Kontiolahti, Finland, November 29. Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK) started the new biathlon season with a big result, ninth place in the Mens 20K Individual competition.
Hakkinen’s ninth place was his best-ever season opener. “This is a good start,” he said at the finish line. “I was a little conservative in the shooting range early in the race, but I realized I needed to go for it. Overall, it was a very solid race for me.” Hakkinen was among the leaders in the field of 120 men all afternoon. The intermediate splits showed him no lower than the mid-teens from start to finish.
Hakkinen had just two shooting penalties on the day. The first was in the initial prone stage and the second in the final standing stage. After the prone miss, Coach Mikael Lofgren commented assured the staff over the radios, “No corrections for Jay; he had four shots in the center and just one bad shot.” After the prone miss, Hakkinen followed with two clean stages before the miss in the final standing stage. “Obviously, I would have liked to hit that one,” he added.
Hakkinen started in the middle of the field and had to wait for all of the finishers to find his final place. He held on to eighth place until the 117th starter shot clean and eventually finished sixth. When the dust settled, the Alaskan was a mere four-tenths of a second from eighth place, which went to Russian Nicolay Kruglov, who had one less penalty than Hakkinen. Hakkinen finished 2:04.9 behind Vincent DeFrasne of France, whose clean shooting carried him to a 51:25.2 win. Second went to 38-year-old Halvard Hanevold of Norway, with one penalty, 23.6 seconds back, while Russian Maxim Tchoudov also with one penalty was third, 30.2 seconds back.
None of Hakkinen’s teammates cracked the top 30 today, but all had solid days on the shooting range and on the tracks.
Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) had one of his best opening competitions, like Hakkinen. Teela finished 38th with three penalties, 4:05.2 back. He said, “I took some days off last week because my back was bothering me. It was okay today. I was cautious on the shooting range.”
Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) was visibly disappointed with his day at the finish, 49th place with three penalties, 4:49.8 back. Through the first two stages of the race, Burke was in fifth position, before missing a prone shot in the third stage and then capping the afternoon with an additional two in the final standing stage. “This was the worst workout (race) I have had in three weeks. If I felt like I had previously, I would have been much higher, even with three penalties."
Like Burke. 60th place finisher Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) had three penalties today. Likewise, Bailey was disappointed, but more philosophical. “I am not satisfied, but it is the first race and this course is brutal (a comment made by all of the athletes). It is a tough way to start the year. Still, there are plenty of races left that will be better.”
Earlier in the day, the biathlon season officially started with the Women’s 15K Individual. At 11:36:30 Finland time, Tracy Barnes (Durango, CO) left the starting gate as the first US competitor on the tracks in the new season. Tracy struggled from the outset, picking up one, two, and then three penalties in the first three stages. Her demeanor and results changed in the fourth stage. She shot very aggressively, dropping the five targets rapidly, leaving with her first clean stage of the day. She finished in 96th place, with seven penalties, 11:16.5 behind Martina Glagow of Germany, who triumphed with perfect shooting in 46:28.8.
Lanny Barnes started at number 100 and fared better than Tracy did on the shooting range and in the results. Lanny missed just two shots, one each in the first and second stages to finish 59th, with two penalties. 6:11.3 back. After the competition, she commented, “My shooting was OK. On the tracks, I feel like I need another race to get me going.” That opportunity will come on Friday in the Women’s 7.5K Sprint.
Tatiana Moiseeva of Russia matched Glagow on the shooting range, but fell 6.7 seconds short of victory to finish second. Third finisher Simone Denkinger of Germany skied faster than either Glagow or Moiseeva, but had two penalties and finished 1:02.7 back.
Conditions for today’s competitions were good for an early season World Cup. After yesterday’s strong winds, it was mostly calm most of today. The temperatures stayed near minus 5 Celsius all day, leaving every competitor with fair conditions on the tracks and the shooting range.
This type of weather is expected to continue for the remaining competitions. Friday is the Women’s 7.5K Sprint, followed by the Men’s 10K Sprint on Saturday and Pursuit competitions for both men and women on Sunday. Visit USBiathlon.org to watch all the World Cup events live and see archived video highlights. USBiathlon.org now has an RSS feed - click the RSS logo to get the address and get all your biathlon news.
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