Hochfilzen, Austria, December 10. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), after two weeks of outstanding performances today shocked everyone in the Hochfilzen biathlon stadium with an extremely competitive first relay leg, eventually tagging off in fifth position, just 21.7 seconds off the lead.
Today, sunny warm Hochfilzen totally transformed into an alpine winter wonderland. The past 24 hours have seen over a foot of new snow blanket the meadows. The pine trees on the mountainside now droop near the ground from the weight of the heavy wet snow. Fresh snow covered the tracks for the first time this season, lessening the burden on the wax technicians and providing acceptable conditions for both relay competitions today.
The US Men’s Relay team eventually finished 12th, despite Burke’s outstanding first leg. Burke’s aggressive leg kept him in front of the television cameras for all 22-plus minutes that it took him to complete his 7.5k leg today. Throughout the first 2.5K, Burke stayed within striking distance of the leading German, French, and Swiss teams, coming to prone in sixth position. He shot rapidly, knocking down all five targets. According to Coach Mikael Lofgren, “All of Tim’s prone shots were excellent today.” On that note, Burke left the stadium in fourth!
Again, Burke cruised around the tracks, covered with fresh, but wet and in places, glazed snow. Lofgren added, “He is really going easily.” In standing, Burke shot aggressively, but needed two extra shots to clean, pushing him back to ninth, about 20 seconds from fifth position. Skiing with the confidence he has shown all season, he passed one, then another. By the final uphill stretch to the exchange, he was in fifth position, 21.7 seconds out of first. Burke was again beaming in the finish area. “It was fun and exciting out there today. I had some good battles out there. My skis were really good and that made it easier.”
Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) took the exchange and kept the US team in at the top of the leader board. He shot clean on prone and maintained fifth position, moving to within 13.4 seconds of first place. In standing, Bailey’s legs were visibly shaking as he used all three extra rounds, recording two penalties. This dropped the US men to 12th position, 2:08 off the lead.
Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) followed Bailey. Teela needed all three extra rounds in prone and had one penalty. The US team dropped to 15th. Nevertheless, Teela came back with an outstanding standing stage, cleaning very rapidly. He moved the team back to 12th by the exchange with Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK). On his standing stage, Teela smiled, saying, “I just did what I had to do out there.”
Hakkinen needed two extra rounds to clean prone, but was quickly out on the tracks. Today Hakkinen needed the three extra rounds in standing and had one penalty, unlike Friday when he easily cleaned standing rapidly. Even with the penalty, he brought the US men home in 12th, 4:40.8 behind the Russian team.
The Russian men like the women in the morning, defeated the Germans. Russia needed just three extra rounds, finishing in 1:25:18.4. This left the German team 32.8 seconds back and France in third, 1:03 back.
Sixteen women’s teams started the Women’s 4 X 6K Relay competition in the morning. Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO), after the best US woman’s result in al most two years (15th in Ostersund Individual) led off for the US team. She started well, staying about 20 seconds of the lead coming into prone. Uncharacteristically, she needed all eight shot to clean prone, dropping to the rear of the field. Even with a fast clean standing stage, she did not move up. At the finish, Barnes revealed that she hurt her shoulder on the first uphill, when she tangled her poles in a closely packed group. She related, “I was having trouble shooting prone because of the shoulder.”
Tracy Barnes (Durango, CO) handled the second leg, cleaning prone, but needing two extra rounds in standing. Despite this, she moved the US up from last position. Denise Teela (Anchorage, AK) took over from the Barnes sisters. Teela arrived in Hochfilzen late on Saturday night after competing in the Europa Cup Sprint in Obertilliach, Austria yesterday afternoon, where she placed 34th. Teela held the US position, with two extra prone rounds, and a fast clean standing stage.
Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY) anchored for the women today. Konrad had a good prone stage, using only one extra round to clean. Unfortunately, in standing, she needed all eight rounds and had two penalties; while the Romanian athlete just behind her shot clean, leaving the US women behind.
The US women’s team finished in 16th place, with eleven extra rounds and two penalties, 11:15.3 behind Russia. The Russians used only two extra rounds during the competition. Anchoring for the Russian team, Natalia Guseva edged crowd favorite Kati Wilhelm by seven tenths of a second. The pair was together for the final two loops, but Guseva took a 5-meter lead on a critical turn near the finish and Wilhelm could not catch her in the finishing straight. The German team had one penalty and seven extra rounds. A young Norwegian Team finished third, 1:50.4 back.
The final Biathlon World Cup prior to Christmas starts here in Hochfilzen on Wednesday. The competitions will be held here, because the originally schedules site in Slovakia has no snow at the venue.
Live streaming video coverage of Biathlon World Cup competitions for the remainder of the season is available by clicking the Biathlon World Cup logo at the top right of the page at www.usbaithlon.org.
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