The US Biathlon Team will feature a new start order in the Men’s Relay competition on Thursday evening, with Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) leading off, followed by Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), and Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK).
Coach Per Nilsson commented on the change in the relay this week, “Lowell is going well right now and we (the staff) think he is ready to lead off. That puts our two strongest legs in the middle and Jeremy (Teela) in his usual anchor position.”
The German biathlon fans started arriving before noon for the 5:20 PM start of the Women’s Relay competition today. By the time the 15 teams were on the starting line, 14,500 fans armed with enormous flags and noisemakers of every type, jammed the Ruhpolding Chiemgau Arena. The stadium announcer warmed them up with practice cheers and the athlete introductions, just before the traditional, almost choreographed entrance march of the shooting range officials.
The fans came expecting a German victory, even though this week’s team was missing veterans Martina Glagow and Andréa Henkel (both ill). The Germans took Sabrina Buchholz and Katrin Hitzer from their seemingly endless talent pool to fill in, along with World Champion Magdalena Neuner and Olympic Gold Medalist Kati Wilhelm. The fill-ins were half-successful as were the veterans. Katrin Hitzer put the German women in a hole, right from the start with a penalty. Norway took control, as Neuner closed the gap twice in the second leg, only to relinquish it with two penalties. Sabrina Buchholz, the third leg, maintained second place with no further penalty loops.
As the final leg started, Olympic Gold Medalist Kati Wilhelm chased Norway’s Anne Kristin Flatland, who now, controlled the race. Wilhelm showed her “championship pedigree” as she calmly gained a few seconds on the tracks, before the prone stage. The red-haired German star shot fast and clean, closing the gap to less than 20 seconds as Flatland needed spare rounds to clean.
In the standing stage, Wilhelm and Flatland were on the shooting range at the same time. Wilhelm promptly dropped all five targets, as Flatland again needed spare rounds. With the Norwegian woman still needing to topple two targets, Wilhelm left the stadium to the roars of a very relieved, partisan crowd.
This made the German women perfect for the season in the relay, to no one’s surprise. With three penalties and ten spare rounds, Germany won in 1:17:56, with Norway second, with nine spare rounds, 24.3 seconds back, and Russia, with one penalty and ten spare rounds,1:15.9 back.
Twenty-two teams are expected to start the Men’s Relay on Thursday evening.
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