With Sean Doherty stealing the show in the youth pursuit, there was plenty for North America to be excited about in the third day of racing at World Youth and Junior Championships for biathlon in Obertilliach, Austria.
“It was great day for all of us here and biathlon fans,” Doherty’s coach Algis Shalna wrote in an e-mail to FasterSkier.
But with the gold medal heading to the United States, it was perhaps easy to forget that the youth men were actually the fourth group to race on Sunday, and there were many other strong North American performances before that. Canadians Stuart Harden, Julia Ransom, and Christian Gow each scored their second top-20 finish of the Championships, while American Casey Smith had a phenomenal pursuit, jumping up about 20 places based on strong shooting.
* The first race of the day was the youth women’s 7.5 k pursuit, where Uliana Kaisheva of Russia thoroughly crushed the field, expanding her lead from the sprint into a 1:15 victory over Galina Vishnevskaya of Kazakhstan despite four penalties.
This race generated the least buzz for the U.S. and Canada. Both teams had big hopes in this division, with U.S. biathlete Anna Kubek and Canadian Sarah Beaudry coming off strong seasons last year that included trips to the Youth Olympic Games.
After placing 34th and 36th in the sprint, the pair broke into the top 30 in the pursuit, with Kubek moving up to 25th with just two penalties in the 20-shot race. Beaudry improved to 28th with one more penalty.
“Sarah Beaudry is still young, but she has been to this last year and she also went to the Youth Olympics last year,” Canadian team leader and Biathlon Alberta Training Centre Head Coach Richard Boruta told FasterSkier. “She is still fighting with jet-lag and not feeling best on skis. The expectation is that she will possibly improve her ranks as the week will move on.”
* Next up were the junior women. While no Americans qualified for the 60-woman, 10 k pursuit, Canada was impressive in placing all four of its team members in the race. Furthermore, all four improved.
They were led by Julia Ransom, who started in 16th position after the sprint. With a penalty early and then two clean stages, she moved into the top ten before slipping back to 15th after two missed shots in the final standing stage.
Ransom was ultimately 3:09 behind the winner, Olga Podchufarova of Russia, who swept summer biathlon World Championships this past season and won by 17 seconds after sprint winner Laura Dahlmeier of Germany collapsed in the final stage, missing two shots to Podhufarova’s one. It was still a good day for Germany, though: Franziska Preuss earned bronze and Vanessa Hinz was fourth.
After earning silver in the youth pursuit last year, Ransom was up against some tougher competition this time around.
“The competition in Junior seems to be a little more competitive than Youth,” she wrote in an e-mail. “There are a lot of fantastic athletes looking to make it to IBU/World Cup and you can tell they are hungry! I was happy with my race both yesterday and today. I thought my shooting was solid in the sprint and may have lost a little focus in my pursuit (missed 2 on last bout). The sprint was a good wake up for my legs as I felt a lot better skiing today.”
Boruta, who coaches Ransom year-round in Canmore, said that her races so far were solid performances.
“Performance wise, I think Julia and Christian [Gow] as first-year juniors are right on target, they didn’t have any extraordinary races, but they did perform at the current level of their abilities and this is were they are in the world right now,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Emma Lodge and Rose-Marie Côté started 41st and 43rd, and improved a few places to 36th and 38th. But they couldn’t actually work as a team as they moved up on the trails.
“Rose and I both started in the wave start 4:00 min behind the leader, but didn’t spend much time together as I only hit 3 on the first prone when she cleaned so I spent much of the race playing catchup,” Lodge explained in an e-mail. “It wasn’t until the last lap when I left the penalty loop just ahead of her that I saw her again, so that was helpful having her chasing me down to the finish line!”
Lodge had five penalties after that frustrating first stage, while Côté limited herself to three. She had climbed up to 33rd before taking two penalties in the final stage; both were over seven minutes behind Podchufarova, having lost an additional three minutes in the pursuit.
“Today’s race felt better than yesterday, with more spark in my skiing,” Lodge wrote. “I guess I needed a really hard effort to get my legs going! My prone was a bit off today which is frustrating as usually I can count on it, but I am happy with my 8 standing hits. We have two days off before the Individual on Wednesday and I’m feeling really prepared for the next races as I had a great training season and both my skiing and shooting improved. I’m excited for the next races, it’s awesome racing here under the sun and with so many competitive athletes around.”
Erin Yungblut, the only one of Canada’s junior women to come to Obertilliach as a first-timer on the international scene, improved from 59th to 52nd with four penalties.
continued with men’s reporting here.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.