Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), after finishing 7th in the Pursuit yesterday came back with an 8th place finish in the final World Cup Mass Start of the season this afternoon.
Burke left the final standing stage in 13th position after incurring one penalty, but skied himself past several competitors including Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Greis of Germany to finish 42.9 seconds behind Michael Slesinger of the Czech Republic. Slesinger won in a photo finish over Nicolay Kruglov of Russia by one tenth of a second. Third went to Norway’s eternally young 38-year old Halvard Hanevold, 5.1 seconds back. Kruglov had one penalty, while Hanevold had two. Burke had four penalties today: one in the first prone stage, two in the first standing, and one in the final standing.
Photo finish of Michael Slesinger over Nicolay Kruglov at final World Cup Biathlon race
Like in Saturday’s Pursuit competition, Burke’s skiing was the big difference for him today. Yesterday, he had the top ski time in the field of 60 competitors, while today, his skiing was the second best, just 10.8 seconds off that of Zhang of China who finished 5th.
In Saturday’s Pursuit, Burke not only had the fastest ski time of the day, but the fastest overall time (deducting his start time back, 2:25 from his finish time of 36:26) which gave him a scratch time of 34:01, 24.9 seconds faster than the winner Ivan Tcherezov. This top overall time plus the fastest overall ski time is the first time ever that a US Biathlete has recorded the fastest overall time (with the bonus of the fastest ski time) in a World Cup level biathlon.
The enormity of this achievement and his equally impressive skiing today was not lost on Burke. “That was awesome! I am really proud of that achievement. At the same time, it is very motivating as I look toward next year and beyond. The best thing about skiing so well is that it gives you room for an extra mistake during the race. Again today, I was not thinking about a top eight finish when I left the shooting range in 13th position. Nevertheless, the first part of the loop out of the stadium here at Holmenkollen is a long gradual climb, which suits my style perfectly. During the climb, I suddenly saw people coming back to me. At this stage of the year, some guys are tired and some like me are coming into top form, so I was able to pass a big group.”
In that group was Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Greis of Germany, World Champion Tomasz Sikora of Poland, as well as Daniel Graf of Germany and Christoph Sumann of Austria.
Burke talked about his shooting after the finish, “The weather was nice again today, with just a little shifting wind on the shooting range. In the first prone, some of the first guys had left the range before I started shooting, as I was on point 29. It is almost like starting the race with a penalty. Accordingly, I rushed the first prone a bit and picked up the penalty. However, I was happy with the final standing, even though I had one penalty. I definitely feel like I am more comfortable with being in that type of pressure situation with everything on the line.”
To get to that point of “everything on the line,” Burke today moved steadily through the field of the 30 top biathletes in the world. After the first prone stage and a single penalty, he was in 20th position, jumping to 14th with a clean second stage. He slipped a bit to 17th with the two standing penalties in the third stage, before the final one-penalty stage and his push from 13th position to finish 8th.
Coach Mikael Lofgren commented on Burke’s effort today, stating, “This was perfect race for Tim. This is where he belongs. After all of the struggles (with his health) earlier in the year, this is a great way to finish.”
Burke chuckled after hearing Lofgren’s comments and was at the same time a bit more reserved in his assessment of today’s 8th place. “I would call it a solid race. It is a little bittersweet, knowing I was 40 seconds out in 8th with four penalties. With the 8th place, I moved back into the top 30 in the overall World Cup (29th with 171 points) and personally that is really exciting.”
He continued, further discussing his late-season surge (scoring World cup points in three of his final four competitions), “Before these last two World Cups (Khanty Mansiysk and Oslo), I was feeling very disappointed with my season. I knew that back in the early fall and November, I was in great shape. To this point, it was frustrating to know that I was capable of more and never was able to show that. The last two weeks really changed my outlook and feelings about the season. At this point, there is only one further step to take (victories and top 3 finishes), but that one is the hardest to take. After today and yesterday, I know I am closer than ever before and I cannot wait for the next season to start.”
Tim Burke finishes the World Cup season ranked 29th in the overall World Cup with a personal best five top-15 finishes (12th Kontiolahti Sprint, 9th World Championships Sprint, 10th World Championships Pursuit, 7th Oslo Pursuit, and 8th Oslo Mass Start), which is also a US Best mark. He will compete in an invitational event tomorrow night in Norway, before returning home. Burke and his US Biathlon teammates will conclude their season with the Canadian Championships at the 2010 Olympic venue near Vancouver, British Columbia March 25-31.
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.