Even with the elements against them, all four US men, led by Burke and Hakkinen qualified for Sunday’s 12.5 K Pursuit competition.
Burke, by virtue of his top 30 ranking, started in the first group at number 21. The tracks were soft at this point, but the hardest rain was yet to come. With some fog remaining, virtually no one in front of him shot clean on prone. As he entered the shooting range, head Wax Technician reported, “Tim is skiing well, just a few seconds behind (Michael) Greis,” who eventually finished second today. As the wind swirled, Burke missed two shots by small margins, causing Coach Per Nilsson to remark, “That is good shooting in these conditions, as good as anyone so far.”
Burke came to the standing stage during a period of gale force winds. He set up, waiting about 30 seconds before he fired five shots in quick succession, with each dropping a target! He was clean and in back in the battle for the top 30.He crossed the finish line in 16th position 1:07.4 behind the first starter, Nicolay Kruglov of Russia, who finished in 30:49.4, with two penalties. Only three of the remaining starters were better than Burke was, as he eventually finished 19th. Looking like a drowned rat at the finish, Burke was smiling. “When I came to the shooting range, I realized that was the strongest wind I had seen all day. I just waited; it was all I could do if I was going to hit any targets. I have only been back on the ground here in Europe for 7 days so 19th is good. I will only continue to feel better as I get re-acclimated.” With that, he rushed inside a building to escape the rain and dry off.
Unlike Burke in the front, Jay Hakkinen started near the end of the field, at 103. After chasing Ole Einar Bjorndalen in the first leg of Thursday’s relay, it was obvious that the Alaskan was returning to form. Today he confirmed that, with 24th place, 1:23.5 back. Reports from the tracks said he was skiing well as he approached the prone stage. With the television cameras focused on him, he dropped the five prone targets in rapid succession. He left the stadium in 10th position, continuing to attract the live television coverage. The TV scrutiny was so intense that Hakkinen appeared several times literally jumping over small rivulets of water that crossed the tracks. With the wind swirling, he dropped the first three targets, but hesitated as the wind picked up and he missed the final two. Still, he was not to be denied a top 30 finish today battling deep wet snow and the hard rain to earn his first World Cup Points of the year. Hakkinen was happy, but subdued at the finish, knowing a clean shooting race would have moved him into the top 15. “It is coming. That was better. I am not where I want to be yet (performance or place-wise),” he commented at the finish.
Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) had another solid performance today in 40th place, with three penalties, 1:51.4 back. He was just over 20 seconds behind the 30th place finisher, Ole Einar Bjorndalen, who was undefeated this season before today.
Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) had trouble on the shooting range today finishing with five penalties, but managed to finish 56th, 2:34.5 back. Teela skied well, with the 27th fastest time on the tracks. With his 56th place, all four US men will be in tomorrow’s Pursuit competition, which now starts at 11:30 instead of the planned 2:15, due to the bad conditions.,P> 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.usbiathlon.org.
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