Despite ‘Disaster’, Dunklee Fights to 10th in World Champs Pursuit; Gold for Dahlmeier

Chelsea LittleMarch 6, 2016
Laura Dahlmeier of Germany on her way to her first individual World Championships gold.
Laura Dahlmeier of Germany on her way to her first individual World Championships gold.

OSLO, Norway—On Saturday it was unbeatable skiing that brought Laura Dahlmeier a bronze medal in the 7.5 k sprint at World Championships, despite one penalty when most other top competitors shot clean.

On Sunday it was shooting that brought her gold. The 22-year-old German was a perfect 20-for-20 on the range and took the lead in the 10 k pursuit after the final shooting stage, with such a comfortable margin that she never had to look back.

“It was really a perfect day for me, a perfect race,” she said in a post-race press conference. “I hit all targets… The last loop was amazing. I had a little bit of time to look around and thank the whole team, and get the German flag. It was great for me to come to the finish as the World Champion.”

She finished 48.3 seconds ahead of Dorothea Wierer of Italy, who moved up from fifth place with just two penalties. Marie Dorin Habert of France was third, +57.3, after leading early, but missing three targets in her standing stages.

It was the first individual World Championships medal for Wierer, who has a reputation as a sharpshooter.

Julia Ransom of Canada and Hannah Dreissigacker of the United States on course in the 10 k pursuit.
Julia Ransom of Canada (left) and Hannah Dreissigacker of the United States on course in the 10 k pursuit.

“The medal was something special,” she said. “I knew it was not easy because everybody is preparing well for the World Championships. I had so much problems last week. I was changing the position of the shooting maybe five times and I wasn’t able to make a zero in the shooting in training. And I also had a strange feeling in the body yesterday, like I was getting sick or something. But today is a new day, and I’m really happy.”

Dorin Habert earned her medal on the last loop. Though she left the range in fourth position, behind Franziska Hildebrand of Germany, she managed to pass Hildebrand and, with gritted teeth, hang on for the medal all the way to the finish.

“I’m very happy to be third and I don’t care about my standing shooting,” she said.

Dunklee a Hard-Fought Tenth

U.S. biathlete Susan Dunklee had only one missed shot through her prone stages, moving from bib eight into the top five.

Then came standing. The first standing stage, Dunklee called a “distaster.” Missing three shots, she dropped all the way to 20th.

“I’m not sure what happened, but it didn’t feel as in control as all the rest of the stages I have shot this week,” she said. “I was really glad to come in and clean the next stage, to get back on the horse right away, so to speak.”

That clean final stage had her leaving the range in 15th with the race far from over.

Dunklee charging hard.
Dunklee charging hard.

“It was exciting, because Gabi [Soukalova] and Anais [Bescond] came out of the penalty loop right ahead of me,” she said. “I thought that was sweet because they are both really good skiers, so I got a ride. Then I was feeling good on that little hill halfway around the course. They boxed me out – one was on one side, the other was on the other side, and they were passing someone else, but I wanted to pass them. I couldn’t.”

Never one to let a challenge defeat her, Dunklee found a way past.

“Clare [Egan], my teammate, was there yelling, ‘Come on Susan! You have to go now! You have to go now!’” Dunklee said. “So I did a little slalom on the uphill to get around them. I knew they would just hang onto my tails because they are good skiers. So I charged, and we caught a few more people. It was a fun last loop.”

That put her in tenth by the finish, something that she wouldn’t have thought possible with four penalties on the day. Dunklee had the second-fastest ski time behind Kaisa Makarainen of Finland, who finished seventh.

“You don’t know until you try,” she said of her last-loop heroics. “You have to always try. I am happy with [the result] given the shooting. I’m still kicking myself on that one stage. Luckily we still have a few races this week.”

Even though she can’t pinpoint what went wrong in her first standing stage, Dunklee isn’t letting it worry her.

The Susan Dunklee fan club (made up partly of her parents).
The Susan Dunklee fan club (made up partly of her parents).

“Tomorrow is a day off and I’m going to take a break from thinking about biathlon,” she said. “Honestly I’ve had a better feeling on the range this whole week than I have all season. I’m still on a roll with that, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. Yeah, it was gone for one stage, but it’s still there. I’m going to feel very confident going into the next few races.”

Teammate Hannah Dreissigacker was 36th with four penalties, crossing the line +3:43.2. Both had to battle the wind, which was, if anything, worse on course than on the range.

“My three middle loops I didn’t have anyone to ski with,” Dunklee said. “That was extremely tough because it was really windy.”

Both also got caught up trying to ski with other women, which they guessed might have contributed to a few of their problems on the shooting range.

“Maybe I pushed it a little harder on the last section of the loop, and maybe that affected me a little bit,” Dreissigacker said. “And I was shooting at the far end of the range, which means you have less time to shake out the legs as you ski in. I think that might have been a little bit of a factor in the standing. I shot in 29 and 30 and you have to do a sudden snowplow to a stop and then shoot immediately. That’s a little tough.”

Still, the two U.S. skiers were happy with their execution.

“My goal was to ski my own race and shoot my own race,” Dreissigacker said. “I felt like I did that, but it just wasn’t a perfect day out there. It was okay. It wasn’t bad, although two on the first one was a bummer. That really sets you back a bit. But anyway, it could have been worse, could have been better.”

For Canada, Rosanna Crawford led the way in 27th (+3:14.9). After missing four shots, she finished the day frustrated.

“I threw it away in my last standing,” she said. “I had a chance for a top 20. As I came down the hill I was saying my cue words and focusing, but then I think my brain just went blank. I didn’t do what I trained to do.”

But there were also positive points: for instance, she felt good on skis, and was able to work the sections of the course that she had tactically focused on.

“It was fun,” she admitted. “I love pursuits and I felt quite good on skis. If you really work the downhills, you can make up a lot of time. I passed maybe four or five people on the last loop on the two downhill sections.”

Julia Ransom also competed for Canada, finishing 42nd (+4:38.2) with three penalties.


Chelsea Little

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.

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