OSLO, Norway—After frustration on the shooting range in the World Championships sprint and pursuit competitions, the Canadian women’s team were pleased to up their percentages in the 15 k individual, translating to top-20 performances by both Rosanna Crawford and Julia Ransom.
Crawford missed just one of her targets, finishing 14th, 2:15.3 behind new World Champion Marie Dorin Habert of France.
And Ransom was one of only two women in the whole field to shoot 20 for 20, finishing 20th, +2:33.5.
“It always is a big focus,” Ransom said of perfection on the shooting range. “I’m just glad it came out today, because those one minute penalties hurt. I was more calm and confident today.”
As in Antholz, Italy, earlier this season, Ransom gained momentum as she knocked down target after target: first five out of five, then ten out of ten, then 15 out of 15.
But not so few athletes cleaned three stages. It’s the fourth one which can be trouble. The gold and silver medalists, Dorin Habert and teammate Anais Bescond of France, had each hit 15 for 15 before missing a shot on their last stage.
So did last year’s World Champion, Ekaterina Yurlova of Russia, who ended up 11th after that one miss. And so did several other women, as well.
Ransom was able to keep her focus.
“I think it’s easy to get into your own head, especially if you shoot 15 for 15,” she said. “So I was happy to stay solid.”
Crawford after the sprint had complained of a “nine out of ten curse”, but started off her 15 k with ten straight hits before missing a shot in her second prone stage.
“Shooting was so good,” Crawford said. “It’s always so good in training so I really tried to bring that feeling to the race today. As I was cresting the top of Hellner’s hill [the last big climb before the stadium], I kind of just said to myself, OK, now for the easy part, which is shooting. That was really nice to have that feeling. I really took my time on the last standing. I didn’t want to have a repeat of the pursuit.”
On the tough and hilly Holmenkollen course, Crawford was satisfied to finish 14th, her best World Championships or Olympic result to date, and also one of her best of the regular season.
“My best was 13th in Östersund [the first week of the World Cup] in an individual with 18 for 20 I think,” she said. “So the ski speed is coming around. It would’ve been really nice to have that top 10, especially for funding for the team. This will probably secure me a spot for the mass start so I’ll just try again on Sunday.”
Canada also started Zina Kocher, who finished 54th with four penalties (+5:33.6) and Sarah Beaudry, who finished 60th with two penalties (+6:02.3).
“I’m happy I hit 18,” Beaudry said. “I didn’t feel great skiing, but I did some of the things I was hoping to do. To push with the hills – there are so many long tops of the hills, and I find that I struggle with that, so I focused well on that in the race, which is good. I’m just happy that I feel better than during my sprint.”
In her first senior World Championships, Beaudry was thrilled to see Ransom hit perfect shooting. Separated in age from Beaudry by just a year, Ransom got her senior World Championships debut last season and has already made good on her accumulated experience.
“We’ve known each other longer than we haven’t known each other,” Beaudry said. “I’ve always watched Julia do everything one year before me. So it’s so neat to watch and say, that could be me next year. She leads the way and I have someone to follow.”
So perfect shooting next year?
“That would be great,” she laughed.
Dunklee Leads U.S. in 18th
After two top-tens in the sprint and pursuit, Susan Dunklee missed a few more shots on the range to finish 18th in the individual, +2:29.5.
She missed a shot in each of the first three stages, but cleaned her last one for three total penalties.
“I finished on a good note,” she said. “I’m making that a habit, which is nice.”
Earlier in the week Dunklee talked of shooting feeling good and easy, and that didn’t necessarily change. She thinks she’s still got it for the rest of the week.
“Today felt a little more average, to be honest, but it still felt in control, which is exactly what I want,” she said. “I was really surprised I only missed one in the first standing because I was kind of seeing spots a little bit. Spots beyond just the five dots. It was hard to stay focused.”
That might be from exertion: Dunklee had the fourth-fastest course time behind medalists Dorin Habert, Besond, and Laura Dahlmeier of Germany. The four were separated by just 6.8 seconds.
“Today I was feeling good,” she said. “Ideally you would want to start out a little slower then speed up as the race goes on in a long race like this. But when I’m feeling really good I don’t worry too much about that. I just go and then deal with the consequences later. I was definitely hurting on loop four, but Doro [Wierer of Italy, who finished eighth] was right there. She was on her finishing loop so I just kept her within reach and that helped a lot.”
With two penalties, Hannah Dreissigacker finished 33rd (+3:45.2).
“The shooting has been feeling so good lately,” Dreissigacker said. “Like in practice yesterday, I missed one shot the whole time and I was feeling so solid. Today, also, I just felt like I didn’t even need to miss those two, I could’ve just hit them. That’s a great feeling, that’s how it should feel, close.”
Along with an 18th place finish in the sprint and 36th in the pursuit, the result was enough to qualify Dreissigacker for her first ever mass start competition.
It’s a cherry on top of what has been a good World Championships, the last before Dreissigacker retires.
“This will be my second mass start,” she wrote in an email after the mass start qualification list was announced. “I started with bib 30 in the mass start in Khanty-Mansisk last year. It was definitely a goal of mine for this year do another mass start, and I really didn’t think that it would happen for a while there so I am just SO happy about it! It will be the perfect way to end my biathlon career.”
Clare Egan had four missed shots, three of which came in one stage, to finish 66th (+6:41.9). Annelies Cook finished 77th with seven missed shots (+8:49.4).
“I had one bad stage,” Egan said. “I was pretty bummed out. But I was psyched that I was able to keep it together after that and not go downhill… I’m happy to have another race with 80% shooting. My goal this year was to average 80%, and I’ve only had one individual race (sprint or pursuit or individual) below that. With my shooting I’m doing way better than I could have hoped this season.”
The U.S. women are now looking toward the relay, which has extra significance since with Dreissigacker set to retire next year.
“This is our last relay as a group, and it’s going to be sad but it’s also going to be a nice way to go out,” Dunklee said. “I’m going to miss being on a team with [her] a lot, and I’m going to try to savor this last one.”
Will that added emotional aspect make it harder to focus?
“I’m just going to try to go out and do what I always do,” Dunklee said. “We’ll see.”
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.