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Sara StudebakerFebruary 14, 2012
View of our hotel in Joensuu, Finland. (photo: Susan Dunklee)

Hello outside world! After a week of basically non-existent internet, I’m back online! I did, however, use my internet-free time in Finland to pick up some Finnish. For example, the above, which means “Biathlon World Cup.” They really like to use a lot of letters.

There’s a lot to catch up on in just one week, which is a good thing! After some changes to the schedule due to extremely cold temperatures in Kontiolahti, the Mixed Relay was moved to Friday. We had some sickness on our team, but the final roster was strong, and we were looking forward to racing…if it was going to happen. The temperature hovered right around -20C for the whole morning, and at race time the officials had to call for a 30 minute delay before they finally decided it was just legal for us to race (-20C/-4F is the minimum temperature at which races can legally be held). The cold and race delay wreaked havoc on my warm up, so my first loop was a little rough. Luckily, I shot pretty well and my skiing improved enough that I had the 4th fastest last loop of the lead-off leg. I tagged off in 6th position. After some solid shooting and skiing by my teammates Annelies Cook and Jay Hakkinen, Tim Burke had a stellar last loop and moved us back into 6th place by the finish. It was the best finish for a US Mixed Relay team ever! I was just excited to be a part of it…and getting to go up on the podium made the chilly race more than worth the effort.

Annelies and I getting ready for the relay. (photo: Annelies Cook)

Team USA 6th place! (photo: Armin Auchentaller)

The weekend continued in excellent fashion for me. I had my first clean race (hit all my targets) of the season and skied well enough to land in 15th place. It was my best result of the season, and my second best World Cup finish ever. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. It seems that my luck in Oslo was not just luck, but the true turning point in my season.

What do you wear when it’s this cold? A lot.

In Sunday’s Pursuit I would start only 1:20 back from the leaders, and only about 20 seconds out of the top-10. Unfortunately, I think I had only 2 good races in me for the week, and I had used them up with the Relay and the Sprint. With 6 penalties I moved back considerably, but still managed 36th place and a few World Cup points to boost my standing to 55th overall. Despite this result, I am super psyched about the weekend. I feel like I’m in the perfect place heading into the end of the season and looking towards World Championships in a couple weeks.

Finland was beautiful, but I’m happy to be back with the sun and warmth! (photo: Annelies Cook)

Right now, I’m back in Antholz, Italy for a few days of rest and training before the whole team meets up in Ridnaun, Italy for the pre-World Champs camp. After crazy cold temperatures last week, today was +1C…we hardly knew how to dress! These next two weeks will be fun but focused, as everyone is trying to get some quality training in as we peak for Ruhpolding. Only 4.5 weeks left in the season…how quickly it always goes!

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