IBU World Cup (Kontiolahti, Finland): Women’s 7.5 k sprint
Darya Domracheva of Belarus raced to her third World Cup victory of the season on Friday, and American Clare Egan tallied a career best in 13th, just behind Canada’s Rosanna Crawford in 12th in the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup women’s 7.5 k sprint in Kontiolahti.
Domracheva started 16th and shot a perfect 5-for-5 in prone, then missed one in her standing bout, but skied to first with the fastest overall course time. Her position in the leader’s chair looked secure until Germany’s Franziska Hildebrand, who started 49th, shot clean in both stages and headed out on her last loop with a 17.6-second lead on Domracheva’s time. But Hildebrand couldn’t match Domracheva’s pace and finished 0.5 seconds short of the winning time of 20:56.8 at the finish.
“I really like to compete here in Kontiolahti,” Domracheva said, according to an IBU press release. She won two gold medals there at 2005 Youth/Junior World Championships and went on to win her first two World Cup races there in 2010.
“This is a tough track, always very difficult but it always a good chance to take some seconds if you are in good shape,” she said. “I have some good memories from here…”
“I am very proud of myself,” Hildebrand said of her race, according to the IBU. “Dasha made a really strong last loop and I tried to do it as well. It was very close but I am happy to be second … I had to concentrate and have the confidence that I could shoot clean today.”
Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi started 24th and came within 5.5 seconds of Domracheva’s time, after missing one standing target (0+1), to place third, 5 seconds behind Hildebrand.
Vittozzi achieved her first career podium in Kontiolahti last year.
“This is an amazing place for me,” she told the IBU. “I like this track so much and feel in good shape. I tried to do my best in the shooting range and finally I did it.”
Ukraine’s Yuliia Dzhima shot clean but was 11.7 seconds short of the podium in fourth place (+17.2), Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier followed in fifth (+19.4; one penalty), Veronika Vitkova of the Czech Republic placed sixth (+21.0; no penalties), Ukraine’s Vita Semerenko was seventh (+21.0; no penalties), France’s Marie Dorin Habert eighth (+32.0; no penalties), Germany’s Maren Hammerschmidt ninth (+33.9; one penalty), Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen 10th (+34.4; two penalties), and Belarus’s second woman in the top 11, Nadezhda Skardino 11th (+35.3; no penalties).
Crawford led Canada in 12th (+46.5) with a single prone penalty (1+0) for her best sprint result since the 2014/2015 season. Also this season, Crawford raced to a career-best third place in a 15 k individual and fourth in a 12.5 k mass start.
“It was a little bit windy and some fresh snow made for a soft track, but I had amazing skis from our techs and was feeling good skiing,” Crawford wrote in an email. “I’m really happy with how I executed my race today, I really tried to channel my inner Jessie Diggins and never stop fighting! The hills are steep and long here, something I usually struggle with, but I tried to push them mentally aside and focus on what I am good at, there are a lot of flat sections where my two skate one skate is really strong, and on the big up hills I just tried to stick with whoever was around me.
“I had a lot of fun out there tonight, something I didn’t think I would ever say about this race course!” she continued. “… I am really happy to have some good ski speed in a spring finally!”
Egan, of the U.S., achieved her best World Cup result in 13th (+46.9) with a single standing miss (0+1) and the 14th-fastest overall course time. Her previous best was 16th in a sprint four year ago.
After the Olympics, Egan explained in an email that she rented an apartment in Helsinki and spent the first part of the off-week spending some alone time and doing “some serious R&R. I don’t think I realized how chaotic the Olympics were until I had peace and quiet for the first time in 3 weeks,” she wrote.
“After a week of mostly easy skiing on my own I was really antsy to race today,” Egan added. “I also felt motivated coming off my season-best performance in the women’s relay in Pyeongchang. My individual results have been really mediocre this year so I was looking to take the momentum and confidence from the relay and carry that into today’s race.”
During Friday’s sprint, she noticed her skis were running really well.
“I can say without any doubt that we had the fastest skis today and that played a big role in my ski time,” Egan wrote. “I had a personal best ski time (rank) by at least 10 places today.”
After starting one bib and 30 seconds behind Domracheva, Egan knew she was having a good race when she could see the eventual winner for most of the first loop.
“Our skis were so fast that I honestly had to adjust my technique to account for the extra glide– exceptional!” she added. “On my last loop, I realized I was still ahead of Laura Dahlmeier, who started :30 seconds behind me, and I fought super hard to hold her off all the way to the finish line!
“I was shocked to have a career best with one miss,” Egan concluded. “But I had a major PR on my ski time rank, and this is biathlon! I’m very, very happy to have a great result, but happier about the performance behind the result.”
With their results on Friday, both Egan and Crawford earned starts in Sunday’s 12.5 k mass start, according to a provisional start list.
“I’ll have another opportunity tomorrow in the mixed relay and Sunday in the mass start, which is only the second of my career,” Egan wrote.
“I was pretty disappointed to not qualify for the mass start at the Olympics,” Crawford wrote. “My bad sprint had many far-reaching consequences. So I am glad I get another chance to go out there and fight with the best!”
Also for the U.S., Susan Dunklee finished 36th (+1:27.0) with three penalties (1+2), Emily Dreissigacker was 62nd (+2:15.7) with two misses (2+0), and Joanne Reid was 74th (+2:38.7) with two misses (0+2) as well.
Canada’s Emma Lunder finished 43rd (+1:48.0) with one miss (1+0), Julia Ransom was 58th (+2:07.9) with two penalties (1+1), and Sarah Beaudry finished 66th (+2:20.3) with two misses (1+1) as well.
This year’s Kontiolahti World Cup does not include a pursuit race. The single mixed relay and mixed relay are set for Saturday, followed by men’s and women’s mass starts on Sunday.