Ostersund, Sweden, November 30. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) scored his first-ever World Cup Points with a 30th place finish today in the Men’s 20K Individual competition here, despite losing almost one minute after falling on a downhill portion of the tracks.
Burke finished 4:33.7 behind the legendary Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway, who won in 51:38.6, with two penalties. Clean-shooting Andreas Birnbacher of Germany was 14.3 seconds back, with German Olympic star Michael Greis, with one penalty 32.7 seconds back.
A sharp dip in the tracks caused Burke’s fall as he approached the stadium for the second prone stage. Prior to the fall, he had a single penalty in each of the first two stages. Burke described the fall, “It was in one of the scary places on the tracks, on a dip just before a sharp uphill and then down into the stadium. I sat down on my rifle and knew it was broken. I lost some time there and in the shooting range; I had to call for the spare rifle, and lost more time. I took 12 clicks to be ready to shoot.” Despite the jarring fall and shooting with the spare rifle, Burke still managed to hit four of five prone shots. In the final standing stage, he cleaned, ending the day with three penalties, matching teammate Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) who also had three penalties.
Burke finished one place and 6.7 seconds ahead of Bailey who was 31st. Burke was both happy and disappointed at the finish. “I am in good shape and I had a good race going when that happened. I actually shot better with the spare, which is amazing since I had to take so many clicks. I am happy to get a top 30 finally and get my pre-qualifier (one top 30 or two top 40) for the World Championships out of the way.”
Bailey, finishing several minutes before Burke knew he would not beat his friend even with the fall. “Tim was skiing a lot faster today. I felt a bit flat, but this is a good first race.” Bailey hit 14 targets in a row before missing the final shot in the third stage. Going into the final stage, he in the top 15 and commented on that final shooting, “My legs were shaking a bit, and I told myself that I did not want three penalties for the day, but it happened. I am still happy with this first race.”
On hearing that Burke fell, used the spare rifle and was still nine for 10 on the shooting range, Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) said, “That is amazing. You actually can do it with the spare rifle.” Teela used his own rifle throughout the competition today, finishing 42nd, with four penalties, 5:16.6 back, missing the top 40 by 10 seconds.
Jay Hakkinen, (Kasilof, AK) had the toughest day of all of the US men. He finished 79th, 8:28.6 back, with six penalties. Hakkinen skied well early, before backing off after five penalties in the first three stages.
The conditions today were dramatically different from yesterday. As always seems to be the case in the winter, 24 hours can make a huge difference in the weather. When the women kicked off the new season yesterday, temperatures were well above freezing, with drizzle creating soft challenging conditions for the competitors. Today, after a hard freeze overnight, conditions for the men were closer to normal, with hard, fast tracks and temperatures hovering near freezing. This combined with no wind on the shooting range made for good shooting and fast skiing, as expected at the World Cup level.
The US men like Lanny Barnes with her 15th place yesterday, served notice that they are moving up. US Biathlon Executive Director commented, “This is the first time in a long while that we had three men on the first page of the results. This, and yesterday have been very exciting start to the season.” The United States Biathlon Association is the National Governing Body for the sport of Biathlon in the United States as recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Biathlon Union. The US Biathlon Association supports the US Biathlon Team and development of the sport on all levels within the United States.
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