World Championships Sprint Roundup: Bergman’s Baby, Neuner Is Cold As Ice, and Much, Much More

Chelsea LittleMarch 4, 2012
Tarjei Bø of Norway leading Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic on the range; Bø, who finished third in this race last season, placed 17th.

RUHPOLDING, Germany – With more than 250 racers contesting yesterday’s World Championships 7.5 and 10 k sprints, there was plenty of news that didn’t make it into our race reports – both from international stars and from our own interviews with U.S. and Canadian athletes. Here are some of the notable bits that we couldn’t fit in:

– Bronze medalist Carl Johan Bergman of Sweden wasn’t really expecting a medal yesterday, but he was expecting something else – a baby. His wife, Norwegian biathlete Live Kjersti (Eikeland) Bergman, was due yesterday but hasn’t yet given birth. “Carl Johan is always very focused when he is there, for the most part,” she told Swedish daily Expressen before promising to “keep the baby in” until after Sunday’s pursuit so he could concentrate on winning another medal.

– Bergman and French gold medalist Martin Fourcade hammed it up in the press conference when a journalist asked Bergman “what kind of person Fourcade is for you.” After making some jokes with his competitor, Bergman answered the fairly awkward question by saying Fourcade was an excellent biathlete, and that at least they had a good ski company in common (Rossignol).

– The translation is a little rusty, but Norwegian biathlete Synnøve Solemdal basically called gold medalist Magdalena Neuner “cold as ice” in an interview with broadcaster NRK. “It looks like she is relaxing on a Sunday before each race,” said Solemdal, who had much more trouble, missing four shots and placing 32nd. “She just stands there and enjoying herself and looking very relaxed. It does not seem like she has any nerves. It’s fun to watch… She has so much pressure on her, just like all the Germans. What she did today deserves respect, and it has been a big inspiration for me.” The piece included shots of Neuner being mobbed by German media, and reported that she was so busy that she didn’t make it to the press conference until an hour and a half after she finished the race.

– In other Norwegian news, NRK reported that Ole Einar Bjørndalen has cut his shooting times in half since the 2002 Olympics, where he won four gold medals. The legend placed 21st in the sprint, but is not out of the running for the pursuit; he won the last World Cup pursuit in Kontiolahti, Finland.

– Teammate Lars Berger boasted earlier that he could win the sprint. Instead, he missed four shots and placed 32nd.

– The men’s race was rough for the home country. Despite high expectations, the team was led by Andreas Birnbacher in 16th place. The race marked the return of double Olympic gold medalist Michael Greis, who underwent foot surgery in August. He contested a few World Cup races this season, but the 35-year-old hadn’t competed since mid-January; he finished 26th yesterday.

– Thanks to the combination of ice and slush, quite a number of biathletes fell during yesterday’s races; Tim Burke made it through cleanly, but was sporting a bloody shin from a bobble during his warmup. Ever gracious to the athletes, Eurosport put together a highlight clip of all the crashes, which you can watch here.

JP Le Guellec of Canada, who placed 14th, was actually impressed with how the organizing committee, led by TD Max Cobb, who is also the president of the U.S. Biathlon Association, dealt with the challenges of warm temperatures, sun, and slush. “I think the organizing committee did a really good job at salting the place, and making the more important spots harder,” he told FasterSkier. “But the sun is blaring, so there’s only so much you can do.”

– Teammate Megan Imrie agreed, saying, “I’ve seen it a lot worse here with the slush, and I’ve also seen it very icy. So these conditions, I’ll take them.”

-Meanwhile, Megan Heinickeis representing Canada at World Championships despite skiing just one World Cup this season; she lives in Germany and is not on the national team program, but attended trials races and qualified for the team. She was disappointed with her sprint but said that the pursuit might be better. “I think I’m just one of those people who has to get some carbon out of the system – generally I do better in the second race of back-to-back races, so I’m hoping I’m a little more engaged somehow,” she told FasterSkier.

– U.S. racer Sara Studebakerwas upset after the mixed relay, but she thinks she’s on an upward trajectory after tying for 49th in the sprint, a result she called “fine” but nothing special: “If it keeps going from here it could be really good. I think pursuits suit me well – I can shoot well, usually. That can help a lot, and especially with prone, if you can shoot well then you can move up.”

Susan Dunklee was probably the best American hope for a good finish in the sprint, but she struggled right out of the start, missing three shots in prone. She spent the rest of the race pushing the pace on the trails and made the pursuit. ” That’s kind of my eternal strategy, is always to just take it out on the course, on skis, any time the shooting goes wrong,” she said.

– Starting last in bib 118, Dunklee bumped a few people down the results sheet long after they thought they were safe. Teammate Annelies Cook received a bump, although she was expecting it, as she knew Dunklee was behind her. Starting with bib 115, Cook crossed the line in 60th, which would have made the cut for the pursuit. But Bib 116, Dorothea Weirer of Italy, finished one spot in front of her, and then Dunklee crossed the line and Cook ended up 62nd. “It just sucks,” she said. “So close. I was gaining and I knew it was really close, but then [Weirer] came in and pushed me out, and Susan came in… I’m bummed that I missed [three] shots. I think it was a decent race for me, otherwise.”

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Chelsea Little

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