In an individual race in biathlon, every missed shot adds a minute to an athlete’s ski time, so it’s even more important to hit all the targets than it might be in other formats. Canadian Scott Gow had missed two shots over the first three stages of the junior men’s 15 k individual race at World Junior Championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic on Wednesday, which normally wouldn’t bode well. But today, it did – even though he missed one shot in the fourth stage as well. “My coaches told me after my third shooting that I was eighth, and that was with only two misses at the time,” he told FasterSkier. “I thought for sure with one more miss I’d be down into the 20’s, but thankfully I wasn’t.” Gow ended up ninth on the day, one minute and 52 seconds behind winner Simon Desthieux of France. It probably helped that none of the men had fewer than two penalties – a somewhat surprising development.
“The range conditions weren’t anything extremely challenging,” Gow explained. “There were some wind gusts throughout the race which hurt most of the racers, including myself in my first prone.”
It was the first top-10 finish by a North American athlete at the Championships this year, and will be the last, too – only relays remain. “My race today was awesome,” Gow said. “My goal for the race was to stay calm, ski at the top of my racing threshold and pay special attention in the shooting range so that I could hit some targets; luckily for me it all came together perfectly. The skiing felt the strongest it has all week and shooting couldn’t have been more solid.”
Benedikt Doll of Germany was second, 27 seconds behind Desthieux despite having two more penalties. The result was especially important to him. “In Germany we need a podium finish in order to get to the next level and to start in the IBU Cup next season,” he told IBU News. “Now I made it and am really happy. Normally, I am better in the sprint and pursuit because I am a fast runner; I never thought it would work today.”
Ethan Dreissigacker was the top American, finishing 38th with five penalties. Considered one of the more talented shooters on the junior team, he nonetheless had the 42nd-fastest ski time on Wednesday.
“The race today went pretty well,” Dreissigacker said in an e-mail. “I had really fast skis, and I felt like i was skiing pretty well but staying relaxed too. I really should have hit a couple more targets though… I don’t really have an excuse for missing them- I just psyched myself out I guess.”
Dreissigacker, a student at Dartmouth College, is the only member of the U.S. junior men’s team who is not a full-time biathlete. While he attends a few training camps each year, he mostly trains with the Dartmouth ski team, and shoots at a makeshift range where he can do running combos, but no rollerskiing. The easy-going college sophomore said there were both pros and cons to his approach to training. “As far as my training goes, I think that the slightly more ‘diversified’ training has been good for me, but there’s is definitely room for more biathlon specific training, which would have helped me out,” Dreissigacker said.
“These races are very good motivation for me to step up the training, not to mention that for biathlon, racing is the best training.” Ben Greenwald and Raleigh Goessling rounded out the U.S. squad in 79th and 87th places. Canadians Vincent Blais and Aaron Neumann finished 39th and 64th; David Gregoire did not start.
In the junior women’s 12.5 k individual, Dorothea Wierer of Italy picked up her third gold medal of the series, this time besting Olga Galich of Russia by 25 seconds. Florie Vigneron of France finished third, a whopping one minute and 14 seconds behind Wierer.
Times were spread out all the way down the results sheet, with 10th-place Bente Landheim of Norway almost three minutes off the podium. The Canadian team again showed impressive improvement from the previous races, with Audrey Vaillancourt and Yolaine Oddou finishing 11th and 13th with one and three penalties respectively. Their teammate Emma Lunder’s eight penalties held her back, and she finished 52nd.
“I felt really confident about shooting today,” Vaillancourt said in an e-mail. “I knew I could do much better today than in the previous races as long as I shot as well as I did during the past week. And I ended up shooting even better! It feels so good to be that much in control during a race.” As for Oddou, she said that having a specific goal helped her move past more disappointing results earlier in the week.
“Usually the individual is my favorite race because I shoot well, but I have to confess that I was really nervous because my other races had not been like I wanted to, especially my shooting,” she told FasterSkier. “This morning I woke-up and I said to myself ‘you MUST shoot 18 or more if you want a good last race at World Juniors,’ so 17, it’s okay. I’m satisfied. During the race, I felt good on my skis and I was able to follow some good and fast girls a long time. I really wanted to perform because it was my last individual race at World Juniors, and I did it!”
Vaillancourt was enthusiastic about Saturday’s relay, wgen the pair will team up with Lunder. “I am really looking foward to the relay,” she said. “It is a very fun race. I am confident that we are going to share success together, as a team.”
Grace Boutot led the American team in 39th place. “The races this week have been tough for me since my ski speed has been so slow,” she said in an e-mail.
“For some reason my body has felt really sluggish and heavy… so I just had to try to shoot my best. “Although it was gusty today in the range and I only missed 5 targets, that really was not good shooting for me in an individual race. I needed to hit a few more targets to have a decent result, and unfortunately in my last stage I missed two, which dropped me down in the results. I was happy that I had consistent lap times and was able to ski with some fast girls during parts of the race even if my speed isn’t great right now. Our team had fast skis so I was rocketing down the hills and out on the course it was super awesome since we had a big cheering group out on the uphills.”
Boutot’s Maine Winter Sports Center teammate Corrine Malcolm was frustrated, but for a different reason. With twelve penalties, her shooting held her back today, and she also said that her bolt was jamming and that she had to repeatedly hand-load bullets.
“Well, yes, today was a rough one,” she told FasterSkier.
“Rough, embarrassing, a little demoralizing. It’s frustrating, but that’s how biathlon is- highs and lows. And I expect a lot of myself, a lot more of myself than others. I want to do well.Things start looking up you get excited and then, bam, it goes back downhill. But I’m keeping my chin up. I didn’t ski poorly. It didn’t feel great, but I’ve got to look at the positives.
“I had the slowest range time once again, meaning that I shoot really really slow. The plus side? I get to get faster. I get to become a better shooter. It’s nice to see that my skiing really isn’t that far off an international level for my age group. Once I get this shooting thing under control, watch out.”
Racing concludes on Friday and Saturday with the youth and junior relays.