year to further develop as a shooter and demonstrate her commitment to the sport.

  • gankstaskiz

    February 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

    At 17 years of age it is OK to be undecided about career paths. Every member of the World Junior Biathlon Team is proud to call Tara a teammate here in the Czech Republic. Tara has an amazing amount of biathlon potential, and US Biathlon recognizes that. This competition experience will undoubtedly provide her with further motivation to pursue this most demanding of sports.

  • biathlete

    February 2, 2011 at 9:57 am

    While Tara’s selection to the team might be controversial, it was USBA’s decision and not Tara’s that should be questioned. Was Tara supposed to decline her nomination because she wasn’t sure she was in biathlon for the long hall? Plenty of skiers who go to World Juniors for Nordic don’t end up continuing in the sport and no one ever questions those decisions. Plus, it should be noted that Tara was out in Jericho, VT training for biathlon whenever she could this summer and fall-which was quite often.

  • TGM

    February 2, 2011 at 11:44 am


    First of all I think I am as dedicated to biathlon as anyone else on the team, that being said I shot rather abominably in my races here. My shooting so far has been a lot worse than my trials races. If I had shot this badly in trials I wouldn’t be on the team. However, for better or worse the WJ team is selected on those three races.

    I’ve only been shooting for six months and my first biathlon races on snow were trials, thats not an excuse for my shooting here, just a fact to be considered. The good part is my skiing is top 20 in the field, with a year of training I don’t think there is any reason why I can’t make top 20 next year.

    You mentioned that I am still undecided about which sport I like best. Ski jumping was my favorite sport, but I had to give it up due to two knee surgeries last year, which I am still recovering from. Most of my summer was spent in rehab and getting the basics down of shooting. I was only able to start skating in november.
    As for being a “pure nordic skier” if I am ever going to succeed in biathlon I will need to be in the top of the cross-country field as well, therefore I see no reason for me to stop cross-country racing.

    My shooting is not as this international level yet, my skiing is. My performance here is a baseline that I will improve on in the years to come. This has been an incredibly valuable experience for me that will be immensely helpful in my development as a biathlete. Thanks for you interest in the team.


  • Lauren Jacobs

    February 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Tara’s skiing is remarkable anyways, but even more so considering her two traumatic knee injuries. She is an extremely dedicated athlete and her shooting will undoubtedly continue to improve.

    It is unfair to question an athlete’s “commitment to the sport” in a comment like this. If you would like to raise questions about USBA’s selection criteria (which takes ski speed into consideration for discretionary picks) that is a different matter. But please don’t single out one young athlete while she is in the middle of racing for the US.

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