With the 2015/2016 season officially in the rearview, FasterSkier is excited to unveil its annual award winners for this past winter. Votes stem from the FS staff, scattered across the U.S. and Canada, and while not scientific, they are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review.
Susan Dunklee, US Biathlon
Susan Dunklee has been on the rise for several years, and this season U.S. fans got to see her potential as a biathlete up close and personal: in Presque Isle, Maine, she placed second in the 10-kilometer World Cup sprint, a career-best performance and the second podium of her career.
“To be able to have a best result on home soil and we only have a North American World Cup every five years, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Dunklee said on the phone after the race. “It’s just phenomenal.”
But that wasn’t Dunklee’s only highlight of the season. Earlier she had placed sixth in both the sprint in Pokljuka, Slovenia, and the mass start in Ruhpolding, Germany.
Then at World Championships in Oslo, Norway, she won the first leg of the mixed relay in thrilling fashion, passing Norway’s Marte Olsbu on the final uphill in the stadium and never looking back.
“I have been close behind the leader tagging off many times, but I have never tagged off in first,” she said at the time. “On the last loop I was hungry to finally win my leg today and I wanted to give Hannah [Dreissigacker] the experience of leaving in the lead in front of a packed Norwegian crowd.”
Dunklee then went on to finish eighth in the sprint, tenth in the pursuit, 11th in the mass start, and 18th in the individual at World Championships. Her season-ending spot of 14th in the World Cup Total Score is the best ever achieved by a U.S. woman.
As teammates Dreissigacker and Annelies Cook are retiring, Dunklee will helm the U.S. women’s team into the future – and seems very able to do so.
Tim Burke, US Biathlon
Tim Burke had a rough 2014/2015, but re-focused his efforts coming into the season and began to return to the form that had kept him as the best U.S. biathlete for many years.
“I feel like I have performed really well, maybe more consistently than I ever have,” Burke said after finishing 12th in the World Championships mass start. “Last year was so disappointing for me. I was really up and down, more down than up, that I think that this was a really big step back up to where I should be.”
Burke got his first top-10 of the season before Christmas, racing from 14th up to ninth in the pursuit in Pokljuka.
But the fireworks came later: he was seventh in both the mass start at the Canmore World Cup, and the pursuit in Presque Isle.
Then, after finishes of 12th, 14th, and 17th at World Championships, Burke headed to the last World Cups on the season in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, where he snagged sixth place in both the sprint and pursuit.
After finishing 15th in the World Cup Total Score, Burke is still hungry.
“These are my two best results of the season so I can’t be too disappointed,” he said after Khanty-Mansiysk. “But I am also like most athletes in that I always want more!”