IBU Open European Championships (Duszniki-Zdrój, Poland): Men’s & women’s sprints
On Friday in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint, two Bulgarian athletes were able to break the Russian dominance at the 2017 International Biathlon Union (IBU) Open European Championships in Duszniki-Zdrój, Poland.
Bulgaria’s 29-year-old Vladimir Iliev, who has competed on the IBU World Cup since 2007 and posted a career-best fifth (which he achieved earlier this season), claimed the win in a time of 24:26.9 minutes despite one penalty in the standing stage (0+1), giving a kiss to his fast skis in the finish. Russia’s Alexander Loginov, who won the men’s 20 k individual race on Wednesday after returning this season from a two-year doping suspension, placed second (+4.9) with clean shooting. Behind them, Iliev’s teammate Krasimir Anev took third (+16.7), also shooting clean, to push Latvia’s Andrejs Rastorgujevs off the podium by just 0.6 seconds (+17.3). Rastorgujevs started early in bib 4 and skied the fastest course time of the day, but incurred two penalties in his standing stage (0+2), which ultimately set him back too far for a podium.
“It was a long way to this medal and this win,” Iliev said his first career victory, according to an IBU press release. “I was ready for a high result for many years, but many things have happened, so I’m really happy to get a victory today.”
“I did not expect anything in this race, because yesterday I had health problems so even my coach advised me not to start,” Anev said after winning his second medal of the championships, following up on a second place in the individual. “So [I] went into competition without any expectations.”
In beautiful weather conditions with little wind and the sun shining on the new arena in Duszniki-Zdrój throughout the race, US Biathlon’s Paul Schommer was the best of 11 North American starters, finishing 58th (+2:14.9) with three penalties (1+2). Schommer was less than a second faster than his U.S. teammate Alex Howe, who finished 59th (+2:15.3), after skiing two penalty laps (1+1). The third American Jakob Ellingson placed 64th (+2:24.6) with one penalty (0+1), Russell Currier was 75th (+2:41.4) with four penalties (2+2), Max Durtschi was 88th (+3:16.1) with three penalties (1+2), and Michael Gibson was 103rd (+4:30.4) with two penalties (1+1).
Matthew Hudec led the Canadians on Friday in 80th (+2:54.7) with one penalty (1+0). Also for Canada, Aidan Millar finished 86th (+3:13.9) with three penalties (1+2), Carsen Campbell 89th (+3:18.3) with three penalties (2+1), Pearce Hanna 92nd (+3:24.7) with two penalties (1+1), and Matthew Neumann 94th (+3:31.8) with four penalties (1+3).
In the large field of 125 starters, Schommer and Howe qualified for Saturday’s pursuit race by placing in the top 60.
[UPDATED] In the women’s 7.5 k sprint that followed, Ukraine’s Juliya Dzhyma managed to win in convincing fashion in a time of 21:02.3 minutes, shooting clean and skiing the second-ranked course time. It was the first individual career victory for the 26 year old in either a junior or senior championships, after she won a gold medal with Ukraine’s relay team at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“When I saw that everyone was cleaning, I knew that to get in to top three, I have to do the same,” Dzhyma commented on her race, according to an IBU press release. “But honestly, I have no idea how I hit all the targets today; for the whole season, it was my first competition where I had zero.”
“I was just trying to do my best and to make the gap bigger because tomorrow is the pursuit!” she added, regarding her last loop when she increased her lead by another ten seconds.
Also shooting clean but 27 seconds off the win was Russia’s 30-year-old Svetlana Sleptsova, who, earlier in her career, won five World Cups and gold medals in the women’s relay at the 2009 World Championship and 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Starting behind Sleptsova, her Russian teammate Irina Starykh, the winner of the women’s individual race on Wednesday, and like Loginov, also coming back from a two-year suspension for EPO use, claimed third (+37.8) with one penalty in her standing stage (0+1). Starykh bumped Germany’s Karolin Horchler, who had led the race early on after starting in bib 2 to fourth (+42.2, with no penalties). Horchler won her first World Cup a week ago in Antholz, Italy.
“Before the competition I already felt that it would be very hard for me to shoot today,” Starykh told the IBU. “And in the end it came out that way, it was tough for me to shoot at the prone and at the standing. But just one penalty is a pretty good result, based on how I feel.”
Horchler’s teammate Denise Herrmann, who made the switch from cross-country skiing to biathlon this season, followed in fifth (+47.7) with the fastest course time of the day, but missed two targets in her standing stage including her very last shot (0+2) to miss the podium.
In stable weather conditions, though not as sunny as during the men’s sprint earlier on Friday, US Biathlon’s Emily Dreissigacker was the top North American woman in 69th (+3:31.1), with three penalties (2+1). Just one position behind her, American Hallie Grossman also missed three (2+1) on her way to a 70th (+3:34.4). For the 23-year-old Grossman it is her first season overseas racing in the IBU Cup.
Canada’s Erin Yungblut finished 81st (+5:50.0) with four penalties (1+3). Her teammate Leilani Tam von Burg did not finish after incurring two penalties in her prone shooting stage, and the third Canadian, Sarah Beaudry did not start.
None of the North American woman qualified for Saturday’s pursuit.
— Harald Zimmer