It has been a busy few days for Anna Kubek and the rest of the American biathletes competing at Open European Championships. Ten days ago, they were still in the United States, getting ready for their first international tour of the year. Then they headed to Inzell, Germany, to train at the biathlon complex in Ruhpolding, which just hosted World Cup and then IBU Cup races.
“I really enjoy being in Europe again,” Kubek, who has raced on World Junior Championships and European Championships tours before, wrote in an e-mail. “We were in Inzell, Germany, from Jan. 21 through Jan. 26 and training in Ruhpolding. The day before we left for the Czech Republic, we raced in British Champs. It was good training to prepare us for Open Euro Champs.”
Two days ago, they moved to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, and today Kubek and the other junior racers got their first starts. The senior (in this case, under-26) racers will start tomorrow.
Kubek started off strong, accumulating only two penalties in the 12.5 k individual competition today, where each missed shot is penalized by a minute of added time. And those two misses could easily have been hits: U.S. coach Vlad Cervenka reported that they were both splits, where part of the bullet hit the edge of the target and part hit the surrounding background.
As it was, Kubek placed sixth in the junior women’s race, just 14 seconds off the podium.
The two misses came in the second of four stages, after Kubek had cleaned the first stage; she kept her focus and hit the next ten targets in a row.
“The race today went great,” she wrote. “I stayed calm the whole race and after I missed two, I kept in mind that in biathlon, it’s not over until you cross the finish line. Shooting conditions were good with a slight wind.”
Her last clean shooting stage moved her from the teens into fifth place. As she headed back out onto course, she knew that she could earn a medal.
“I was told I was 5 or 6 seconds out of third,” she wrote. “It really motivated me and I don’t think I could have pushed much harder. The lactate in my legs burned and my heart rate was through the roof, but I knew I couldn’t stop fighting until I crossed the finish line.”
Russia’s Anastasia Evsyunina was the only competitor to shoot clean through all four stages and won by a landslide, racking up 1:51 over second-place Anastasiya Merkushyna of Ukraine, who had two penalties. There was another big gap to third-place Lisa Vittozzi of Italy, who had three penalties and finished 3:52 behind Evyunina. Kubek was 14 seconds behind that.
“Two split misses in the first standing cost her a medal,” U.S. coach Vlad Cervenka wrote in an e-mail. “But that is a biathlon. The level of competition in the junior category is very high and Anna skied well against older juniors – she is still youth. I’m excited to see how well Anna will do in sprint and pursuit this weekend.”
Kelsey Dickinson, the other U.S. competitor, placed 50th, closely followed by Erin Yungblut of Canada.
In the junior men’s 15 k, Christian Gow placed 23rd with five penalties. He was followed by teammates Brett Davie in 25th, Arthur Roots in 49th, and Matthew Hudec in 52nd.
For the Americans, Jacob Ellingson placed 51st with eight penalties. Brian Halligan finished 57th and Paul Everett 65th.
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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.