BiathlonGeneralNewsRacingStrong Winds, Security Concerns Cancel Final IBU World Cup Races (Updated)

Brainspiral BrainspiralMarch 20, 2016
Strong winds led to the cancellation of Sunday's mass starts, the final races of the IBU World Cup season, after a light post fell onto the shooting range in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.(Photo: IBU/Evgeniy Tumashov)
Strong winds led to the cancellation of Sunday’s mass starts, the final races of the IBU World Cup season, after a light post (at left) fell onto the shooting range in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.(Photo: IBU/Evgeniy Tumashov)

(Note: This post has been updated to include comments from Americans Susan Dunklee, Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey, and Canadians Rosanna Crawford and Nathan Smith.)

Just like that, the season’s over. After strong, gusty winds on Sunday led organizers to postpone the women’s mass starts in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, the decision was eventually made to cancel both the women’s and men’s competitions for security reasons.

According to an IBU press release, a light pole on the shooting range toppled over, but nobody was injured. Athletes, spectators and staff were instructed to leave the stadium for their safety.

Strong winds knocked over a light post in the stadium on Sunday in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, leading to the cancellation of both mass starts for safety concerns with the continued gusting winds. (Photo: ZDF screen shot)
Strong winds knocked over a light post in the stadium on Sunday in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, leading to the cancellation of both mass starts for safety concerns with the continued gusting winds. (Photo: ZDF screen shot)

“The season is therefore over,” the press release stated. “You can find the final standings shortly on www.biathlonworld.com and the remaining Globes will be handed over tonight.”

Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic secured her hold on the World Cup Total Score with her fourth-place finish in Saturday’s pursuit, and France’s Martin Fourcade won the men’s overall World Cup title long ago by building an insurmountable lead. Both will be officially recognized at Sunday night’s award ceremony.

Three Americans finished the season in the top 20 overall, with Susan Dunklee becoming the best-ever ranked U.S. female biathlete in 14th, Tim Burke placing 15th and Lowell Bailey in 17th. Canada’s Nathan Smith stayed within the top 30 in 28th, and Rosanna Crawford was just outside in 32nd.

“It is my personal best overall finish yet and I am proud of it,” Dunklee wrote in an email.

“It would have been nice to have one last race and a little more closure, but I believe cancelling the race was the right decision because of serious safety concerns,” she explained.

“I’m definitely disappointed about the decision, but I also think they had little choice,” Bailey wrote in an email. “… It will take a lot of work just to clear the debris. Additionally, there were trees down on the course. And this doesn’t even get to the fact that it would be incredibly difficult to shoot in winds in excess of 30mph.”

“I nearly got blown over out running this morning,” Burke explained in an email. “The condition would have been totally unfair and dangerous.  One of the huge light towers actually blew over in the stadium.  I think that was the point when they decided to call it off and not delay anymore.”

“Today has been epic!” Crawford wrote. “We were walking back from town and could barely move the head wind was so strong! Our hotel has about 15 floors and some of the top floors the windows have been blown out and smashed on the ground below. Luckily no one was hurt.”

Tim Burke after placing sixth in the men's pursuit on Saturday, repeating his season-best sixth place finish in Friday's sprint, at the IBU World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. (Photo: USBA/NordicFocus)
Tim Burke after placing sixth in the men’s pursuit on Saturday, repeating his season-best sixth place finish in Friday’s sprint, at the IBU World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. (Photo: USBA/NordicFocus)

Reflecting on their 2015/2016 race seasons, Burke explained his was solid overall.

“I feel like I proved that I can still be competitive with the best guys on a good day,” he wrote. “I’m not sure, but I think I probably had more top 15 results this season than in any previous season. I am just a little disappointed to be missing that podium finish. I had a few great opportunities for a podium finish but it just never completely came together.

“The competition in the men’s field is by far the strongest that I have ever seen and everything needs to be perfect for me now to get on the podium,” he continued. “Even though I have been doing this for a long time, I am still motivated to evolve and work at becoming a better biathlete.  I already have a few things that I am excited to work on for next season!”

“I’m happy with the season,” Bailey wrote. “It is my second-best career result for overall ranking, at 17th, and a big improvement over last season.”

After missing out on qualifying for Saturday’s pursuit, Crawford explained she was somewhat disappointed with her season.

“The ski speed just wasn’t where I was hoping it to be and the results I was expecting never happened. But on the other hand, things started off great in Ostersund and I was at my peak for the World Championships,” she wrote. “There were a few glimpses of what I wanted to achieve this year, like qualifying for [World Championships] mass start, but for the most part I came up short. We will change a few things going into the training season and hopefully I can come back stronger next year!”

IBU World Cup men's 15 k mass start in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Daniel S. Guay)
Nathan Smith racing earlier this season in the IBU World Cup 15 k mass start in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Daniel S. Guay)

Smith did not race at all this weekend after battling an illness for the better part of the last week.

“I haven’t been this sick very many times in my life, very unusual. Sore throat ears, eyes, muscles,” Smith wrote on Sunday from Khanty. “It’s pretty disappointing because I was in really good shape in Oslo and I feel like that would’ve continued here.

“I was hoping for overall a bit better of a season, but I feel like I was kind of unlucky in that my strong skiing days seemed to always align with poor shooting,” he added. “Can’t complain too much though with the two relay medals and a few top 10s.”

The U.S. team leaves Russia on Monday and will compete at U.S. nationals this week in Fort Kent, Maine.

Crawford explained she’ll be home in Canmore, Alberta, on Tuesday.

“Brendan and I will head to Silver Star [British Columbia] at the end of March for some cross country skiing and then in April we will go to Arizona for a week to visit my Aunt and Uncle,” she wrote.

“I’ll probably stick around the Canmore area this spring,” Smith wrote. “I’ve got some condo painting to do, and I’ll be sure to fit in some backcountry skiing.”

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