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Hakkinen Moves Up 20 Positions; Finishes 18th in Pursuit

Tue, Feb  6, 2007 - By US Biathlon Association

Antholz, Italy, February 4. Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK) starting 38th today, moved steadily through the field in the Men’s 12.5K Pursuit to finish 18th, his best result of the season.

Buoyed by one-penalty shooting and skis that he described as “outstanding,” Hakkinen finished just 2:24.1 behind Ole Einar Bjorndalen, who again demolished the field, winning in 32:21.2, 1:09.9 ahead of second place Maxim Tchoudov of Russia. Bjorndalen had two penalties to Tchoudov’s one penalty. Vincent DeFrasne of France finished just one-tenth of a second behind the Russian in a photo finish. When asked if he could beat Bjorndalen, the French athlete answered, “Ole is the best biathlete ever and he is in very good form, no question; but he is human, so this is always possible.”

Hakkinen’s only penalty came in the first standing stage, when he missed one target. Beyond that single error, the shooting statistics revealed that the almost-perfect Hakkinen had the third fastest shooting time today, 1:39 for four stages, just three seconds behind Simon Fourcade of France.

Hakkinen confirmed that shooting was the key to his success. “I tried to focus on the shooting, one stage at a time today. It was really good to have a 95% day. I was concentrating so hard on my shooting, that at times, I was not sure if I was moving up in the race. Starting so far back (in 38th position, 2:11 back), I was out of contact with the leaders, which actually was good. Being so far back, I just concentrated on my own race. I was actually shocked when I was told after the final stage that I was in 20th place.”

Prior to today’s competition, Hakkinen’s season best was 24th place in the 10K Sprint at Oberhof, Germany, almost one month ago. With a look of satisfaction, but also a hunger for even better results in his voice, he continued, “It is so much fun to be competitive in a race again, especially when you shoot well and you feel good out on the tracks. I have had some other times when I felt good this year, but the other things did not come together, so this race was a good race for me. I am not completely satisfied, because I want to make the Mass Start next Sunday and need another very good race in the 20K to do that.”

Today’s 18th place is Hakkinen’s personal best in a World Championships Pursuit competition, equalling his second best World Championships result. His 16th place in the 1999 World Championships 10K Sprint tops the list, followed by 18th in the Mass Start the same year and 18th in the 10K Sprint in 2005.

Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) started just ahead of Hakkinen at position number 35, but unlike Hakkinen was unable to make a big jump in the results list. He finished 32nd, 3:45.3 back, with five penalties. Burke, like Hakkinen, was in the top 30 for the first two stages, after recording just one prone penalty. Four missed targets in the two standing stages, left him 11 seconds shy of 30th place.

Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK), 5:44 back, with seven penalties finished in the place where he started, 46th, Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) had six penalties, finishing 50th, 6:04.2 back.

The clear, windless conditions the men encountered continued for the women in the afternoon. The near capacity crowd of 18,000 fans saw Magdalena Neuner of Germany claimed her second World Championship in the Women’s 10K Pursuit. Despite four penalties, the 19-year-old, after a seesaw battle with Sweden’s Anna Carin Olofsson prevailed in 33:01.6. Olofsson slipped to third as Linda Grubben of Norway outkicked her in the final 50 meters. Grubben, with one penalty finished 7.1 seconds behind the young German, with Olofsson (five penalties) one-half second further back.

Tracy Barnes (Durango, CO) turned the tables on sister Lanny, as she finished 38th with three penalties to Lanny’s six penalties in 49th place. They finished 4:38.4 and 6:02.9 back, while Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY), lapped after seven prone penalties, did not finish.

With a season best 38th place, Tracy took another small step up the performance ladder. “I felt better today than yesterday. I actually had something left in the last loop, passed one person, and had a good battle with the French woman who finished just in front of me. I think I will get better with each race here.”

After two hard competitions, Monday is a training day for the athletes. The next competition is the Men’s 20K Individual on Tuesday. Jay Hakkinen, with 10th place in this event at the Olympic Winter Games last February, looks to improve on his 18th place from today, while Burke, Bailey, and Teela also hope to move up in the results.

Live coverage and commentary of every competition at the Biathlon World Championships is available at the World Championships Sports Network website, WCSN.com.

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.

TD Banknorth is the title sponsor of the US Biathlon Team. Lapua, adidas®, the Hilton Family of Hotels and Exel Ski Poles are supporting sponsors of the US Biathlon Team.