For the two US Biathletes who finished 41.3 and 55.4 seconds back, the difference was on the shooting range. Hakkinen shot clean today while Burke had two penalties, one in both prone and standing.
Smiling at the finish, Hakkinen was pleased with his first perfect shooting day of the season. “I did take some inspiration from the girls clean shooting yesterday. (Lanny and Tracy Barnes both shot clean in the Women’s Sprint). My shooting in training has been very good all year. It was time for it to show up in a race. Shooting clean is good for my confidence. If I can continue to do that, I will have more good races in the next couple of weeks.”
Besides the shooting, Hakkinen was equally pleased with the skiing on this tough course. “I like this kind of tough course. It suits me well. It was firm and fast today. I had the feeling that I was working hard, but going fast. Having fast skis as we had today really helps too. A race like this puts me in a good position for the Pursuit tomorrow. At the same time, scoring World Cup points moves me up on the list and closer to getting in the Mass Start (at Holmenkollen and Khanty Mansiysk the next two weeks).” The top 30 on the World Cup points list automatically make the Mass Start field. After today, Hakkinen is in a tie for 37th place while Burke is solidly in 22nd place.
Both Burke and Hakkinen will start the 12.5K Pursuit competition tomorrow as will teammate Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) who also shot clean today. This was Bailey’s first clean shooting race in a World Cup. He finished 37th 1:28.8 back. Coach Per Nilsson was thrilled with Bailey’s effort. “Lowell has been struggling with his shooting in races. He shoots very well in zero and training, so we know he can do it. This should help him in the next races.”
Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) started fast like his teammates and was in the top 30 after a single prone penalty. However, Teela missed three standing shots and eventually finished 63rd, 2:29 back.
With the three top results from Hakkinen, Burke, and Bailey, the US gained a bit of ground in their battle in the Nations Cup points to finish in the top eight at the end of the season. The US Men are currently in 10th place in the Nations Cup standings, battling the Ukraine and Italy for a spot in the top eight at the end of the season. The US gained points on both countries today. There are three more Nations Cup races left this season. A top eight finish at the end of the season guarantees an additional starter in all World Cup competitions next year.
The US will have three men: (Hakkinen, Burke, and Bailey) and two women (Lanny and Tracy Barnes) in tomorrow’s Pursuit competitions. Lanny and Tracy Barnes (Durango, CO) both shot clean in the 7.5K Sprint on Friday, finishing 54th, and 59th, 2:59.7, and 3:14 back respectively to qualify.
Denise Teela (Anchorage, AK) tried to match the Barnes sisters on the shooting range, but fell one shot short, with a single penalty in the standing stage. She finished in a non-qualifying 69th place, 3:55.8 back.
The Pursuit competitions will close the week in Lahti. 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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