IBU World Cup (Antholz, Italy): Men’s 10 k sprint
One prone penalty wasn’t enough to keep Johannes Thingnes Bø from his third-straight victory (and ninth this season, including relays) as the 24-year-old Norwegian won the men’s 10-kilometer sprint on Friday at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup in Antholz, Italy.
Bø started 42nd of 109 men and had to navigate tricky wind conditions, along with the rest of the field. After missing one target in the prone shooting, Bø left the range in third, 4.8 seconds behind the race leader at the time, Austria’s Julian Eberhard, and 2.6 seconds behind his Norwegian teammate Lars Helge Birkeland in second.
Throughout the race, Bø set the fastest course times and took a sizable lead over Birkeland and Eberhard after standing, which he cleaned and left the range 33.5 seconds ahead of Birkeland, who had also hit all five standing targets. Eberhard missed two to slip 1:11.6 minutes back.
Bø went on to cross the finish line in 23:19.3 minutes, faster than France’s Martin Fourcade (who started behind him in bib 48 and cleaned both stages), as Fourcade finished 12.8 seconds back in second.
Germany’s Arnd Pfeiffer started 47th, just ahead of Fourcade, and raced to third (+42.2) with clean shooting as well.
“In the sprint, you almost always have to shot clean,” Bø reflected after, according to an IBU press release. “After my prone miss, I knew a podium would be hard, but you never know; you fight hard. With zero in standing, I knew there was a chance … I had the times from the start and knew I had good speed today … Martin is almost always stronger than me on the last lap, but today I was not tired.”
Fourcade pointed out that this was his best sprint result in Antholz, a high-elevation venue at some 5,200 feet above sea level, since 2011, “so I am pretty satisfied,” he told the IBU.
Pfeiffer told German broadcaster ARD that he latched onto Fourcade for the last loop.
“At least I was clean on the shooting range today, that was not so easy,” Pfeiffer said, according to a translation. “I am pretty proud I managed to do that today. This was not my best day on the course, even if the position might insinuate something else. I had to toil quite a bit, and was lucky that Martin came by for the final [loop], who also wasn’t in his top shape today.
“In the end of course the result was great, I haven’t been on the podium in an individual-start race so far this season,” Pfeiffer continued. “So I am happy about 100 percent shooting accuracy and hopefully being on the podium if everything works out.”
Russia’s Anton Shipulin missed the podium by about four seconds in fourth (+46.3) with one standing miss (0+1), France’s Emilien Jacquelin placed fifth (+53.7) with clean shooting, Birkeland ended up sixth (+1:07.8) with zero penalties as well, Eberhard was seventh (+1:21.7) with two misses (0+2), Russia’s Anton Babikov eighth (+1:27.8; no penalties), Vladimir Chepelin of Belarus ninth (+1:32.3; one penalty), and the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Moravec 10th (+1:35.4; no penalties).
Three out of five Americans qualified for Saturday’s pursuit, with Lowell Bailey leading them in 41st (+2:22.0) after one standing miss (0+1). Notably, he had the fifth-fastest overall shooting time.
Tim Burke was just another 0.4 seconds back in 43rd (+2:22.4) with three penalties (1+2), and Leif Nordgren finished 50th (+2:33.1) with two penalties (1+1) and the second-fastest overall shooting time and third-fastest range time.
Russell Currier missed the top 60 by 5 seconds in 63rd (+2:55.4) with two misses (1+1), and Sean Doherty finished 75th (+3:15.9) with four penalties (3+1). All five men were recently named to US Biathlon’s Olympic team.
Macx Davies, who was selected to Biathlon Canada’s Olympic team, was the top Canadian in 66th (+2:58.2) with three misses (1+2). Carsen Campbell finished 82nd (+3:27.9) with two penalties (2+0), Matthew Hudec was 89th (+3:40.6) with one miss (0+1), and Aidan Miller 107th (+5:00.3) with five penalties (3+2).
The men’s and women’s pursuits will be held Saturday in Antholz at 7:15 a.m. for the women and 9 a.m. for the men EST. Watch live on the Olympic Channel.
Western Canadian Championships (Red Deer, Alberta): Freestyle sprints
The NorAm series shifted west to to Red Deer, Alberta, for the fourth weekend of racing.
Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Rocky Mountain Racers) won the women’s 1.2-kilometre freestyle sprint A-final in 3:09.12, edging out Zina Kocher (Foothills Nordic) and Annika Hicks (Alberta World Cup Academy) by 0.4 and 0.77 seconds, respectively. They qualified in the same order in a small women’s field of 20. Organizers opted to skip the quarterfinals and pinned the top 10 women from the qualifier in two semifinals.
The men’s 1.2 k qualifier had 38 starters, and 22 advanced to the quarterfinals. After qualifying in second, 0.16 seconds off the top time set by Russell Kennedy (Team R.A.D.), Jess Cockney (Canadian World Cup Team) won his quarterfinal and semifinal and ultimately the men’s final in 2:24.29, 1.09 seconds ahead of Kennedy in second. Patrick Stewart-Jones (Alberta World Cup Academy) grabbed his first podium of the season, taking third (+1.70).
Western Canadian Championships usually draw a smaller field than Easterns: more Canadians live within reasonable driving distance of Eastern Canadian Championships (hosted by Nakkertok in Cantley, Quebec) than live in all three times zones of western Canada combined.
With many of the top athletes in Europe doing final elevation camps for the Olympics and U23s/Junior World Championships, the Western Championships’ open and junior categories were particularly small this year with 287 athletes total.