RUHPOLDING, Germany - The last relay competition before the Olympic Winter Games turned out to be a perfect pre-test for the U.S. men's team. With a sixth place in Ruhpolding, Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY), Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, Alaska), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), and Jeremy Teela (Heber City, UT) showed a strong performance ahead of several favored teams.
Bailey gained back his self confidence after an amazing start in today's relay competition. With just one extra shot in prone he moved up to fifth place at the exchange, ranking just seconds behind today’s strongest relays from Russia, Norway and Austria.
U.S. Men's Relay Team Finishes 6th at Ruhpolding World Cup (left to right:Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY), Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, Alaska), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), and Jeremy Teela (Heber City, UT)
Photo: V.Franke/U.S. Biathlon
“I think I surprised myself today. I was a bit sick yesterday and did not know if I wanted to start in the relay, but I did anyway. So that success helped me a lot to put those two last months of frustration behind me. I knew I could do it and for the first time this season I was actually able to show it. That was just a perfect race and I am even more happy that I was able to even go faster on the last loop. It seems my form really is coming back”, said Bailey.
An even more impressive race was shown by Hakkinen who moved the team up to fourth place with a perfect shooting and a strong skiing performance. Hakkinen handed over to Burke just seconds behind the third ranked relay from Austria. “I couldn’t really walk after my race; I just pushed too hard on the track. But the gap behind us to the other relays was really important and I wanted to keep that gap. To be able to do that and to shoot clean was truly amazing. And definitively good for my self confidence going into the next races,” said Hakkinen.
Burke, on the contrary, had some difficulties at the shooting range. After skiing all the races of the last five consecutive World Cups, fatigue is setting in. Most of the current top biathletes have skipped one or more races, but Burke has been in every race since the World Cup opening in December. “I really can feel that now. My body and my mind are just too tired and racing gets really hard. Given those problems I run into now I probably will not go every race in Antholz. The focus has to be on the Olympics”, explained Burke.
Teela will skip the Antholz World Cup to focus on training for Vancouver. “I’ll go into a more individual training back home to get the power and speed back I’ll need in Whistler," said Teela. "Today wasn’t exactly the perfect end of the pre-Vancouver time for me, but it was a good experience. At the last shooting the pressure was just so amazingly high. I am just glad that I stayed out of the penalty loop. I really wanted to beat the Germans on their home course. That would have been fun!” In the end, Teela secured the team's sixth place finish with all extras needed in his standing shooting, leaving strong teams like Sweden or France behind him on the last loop.
It was the season’s best relay finish for the U.S. men's team and a big step forward to a good result in Vancouver. “I am confident that they could be even better during the Olympics," said Per Nilsson, U.S. Biathlon's head coach. "They showed they are able to ski on second or third position today so our hopes stay high for a good finish in Whistler."
IBU World Cup racing continues in Antholz, Italy January 20-24th. Please visit www.biathlonworld3.de/en/ for a complete list of today's race results.