HOCHFILZEN, Austria – The U.S. biathlon team was left frustrated after today’s 7.5 and 10 k World Cup sprints, although for very different reasons.
In the women’s race in the morning, early starters had a disadvantage as the fresh snow that fell overnight and into the morning hadn’t been skied in much. Wind was also an issue on the range and Susan Dunklee, Annelies Cook, and Hannah Dreissigacker all had four penalties. Lanny Barnes escaped with one, but in part because of her early start seed was left out of the pursuit like her teammates. All the women finished in the 60’s and 70’s.
“The wind was a little stronger than during zeroing, but it wasn’t strong enough that I wanted to take clicks,” Dunklee said of the conditions. “Maybe I regret that in retrospect. And I couldn’t even feel where the misses were.”
In the men’s race, the tables were turned. Snow was forecasted to stop, but instead it intensified partway through the race, much to the detriment of later starters. Leif Nordgren, who had the American spot in the first seed group, didn’t start because he has been sick. That left the team without a single man in the favored conditions.
“The guys who started early today definitely had a little bit of an advantage, especially on the first two loops,” shooting coach Armin Auchentaller lamented.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t any good races. Despite everything, Lowell Bailey finished 16th and Tim Burke 24th.
“We can’t control the weather, it’s not possible, but we have to take the positive things out of this race,” Auchentaller said.
Bailey was perhaps more frustrated than anyone. He had clean shooting over the two stages, yet started smack in the middle of the field, just when the snow started coming down with a vengeance. Later it let up a bit so some athletes were able to have a better last lap. Not Bailey.
“I can’t believe the weather,” he said as his timing chip was removed at the finish. “I just can’t.”
But Auchentaller found plenty of positives to focus on for Bailey, namely that clean shooting.
“He had really great shooting, which is important,” he said. “That should for sure give him a lot of confidence. It’s a good sign – it’s always important to keep it together at the range [when things aren’t going well]…. When Lowell was out was when it was the worst.”
Burke had it a little better. Despite his two penalties in standing, he was able to stay in the top 30.
“It’s really unfortunate that it started snowing so hard just five minutes before I started,” he said. “It started glazing up a little bit more again at the end, but the first loop was really slow. I actually felt a lot better today than I did last week. I don’t know if the results will show that, but I’m pretty happy with it.”
For both men, another positive is that they are in good position for the pursuit on Sunday. Many other top racers also failed to make the top ten or even the top 20: Anton Shipulin, Dmitry Malyshko, and Evgeniy Ustyugov of Russia; Fredrik Lindstrom of Sweden; Simon Eder, Dominik Landertinger, and Daniel Mesotitsch of Austria; Jakov Fak of Slovenia; Andreas Birnbacher of Germany.
All, like the U.S. men, will be looking to move up, so there may be some fast-moving trains jetting towards the front.
“The pursuit will be interesting, for sure,” Burke said. “Everyone will be racing in fair conditions.”
Jeremy Teela finished 65th with two penalties and Sean Doherty 99th with five.
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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.