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SOCHI, Russia – As the two most experienced and consistent performers on the U.S. biathlon team here at the Olympics, Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey didn’t have quite the performances they were hoping for in the opening 10 k sprint.
Burke missed a single shot to land in 19th, while Bailey had two penalties to finish 35th. Neither was a bad performance, but the pair is accustomed to much more: Burke earned a sprint podium in World Cup racing already this season.
“One and one, I mean, it’s definitely not my best,” a dejected Bailey said at the finish line. “I hoped to be better. I felt good training this week. I felt good shooting, so, I don’t know. Just one of those days.”
On a shooting range which is protected by the wind and has a downhill approach, good shooting is key. Ole Einar Bjørndalen of Norway won the race with a penalty, but nobody in the top 24 finishers had more than that, and many were clean.
“I’ve said all along that I expected to see really good, fast shooting at the Olympics,” Burke said. “I feel like I executed my game plan pretty well. It’s just one shot, and I gave it my all skiing. I’m happy with the performance, just not very happy with the result.”
For Burke, there was the added challenge that he got sick after the final World Cup races in Antholz, Italy. That required him to ease up on his training before the Olympics.
“I felt pretty normal for about a loop and a half,” Burke said. “That was kind of my big fear. Coming in here, I had been sick at our camp with a sinus infection and hadn’t had much hard training at all in the last few weeks. That was my big fear, that I was going to run out of gas and that’s exactly what happened. And it wasn’t that bad, and I think I should improve with each race. It was more the hard efforts. I had my first hard effort two days ago, since the last World Cup relay. So it’s been a long time. Two days ago it felt a lot worse, today was a little better. I’m hopeful that I can turn it around after another hard effort or two.”
Bailey, too, hoped that he would see better ski times and stronger shooting as the week went on.
“I felt okay,” he said. “I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel awful either. I hope to feel better and better over the Olympics. We’d done a time trial in Antholz last week, and then some shorter intervals here. So I felt like I was ready for it mentally, but it just didn’t go the way I wanted it to.”
Both qualified for Monday’s pursuit, along with teammate Leif Nordgren, who finished 45th. Russell Currier just missed the pursuit in 61st.
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.