“I guess that’s the best team result I’ve seen so far”, head coach Per Nilsson couldn’t help smiling after today’s sprint competition in Pokljuka, Slovenia. With three US athletes starting in tomorrow’s pursuit there are plenty of things to be happy about – or to even pray for.
Burke has Chance on Yellow Bib
Tim Burke’s eighth place in the sprint competition would already be amazing without the fact that he has a great chance to take over the yellow bib as the World Cup leader tomorrow. A thing that never has happened before for a US biathlete. While the current man in yellow, Christoph Sumann of Austria shot himself out of the pursuit competition with eight penalties today, Burke stayed focused on the shooting range and showed one of the better shooting results with just two mistakes. “The conditions weren’t easy at all. In prone I was just laying there waiting to finally start with my first shot. But the rifle was just dancing around in the wind.” Still, the Lake Placid based athlete just missed one target in prone, a fact that was not as easy as it looked like. “I am really impressed how Tim handled the situation. He stayed calm and did not get all distracted by the windy circumstances at the range. That shows how much he worked on himself and how much he learned those past months!”, Nilsson stated.
Again the only problem Burke experienced was the cold. With -14°C and the strong wind blowing skiing in the woods once more became a nightmare. “I felt strong and I had good skis but nevertheless, it was just really, really hard to ski through the cold!” Still, he skied the tenth best time of today.
Now the most important thing is to stay focused and calm before tomorrow’s pursuit. Fact is that Burke can easily overtake the yellow bib from Sumann who won’t start in the pursuit. The only serious competitor for that will be Simon Fourcade from France who currently is in an amazing shape. Fourcade ranks on third place in the overall World Cup, one point behind Burke who is right now the second best biathlete there is.
Great performances by Teela and Bailey
Although there is a lot of excitement about Burke’s race there is yet another reason for the US team to celebrate: With his 26th place today Jeremy Teela met the Olympic Qualification criteria. Although he had to go 300m extra in the penalty loop he came out strong on the track and finished just +1:26.6 minutes behind the winner Ivan Tcherezov from Russia. “My skiing performance felt really great today and I had just amazing skis. But that was not the only thing. Even more I have to thank our sports psychologist Ross Flowers. I felt that I need to talk with him just because there are so many thoughts in my head before the Olympics. And he did a great job. For the first time this season I was really focused during shooting. I was right there with absolutely nothing to distract me!” Although he also knows that he has not reached his best shape yet Teela is certain that he’s making progress step by step until the Olympics in February.
Lowell Bailey also will have the chance to directly qualify for the Olympic team tomorrow. He finished his race on a 38th place. That means that he will start his race just +1:52.8minutes after Tcherezov in tomorrow’s pursuit. “With that time everything is possible in biathlon. They are really on fire!”, Per Nilsson is sure.
So there is plenty to look forward to. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s result. Maybe it’s time for Tim Burke’s biggest Christmas present ever...