Burke is a typical high-achiever, never happy with the status-quo, always looking for something more, thus he was disappointed with his year until the final competitions at Oslo, where he pulled of the 7th and 8th place finishes on consecutive days. At that time he commented on 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 beats Tomasz Sikora of Poland at the line Ostersund
Hakkinen scored more World Cup points this season that in the previous year, but fell 6 spots in the seasonal rankings, attesting to the depth of World Cup fields. The highlight of his season was the 9th place finish in the season-opening competition in Kontiolahti, yet he probably was in his best form of the season in Ruhpolding. He brought the team from 10th position to fourth position in the second leg of the relay competition, during which he needed only one spare round to shoot clean. He came back with clean shooting in the 10K Sprint to take 17th place, finishing 1:23.7 behind Olympic Champion Michael Greis. He confirmed his fitness with 16th in the 12.5K pursuit the next day.
After the Sprint, he commented on how his best weekend of the year was going, “I just tried to continue the momentum that I had in the relay Thursday evening here. I was a little conservative skiing, so I would be OK in the shooting range and it paid off. It is still all about the shooting. I have worked hard on that.”
Bailey’s emergence as a solid and effective leadoff for the US Relay team was one of the revelations of the season. His effort in Ruhpolding with only one spare round while tagging off just 56 seconds behind Norway set up the eventual 8th place finish for the US Team. Coach Per Nilsson commented on Bailey at the time, “Solid as a rock…that is exactly what we expected (and received) from Lowell today.”
Nevertheless, the highlight for Bailey was his breakthrough 11th place in the 12.5K Pursuit, in Pyeong Chang. He had just one penalty, while finishing 1:07.7 behind Greis.
At the finish line that day, Bailey, who had shown a lot of improvement in his training this season, commented, “shooting…That was the key today. A result like this on this course gives me a lot of confidence for the World Championships here next year.”
At the same time US Biathlon High Performance Director Bernd Eisenbichler praised Bailey’s effort,” “Lowell had a world-class race today. It is so nice to see him up there. He worked very hard and professionally over last summer and today he got the receipt for that. He showed that he could race with the best in the relays at Ruhpolding and Ostersund. Now he showed it in an individual race; that is great!”
Lowell Bailey before the start of the relay in Ruhpolding
Star of the Year: Tim Burke
For the second year in a row, Burke proved to be the “big dog” for the US Biathlon Team. He came to the season in top form, as shown by his best-ever season opener (12th Kontiolahti 10K Sprint). Although he struggled with illness for several weeks after that, he came back better than ever, after a warm-up weekend in Ruhpolding. He scored World cup Points in 9 of the final 12 competitions, scored in every competition at the World Championships, before his two top 8 finishes in Oslo, and closed his year with a two-penalty win in the 20K individual at the Canadian Championships at the Whistler Olympic Park.
Burke summarized his season in an interview at the Canadian Championships, “I had a lot of ups and downs this year. Yet, at the end of the season, that was the strongest I have ever been. The next step is the toughest, getting onto the podium. I have been close several times, but now I feel confident that it will happen.”
Tm Burke - Star of the Year
Compton had the top result for a US woman this season a 37th place finish in the 15K Individual at the World Championships. The significance of this is simple. She had been in biathlon for only 8 months at the time and had never shot 80% in ANY competition before, let alone a four-stage 15K on the biggest stage of all, the World Championships!
An accomplished cross-country skier (2008 US 5K Champion), she made the full transition to biathlete in just under 1 hour in Sweden. Coach Per Nilsson, who did not expect a result like this so soon, commented at the time, “Caitlin may have some good results sooner than we thought.”
Nordgren shares the Rising Stars honor for his Bronze Medal (first-ever Youth category for the US) in the Pursuit at the Youth/Junior World Championships. This came after his disappointing 6th place in the Sprint, where a rifle malfunction probably cost him the Gold medal, as he finished just 24 seconds from the win. He won the Bronze with a tactical effort and a strong sprint in the final 200 meters.
He explained, “I left the shooting range just ahead of him (Hofer), and then he pulled ahead by a couple of meters. When we got to the first hill, I tested him a bit and pulled away easily. I knew he did not have much left. I decided to rest (and Hofer passed again). Coming to the finish, I started to go wide to pass and he was forcing me to the left even more. We were so close that our skis touched. Then I just went for the finish line. I could hardly feel my legs as we came off the last bridge. As we approached the finish line, I was just trying to stay on my feet!”
Nordgren showed poise and maturity beyond his years in every competition all season. This 18-year-old is the one to watch!
Leif Nordgren at the Canadian Championships
The Season’s Defining Moment:
Tim Burke’s 7th Place in the Oslo Pursuit
The defining moment of the year came on the next-to-the-last day of the season in Oslo, Norway. Tim Burke culminated his run back to the most elite group of World Cup biathletes with a 7th place finish in the 12.5K Pursuit. In that competition, he recorded the fastest overall time, the first time ever that a US Biathlete has done this in World Cup history!
His 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, was 24.9 seconds faster than the winner Ivan Tcherezov had. 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.”
Just as Burke looks forward to the coming seasons, so does everyone at US Biathlon. It is going to be fun.
Tim is all smiles after his big day in Oslo!