Think you can picture the scene at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Championships in Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic? Think again.
Veteran and newbies alike found themselves in awe of the stadium and 20,000-strong crowd. After the first few days of racing, many were still struggling to cope with the noise factor, but hey, they weren’t complaining.
Norway opened with its third-straight mixed relay victory, no surprise there, and the hometown fans celebrated its own team making the podium in third right behind France.
The U.S. notched its best mixed-relay result in eighth with Annelies Cook, Susan Dunklee, Lowell Bailey and Leif Nordgren. With Tim Burke out trying to get healthy, Nordgren filled in. Meanwhile, the Canadians were simply happy to get their feet wet at World Champs as Rosanna Crawford, Megan Heinicke, Jean Philippe Le Guellec and Scott Perras combined for 15th.
On Saturday, Norway’s former biathlon king, Emil Hegle Svendsen, made a point to get back on top and captured his second-straight gold medal of the week, beating French rival Martin Fourcade in the 10 k sprint. In the women’s 7.5 k sprint, Ukraine’s Olena Pidhrushna surprised with her first career win and teammate Vita Semerenko tallied her third World Championships bronze.
All four American men in the sprint raced well enough to qualify for Sunday’s 60-man pursuit. Burke was back in action in 28th, Bailey placed 32nd and Russell Currier and Nordgren also made the cut. Two Canadian men and two women qualified, led by Le Guellec in 36th and Scott Gow in his debut World Championship in 45th. In the women’s sprint, Cook also placed 45th and Heinicke narrowly qualified for the pursuit in 54th.
That brings us to Sunday when Svendsen continued his World Championships domination, outsprinting Fourcade by 2.4 centimeters for the pursuit victory. It didn’t come easy: he nearly stopped after getting tangled with Russia’s Anton Shipulin on the last climb.
Norway’s Tora Berger won her first individual gold of the week in the pursuit, rising to the occasion when two skiers in front of her, Russian Olga Zaitseva and Krystyna Palka of Poland, missed one apiece on the last shooting stage. Berger shot clean on the final stage and hammered home for the victory.
Meanwhile, Bailey and Le Guellec led the North Americans in 13th and 15th, respectively. Le Guellec made up 21 places – the second most of any man in the pursuit – and Bailey climbed 19 spots to get back in the mix.
IBU World Championships
Athlete reaction to renovated venue: story
While biathlon expert and FasterSkier editor-at-large extraordinaire Chelsea Little was on site in Nové Město, Audrey Mangan traveled to Aspen, Colo., for the SuperTour – making her first stop at the Vail Mountain Games.
There, the Central Cross Country (CXC) husband-and-wife duo, Brian and Caitlin Gregg topped the men’s and women’s field, respectively, in the 10 k freestyle mass start – a sort of warmup for the SuperTour weekend ahead.
On Saturday, big, wet snowflakes at 8,000 feet above sea level didn’t slow down skiers like Rosie Brennan of Alaska Pacific University (APU), who won both the 1 k classic prologue in the morning and the 5 k classic individual start in the afternoon. On the men’s side, Mike Sinnott of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) won the prologue and teammate Patrick Johnson tallied his first career SuperTour victory in the 10 k.
Sunday’s coveted Owl Creek Chase involved a sprint showdown at the end of the 21 k point-to-point race. Brian Gregg edged Sylvan Ellefson (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail/Team HomeGrown) by eight seconds at the finish, showing all his speed work this summer paid off.
Part-time racer Nicole DeYong (SVSEF) skied away from the pack for a two-minute victory after winning the same race in 2010.
Vail Mountain Games
Meanwhile, several other American domestic skiers put their skills to the test at the Scandinavian “Scando” Cup in Latvia and Estonia. Caitlin Patterson of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project led the group in Madona, Latvia, where she was ninth in Thursday’s 10 k freestyle mass start and 10th in the 5 k classic on Wednesday. Eric Packer of the Stratton Mountain School T2 Team (SMST2) broke through in 16th in the 20 k freestyle mass start.
A few days later, Sophie Caldwell (SMST2) made the podium in second in Sunday’s freestyle sprint in Pärnu, Estonia, one day after finishing 17th in the classic sprint. Jennie Bender (CXC) qualified as high as fourth in the classic sprint and went on to place 16th. The next day, she was 11th in the skate sprint.
Wednesday-Thursday in Madona, Latvia: recap
Saturday-Sunday in Pärnu, Estonia: recap