Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, March 15. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), with two penalties, finished 27th in this evening’s World Cup Sprint Final, leading the US men to 10th place in the Nations Cup for the first time ever.
This final 10K Sprint of the season was another closely contested competition with Burke 1:24.8 behind winner Michael Roesch of Germany, but only 12.2 seconds from 18th place. Roesch, with one penalty topped two clean shooting Russians, Maxim Tchoudov, and Andrei Makoveev by 8.8 and 13.4 seconds respectively.
The men’s competition held under the light of large glowing balloons and direct spotlights followed the Women’s Sprint, conducted in mid afternoon. Burke started strong with a solid prone stage, which had Coach Mikael Lofgren commenting, “That was a great start!” Tension built as Burke was among the top five men coming into the standing stage. With the TV cameras focused on him, he shot steadily, but missed two targets. Knowing how well Burke can shoot in the standing stage, Lofgren looked through the scope for a second time and said, “I cannot believe he missed those two.” Although he was in the middle of the 90-man field, Burke was just seconds from a top 20 finish, even with the two penalties. He continued to gain ground over the last 3.3K, passing several competitors, but could not pick up the final few seconds to put him in the top 20. Still, Burke scored more World Cup points, solidifying his 23rd position in the global standings and insuring a spot in Sunday’s 15K Mass Start.
With light snow and the temperatures falling as the competition progressed, Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) chased his roommate during his tour of the three 3.3K loops tonight. Bailey like Burke had two penalties, but one in each stage. The left-handed shooting Bailey was battling for a top 30 finish spot, but fell 14.2 seconds short in 36th place. At the finish area, he kept waiting for the scoreboard to scroll to his name, but left after it seemed stuck at 20th place. “It was close, I know that,” he stated. I felt good on the first loop…and actually on the second, Bernd (Eisenbichler) was out there and told me I was just seconds from the top 30. I gave it everything I had, but I could tell that I was losing time. With all of the fresh snow (from an all-day storm on Wednesday), it was pretty slow out there.”
The two Alaskans on the US Biathlon Team, Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof) and Jeremy Teela (Anchorage) each had three penalties in today’s competition. They finished 53rd and 67th, 2:07.8 and 2:47.4 back. Hakkinen will join Burke and Bailey in Saturday’s 12.5K Pursuit competition.
In the battle for a top eight spot in the season-long Nations Cup standings, the US men finished 10th, just 10 points shy of ninth place Ukraine and 105 behind eighth place Italy. The US made up ground on Ukraine today but not quite enough. After picking up several hundred points on Italy in the past two weeks, the Italian men place two in the top 18 today, negating the US gains. Still, the US finished in the top 10 for the first time ever, scoring 4244 points, 1160 more points than last season, the previous US high water mark. This 10th place represents a huge step for the US Biathlon program, putting the men within striking distance of much larger teams like Sweden, Italy, and Austria.
Friday is training and recovery day for the World Cup biathletes before the season, which started November 29, ends this weekend, with Pursuit competitions on Saturday and the Mass Start on Sunday.
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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