The American and Canadian teams have been off to a good start in Ridnaun, Italy, collecting three top-20 finishes in the opening individual-format races at IBU Under-26/Open European Championships.
On Monday, the men kicked things off in the 20 k individual race, a format where each missed shot represents a one-minute time penalty. Tyson Smith of Canada missed only two of his twenty shots and finished 19th, just under four minutes behind Artem Pryma of the Ukraine, who eked out a nine-second win over Evgeny Ustyugov of Russia. It was a bit of a surprise finish: Pryma has started only three World Cups in his career, while Ustyugov won the mass start race at the Vancouver Olympics.
Smith’s teammates Patrick Cote and Joel Pacas finished 34th and 56th with four and five penalties, respectively.
Russell Currier led the U.S. team, finishing 29th with five penalties, 5:20 behind Pryma. Currier had the 14th-fastest ski time of the day, and only a single man who beat him missed as many shots. He was followed by Wynn Roberts and Bill Bowler in 52nd and 58th.
On Tuesday, the women did the men one better: Susan Dunklee of the U.S. and Melanie Schulz of Canada finished 15th and 16th in the 15 k event, just under seven minutes behind winner Juliane Doll of Germany.
“I started conservatively and tried to negative split,” Dunklee told FasterSkier. “There is a really tough climb partway through the 3 km and we saw a lot of the men start out too hard and toast their legs the first time up the hill. The rest of the course is all about working transitions, so I focused on those. A lot of teams were thrown off by the new snow, but our waxing staff did an awesome job.”
Dunklee had trouble in the initial shooting stages, missing three shots in her first stage and two in the second stage. But after that, she gathered herself together and shot clean to finish the race. Her ninth-fastest ski time on the day allowed her to further salvage the situation.
“I had a terrible first shooting stage,” she said. “My first shot went off before I was ready and hit the white, and then I finished the stage with two more misses on either side. Good shooting is crucial in an individual race, and I felt like I’d done a pretty good job of taking myself out of the competition. By the halfway point, I had nothing to lose and no expectations; I just had to finish the race as best I could.”
Schulz shot better, collecting only two penalties over the four shooting stages.
“In the range, I was calm and focused and shooting seemed easy,” she said in an e-mail. “In my first prone bout, the targets were going down so easily that I pulled my last shot, forgetting about follow-through and missing the shot. Then I did the same with one of standing shots in the next bout. Our wax tech Tom Zidek was out and the course and reminded me to follow-through in shooting, so I took his advice and cleaned my last two bouts. Looking at the competition analysis, I had the third fastest shooting time of the day, which I was pretty excited about as this means my shooting speed has gotten quite a bit faster this year.”
While Dunklee was the only American woman in the race, there were two more Canadians. Rosanna Crawford finished 24th and Claude Godbout 32nd.
The Open European Championships also feature junior races; in the junior women’s 12.5 k individual, Americans Corrine Malcolm and Grace Boutot finished 21st and 22nd with seven and four penalties, respectively. Kelly Kjorlien finished 36th and Canadian Emma Lodge 40th.
In the junior men’s 15 k individual, Ethan Dreissigacker, one of the top U.S. juniors, had a rough start to his week.
“The men’s race and the junior men’s race were both running at the same time, but the men did a 4 k loop and juniors did a 3 k,” Dreissigacker told FasterSkier. “The 4 k had three extra little loops, and I followed a guy in front of me (who was in the men’s race) and did one of the extra loops. It probably added about 40 seconds to my time, but apparently IBU rules say that if you deviate from the course by more than 5m you get disqualifieded… I was skiing really slow, and not having too great a race anyway.”
In his absence, Raleigh Goessling was the only U.S. finisher, skiing to 41st place with six penalties. No Canadians competed.
Full results are available at the IBU Datacenter.