Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, Tim Burke in 45th place was the top US finisher in the 10K Sprint competition here yesterday afternoon.
Burke, with three penalties (two prone, one standing), finished 2:06.1 behind Ole Einar Björndalen, who was perfect on the shooting range on the way to a 25:24.9 victory. Bjorndalen, who skipped the long trip to Korea, because of a bout with the flu, seemed none the worse today after the illness. He actually may have been helped by the down time, commenting at the post-race press conference, “(Today) was a fantastic day for me. I was really ill and could not train for six or seven days. I started taking antibiotics on the day that I was supposed to leave for Korea, and it was definitely a good decision not to go."
Björndalen today showed the strong skiing he is well known for and seemed to be lacking in the final two competitions at the World Championships, when he finished second twice to Emile Hegle Svendsen. Leaving the standing stage here, “the King” was 3.9 second behind Svendsen. Yet Björndalen finished 10 seconds up on his teammate, who also shot clean, but finished second. As always is the case in Khanty, the Russian team was fighting for podium spots. Today third went to Andrei Makoveev, with one penalty, 32.5 seconds behind Björndalen, with Dmitri Iarochenko and Nicolay Kruglov close behind in the fifth and sixth spots 49.4 and 59.2 seconds back.
Despite being in 45th place, Burke was surprisingly close to the top 30. He was just 13.9 seconds from 29th place. This puts him in striking distance of World Cup Points in Saturday’s 12.5K Pursuit.
Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK), in 59th place also qualified for the Pursuit. Hakkinen matched Burke on the shooting range, but finished 2:47.1 back.
Lowell Bailey (Lake Placed, NY), after a career best in the Pursuit last Saturday in Pyeong Chang, Korea was struck by flu symptoms today and finished 77th. Bailey, although weakened by the illness, felt good enough to try to compete but the lingering effects left him feeling sub-par. With two standing penalties, he finished 3:33.8 back.
In the evening Women’s 7.5K Sprint, Haley Johnson (Lake Placid, NY) finished 57th, 3:11.7 behind Magdalena Neuner of Germany. Germany’s “Golden Girl” with one penalty won in 21:46.5, leaving the clean-shooting Sandrine Bailly 10.1 seconds back. Russian Albina Akhatova, with clean shooting grabbed the third podium spot, 16 seconds behind Neuner. The German women continued to dominate the season as Katrin Hitzer finished fourth; 23.5 seconds back with Andrea Henkel in fifth, 35.3 seconds back.
Johnson, with her 57th place will compete in the 10K Pursuit on Saturday. Johnson had an auspicious beginning in her first World Cup Sprint start today. With clean shooting in the prone stage, she was in 26th position leaving the shooting range, just 35.9 seconds behind Neuner. Three standing penalties pushed her down in the results to 57th. Nevertheless, Johnson showed the potential to be a top 30 finisher in the future.
Friday is a training day for all of the competitors, with the Men’s Pursuit at 11:30 CET (5:30 EST) and the Women’s Pursuit at 13:30 CET (7:30 EST) on Saturday.
Live streaming video coverage of the Biathlon World Cup competitions for the remainder of the season, and archived highlights including those from the World Championships, are available by clicking the athlete photo at the top of the news column at www.usbiathlon.org.