Bailey in his debut as the leadoff man was more than up to the task. In the mass start out of the stadium, he immediately settled the leading pack. In the prone stage, Bailey shot confidently and relaxed, dropping all five targets with ease, leaving in sixth position. In standing, he was equally effective, using only one spare round to clean. As Bailey left the shooting range, coach Per Nilsson commented, “Solid as a rock…that is exactly what we expected from Lowell today.” The Lake Placid native raced around the final 2.5K within a group that included positions five through ten. He passed to Hakkinen in tenth position, but only 56.3 seconds behind the leading Norwegians.
At the finish, Bailey commented, “I followed my plan today. I was very happy with my range procedure and the skiing is coming up. Most importantly, I put Jay close. At one time, I even heard the announcer use the word ‘incredible’ when he was talking about my race at that point.”
A post race video interview with Bailey follows:
When Hakkinen left the stadium, he immediately seemed to be in an attack mode. He moved up a couple of positions by the time he re-entered the stadium. Hakkinen’s prone stage was extremely fast and accurate as he cleaned. Even though he needed one extra round in standing, he continued to chip away at the other teams. As Hakkinen continued to show up on the leader board, the announcer mentioned that the Alaskan was a World Junior Champion, nevertheless also described his effort as, “incredible,” as Hakkinen tagged Burke in fourth position.
Walking out of the stadium as the race continued, Hakkinen was obviously fatigued, but smiled, commenting, “It is all about the shooting. I am glad it came around today. Lowell really put me in a good position, so I was able to relax and do my own race.” The result was the jump to fourth position; with the team just 50.9 seconds back even with the extra round (which takes about 10 seconds to load and fire). His leg time of 21:48.2 was second fastest of the 22 teams.
Burke in his first competition since early December, maintained tenth position. He needed two extra rounds in prone and another in standing, yet tagged off less than 10 seconds from sixth position. Nilsson, watching Burke said, “This is Tim’s first race in a while. He has not done too many hard workouts since he was sick, so today is a bit of a test.”
Jeremy Teela in his usual anchor position barely saved eighth place. He needed two spare rounds in prone to clean. Prior to his leg, the other three US men had only five extra rounds total. Now the total was seven. In standing, Teela needed all three extra rounds and a target was still standing, meaning a penalty loop. The Czech Team with Zdenek Vitek, a former World Champion now had taken eighth from the US. However, Teela, always up for a sprint, passed his Czech rival, finishing eighth in a photo finish. Upon examining the photo, Teela’s margin of victory over the Czech team was about one inch! Both teams were given a finish time of 1:31:06, 3:59.1 behind the winning Norwegians.
The Norwegians, winning in 1:27.06.9 controlled the competition from start to finish today. They finished with a mere four extra rounds, three of which were used by Ole Einar Bjorndalen, in the anchor leg. Despite a valiant effort by the final two men on the Russian Team, Iarochenko, and Tchoudov they finished 19.3 seconds back, using six extra rounds. The German men, in second position for the first half of the competition, eventually finished third. Olympic Champion Michael Greis brought the Germans back from a one-minute deficit to finish 45.3 seconds back. Although not a victory, the packed Ruhpolding Chiemgau Arena exploded with cheers for their hometown team as Greis crossed the finish line.
Today’s relay lived up to its billing with excitement from start to finish and for the US Team; it was a big step towards next month’s World Championships in Ostersund.
The next competition for the US will be in Saturday’s 10K Sprint.
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