BEIJING, China (Feb. 5, 2022) – Things don’t always go according to plan, but occasionally someone can exceed even her wildest expectations.
Such was the case for Deedra Irwin of Pulaski, Wisconsin, who on Monday turned in the best Olympic performance ever by an American biathlete, finishing seventh in the women’s 15-kilometer individual event at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre northwest of Beijing.
“I was trying to focus on just working on everything I’ve worked on this week,” said Irwin, who is competing in her first Olympic Winter Games, “really skiing the course well and staying calm on the range and being ready for anything — with wind or whatever.
“I had a good game plan, and I was able to execute it. Everything came together. I had no idea how I was doing, and I was just in my zone, and it worked — what the heck.”
What the heck, indeed. Irwin skied and shot with the world’s best biathletes, ultimately finishing just 1 minute, 1.4 seconds behind gold medalist Denise Herrmann of Germany. Anais Chevalier-Bouchet of France claimed the silver medal, and Norway’s Marte Olsbu Roeiseland took the bronze medal.
Irwin’s American teammates, Clare Egan, Joanne Reid and Susan Dunklee, placed 39th, 57th and 63rd, respectively.
Irwin’s stunning performance also came two days after the U.S. biathlon team of Dunklee, Egan, Sean Doherty and Paul Schommer posted the best-ever American finish in the 4×6-kilometer mixed relay event. The U.S. placed seventh in 1:08:58.3.
Nothing Monday seemed to faze Irwin, who moved up to fifth place at the 9-kilometer mark. Not even a miss during the event’s final shooting range.
“It’s something I’ve been working on all week because of the wind, just really trying to focus on one shot at a time,” Irwin said. “What was really nice is it wasn’t windy today. It was actually really calm.
“So even though I missed that shot, I still had that mentality of just one shot at a time, make good shots.”
That enabled Irwin to finish strong.
“To be able to hit those last two, I was just really happy that I was able to keep the focus and concentrate,” Irwin said. “(It’s) something I’ve definitely been working on a lot since last year, to just in general increase my shooting percentage.”
The 29-year-old Irwin, a member of the Vermont Army National Guard, had a skiing and running background but didn’t try biathlon until 2017, when she attended a talent identification camp at Lake Placid, New York.
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Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.