New Gloucester, ME, September 5. Doug Hoover (Williamsburg, PA), after finishing 29th in both the 4K Sprint and the 6K Mass Start, described the field at this weeks Summer Biathlon World Championships in Otepaa, Estonia as, "without a doubt the strongest field Ive seen in three trips to the World Championships."
Hoover, along with Patricia Zerfas (Kensington, MD) and Junior athlete Molly Susla (Freeport, ME) represented the US in this year’s IBU Championships, which includes both running and roller ski biathlon competitions.
Even with over 10 years of summer biathlon experience, Hoover struggled to be competitive in small, but tough fields that included more than 20 World Cup competitors. He described his experience in today’s 6K Mass Start, “When the Mass Start took off; I felt like it was the Kentucky Derby. Someone forgot to tell all the Europeans that the first lap is just for feeling each other out; that we are all just supposed to relax and then really start racing after the first shooting stage. This thing took off fast. My plan all along was to settle in at the back of the pack, hit targets, and hope to move up a couple spots. Well, I was at the back of the pack. It was more like hanging on than settling in.” Despite only three penalties in the first three stages, the cross-country coach at Juanita College in Pennsylvania found himself in contention with just a few competitors, throughout the race.
Those competitors left Hoover in the final standing stage when he suffered what he described as a “meltdown” on the shooting range. He continues, “(I had) four penalties in the final stage. I pulled my first shot, but, the final four all felt solid and I only hit one. I think I pushed a bit too hard on the previous running leg. Those four penalties ended any hope of moving up.” He finished 29th, with seven penalties, 5:04.8 behind Alexei Katrenko of Russia, who won in 23:29.4 with three penalties.
Despite his “meltdown” on the shooting range, Hoover had a positive attitude about his races against top competition on tough tracks. “Other than one horrendous shooting bout, it was a solid race for me. I was right in it with the guys I thought I should be racing with until that final stage. My legs did feel better today. They are pretty fried now, (after) eight hard trips up this bugger of a hill on the course.”
In Tuesday’s 4K Sprint, Hoover also placed 29th, with two penalties, 2:34 behind Alexander Bilanenko of Ukraine. Bilanenko, an Olympian, and World Cup regular, has four top 10 finishes at the Biathlon World Championships in Oberhof and Hochfilzen. He was 19th in the 12.5K Mass Start competition last winter in Antholz. One penalty shooting and a final time of 16:24.4 earned the 29 year–old Ukrainian his first World Championship.
The two US women in Otepaa battled the same kind of World Cup experienced fields as Hoover. Natalia Sokolova of Belarus won both the 3K Sprint and the 5K Mass Start competition. Sokolova, like Bilanenko is a World Cup regular who had 10 top 10 finishes this past season, including third place in the 10K Pursuit at Pokljuka. Accordingly, she dominated the field both days, with two-penalty shooting and a 13:54.3 win in the Sprint and four-penalty shooting, leading to a 24:37.5 victory in the Mass Start. Patricia Zerfas finished 27th, with 5 penalties, 4:43.2 back in the Sprint and 22nd (in a smaller field) with 14 penalties, 10:17.4 back in the Mass Start.
Molly Susla finished 34th with eight penalties, 5:46.2 behind Irina Maximova of Russia who won the sprint in 14:06.2. Susla failed to qualify for the Mass Start field. She will compete in Friday’s roller ski Sprint. Competition has ended for Hoover and Zerfas.
The competitions conclude on Sunday after running mixed relay on Thursday and roller ski competitions over the weekend.
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.