The International Competition Committee of the U.S. Biathlon Association (USBA) has announced their nominations for the 2011-2012 national team. While the men’s team will keep its eight-athlete quota, the women’s team will grow from four to six, thanks to the success of the U.S. women at all levels of competition this year.
Five athletes achieved the A1 criteria and are nominated to receive USBA’s highest level of support. The three women include Laura Spector, Sara Studebaker, and Haley Johnson, who were all ranked in the top 60 in the overall World Cup standings; Spector and Studebaker achieved top-20 performances at that level this past season, and Johnson finished in the top 30 at the last batch of World Cup races in Oslo. Last year, not a single woman was nominated at the A1 level; Studebaker was the only female athlete to make the A-level cutoff, and her funding was at the A3 level. It is the first time in years that more women have been nominated at the A1 level than men.
For the men, though, the A1 athletes are led by a formidable duo: Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke. The pair ended up ranked 41st and 45th on the World Cup circuit at the end of the 2010-11 season. Bailey also had two very impressive top-15 performances at the World Cup level, and led the team for much of the season. Burke, who wore the overall World Cup leader’s bib for part of the 2009-10 season, was the team’s most consistent racer this year, and led the U.S. in the pursuit race at World Championships.
Leif Nordgren and Jay Hakkinen were nominated at the A2 level. Both were part of the sixth-place World Championships relay team, and Nordgren also had the team’s best finishes in the sprint and individual races there. He was the only American to qualify for the mass start, where he placed 17th. Hakkinen is one of the team’s veteran racers; a four-time Olympian, he has competed in more than a dozen World Championships.
Three young athletes are nominated at the B1 level, all thanks to finishes in the top 2/3 of the field at Under-26/Open European Championships. Susan Dunklee leads the way – she finished ninth in the sprint. Russell Currier and Bill Bowler – the only new male athlete on the nomination list – represent the men at the B1 level. Currier had two top-thirty finishes at the Championships, while Bowler’s top finish was 41st in the sprint.
Finally, at the B2 level, newcomers Corrine Malcolm and Annelies Cook represent the expansion of the women’s team. After going on a tear of the IBU Cup circuit this winter, Cook competed at World Championships, where her top finish was 57th in the sprint and she helped the U.S. to 14th in the women’s relay. Malcolm’s claim to fame was a sixth-place finish in the junior sprint at Open European Championships, where she had the second-fastest ski time.
Returning athletes Jeremy Teela and Wynn Roberts round out the squad at the B2 level. Teela was nominated largely on his past results and a 41st-place finish in the World Cup this year, while Roberts had a top-20 ski time at Open European Championships.
A single athlete, Zach Hall, lost his national team spot this year.
Complete nominations are listed below.
Laura Spector, Lennox, MA
Sara Studebaker, Boise, ID
Haley Johnson, Lake Placid, NY
Susan Dunklee, Barton, VT
Annelies Cook, Saranac Lake, NY
Corrine Malcolm, Hayward, WI
Lowell Bailey, Lake Placid, NY
Tim Burke, Paul Smiths, NY
Leif Nordgren, Marine on St Croix, MN
Jay Hakkinen, Kasilof, AK
Bill Bowler, Wausau, WI
Russell Currier, Caribou, ME
Jeremy Teela, Heber, UT
Wynn Roberts, Battle Lake, MN