Ostersund, Sweden, February 14. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) finished 29th in the 20K Individual this evening at the Biathlon World Championships, while Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis, MN) finished 37th in the 15K earlier in the day.
The strong cold front that blasted through Ostersund early Wednesday morning forced the organizing committee to reschedule both the Women’s 15K and the Men’s 20K for today. Conditions improved dramatically from yesterday, but the wind continued to blow across the shooting range, making shooting conditions tricky. Only two competitors shot clean under the breezy conditions, Maxim Maksimov and Ekaterina Iourieva of Russia, both of whom won medals today.
Burke, who finished ninth and tenth in last weekend’s Sprint/Pursuit combination had three penalties, which left him 4: 33.0 behind the World Champion Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway. Svendsen had only one penalty as he defeated his teammate and mentor Ole Einar Björndalen, with two penalties by 31.4 seconds. Maksimov took the Bronze medal, 34.8 seconds back.
The early part of the competition was Burke’s undoing today. He missed one shot in the first prone stage and added two more penalties in the first standing stage. After the third penalty, Coach Per Nilsson commented, “You can have one penalty in this type of competition, maybe two, but with three, it is too many.” Later, after Burke cleaned the final two stages, the coach added, “This still is not a bad race for Tim. He came back strong in the final two stages and shot much better.”
Regarding the shooting, Burke said, “There was no pressure in the final two stages after the three penalties, so it was not so hard to shoot clean.’ Regarding his race overall, he was disappointed, but not devastated, “I’ve had two good races in these Championships so far. I have two more races left, so it is not over.” Burke still has the Men’s 4 X 7.5K Relay on Saturday and the 15K Mass Start on Sunday. With the Sprint, Pursuit, and Individual over, Burke is number 17 on the Start list for the Sunday competition. The Mass Start will be the highlight of these Championships when the top 30 men go head-to-head in four shooting stages over the 15K distance.
The second US finisher in the 20K was Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) with one of his best performances of the season. Teela had four penalties, while finishing 6:16.8 behind Svendsen. He hit nine of his final ten targets. “I was really conservative in the range today. For where I have been this season, this was a good race.” Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) started strong with two penalties in the first two stages, but slipped back in the standings with an additional three in the final two stages. He finished 56th 7:07.8 back.
Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) competed in his first ever 20K today, finishing 79th, with six penalties, 10:17.3 back. Nevertheless, this was an encouraging performance for the 20-year old Currier. His shooting got better in each stage as he had three in the first prone; two in the first standing; one in the second prone, and then clean in the finals standing. At the finish, he said, “This was a different experience. I think I was slowing down in the last part of the race. But my shooting in the last two stages was good. My form is getting better all of the time. I am really looking forward to the rest of this season.”
Like Currier, today was Caitlin Compton’s second World Cup level start. She surprised even herself with 37th place in the Women’s 15K Individual. Compton, with four penalties, was 7:20.3 behind Ekaterina Iourieva of Russia, who won in 44:23.8. The Gold medalist was the only woman in the field of 93 to shoot clean. Martina Glagow of Germany took the Silver medal with one penalty, 1;13.3 back while Oksana Khvostenko of Ukraine earned her second Bronze medal of the Championships with one penalty, 2:24.4 back.
For Compton, this was a breakthrough competition, as her shooting percentages are closer to 60% than her 80% today. Her four penalties were an excellent performance on a day when the Sprint/Pursuit Champion Andrea Henkel had six penalties, as did Olympic Champion Kati Wilhelm. After the third shooting stage, Coach Per Nilsson was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat when he commented, “With that shooting (three penalties at that point), Caitlin may have some good results sooner than we thought.” She reaffirmed Nilsson’s confidence with a single penalty in the final standing stage, giving her four for the day.
At the finish, Compton was equally ecstatic with her day, even a bit giddy, “When I finished the final stage, I looked just to make sure that I was looking at the right target.” In the final two stages of prone/standing, she had only one penalty, for nine of ten shooting. She continued, “But my range times were slow, so I lost some time there.”
As an accomplished cross-country skier, Compton was not thrilled with here skiing, “I did not feel that good skiing today. We have rested a lot this week and I was a bit sluggish. Even though my skiing was not so fast, it probably helped my shooting.”
When asked what she was thinking about today, Compton was a bit embarrassed as she commented, “Before the start I was thinking about things like the feeds on the course, the wind, and other things as I walked to the start. Then I felt an official tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me that I needed my rifle to start. It was like, Oh; this is a biathlon race, not cross-country.” She also reiterated her statement from after the Sprint, but today with more authority, “Just give me two years!” After today, Compton may want to talk with Nilsson and revise that number.
The top shooting performance for the US was by Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO) in 49th place with two penalties, one in each of the first two stages. Barnes finished 8:30.5 back. On the shooting conditions today, she said, “It was not so bad (the wind). I think some people were timid on the shooting range today and it was not necessary.” Following Barnes were Laura Spector (Lenox, MA) in 62nd place with five penalties, 9:52 back and Haley Johnson (Lake Placid, NY) in 78th, with eight penalties, 12:41.6 back.
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